Friday, October 30, 2009

Beware Monsters of Misinformation at Halloween

It’s wise to watch your step at the end of October. Ghosts and goblins are everywhere, eager to startle and shock you into giving up something of value – usually candy.

These Halloween monsters are harmless, but others out there are intent on scaring you into giving up something more valuable – your common sense. You find them in the Comments forum below many of the online stories in the Honolulu newspapers.

A current example is the Comment section containing reactions to the Mayor’s “State of the Rail” address. They reveal an extraordinary level of misinformation and misunderstanding about the Honolulu rail project.

An Example

Here’s a typical post by a rail opponent, followed by our response:

Rail does NOT benefit everybody for the following reasons:
1) You assume that EVERYONE lives at a TRAIN STATION. How do people take the Train to go to the BEACH, Costco, Sea Life park, etc. You need a CAR or BUS.
2) You assume AGAIN, that people can ride Rail EVERYWHERE. The Rail line DICTATES where you can go. Where you REALLY have to go- the rail DOESN'T.

Response: Both of the writer’s presumed assumptions are false. Nobody at the City has ever suggested rail will go “everywhere” or serve “everyone.” None of the successful rail systems the world over go everywhere and serve everyone. The writer has (intentionally or otherwise) misunderstood rail’s purpose, which is to be part of an overall multi-modal transportation system. Some commuters will ride it 10 or more times a week. Others will never ride it. And that’s OK. To call rail a failure because it won't take every rider to the doorstep of his or her destination – Costco, Sea Life Park or anywhere else – is reaching hard to find a reason to oppose the project.

The writer also has missed the point made repeatedly by the City that rail will benefit everybody by reducing traffic congestion by about 20 percent from what it would grow to without the system.

Ironically, most of the posts beneath the newspapers’ stories validate the need for the City’s rigorous public outreach efforts. Silence in the face of such extreme and misinformed accusations about the project would be exactly the wrong tactic.

No comments: