Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'09 Review of Honolulu’s Rail Project as We Saw It

We’ll confine this review to highlights starting in August, since that’s when we picked up the blog after a few months of inactivity. But there was plenty to keep busy with in the year’s last five months!

August 12
Above-Grade Choice Gets Stronger with Time
The City Council selected grade-separated transit nearly three years ago, and nothing that’s emerged in commentaries, letters to the editor and paid advertising has challenged the soundness of that decision.

August 27
Revenues Panel Sees 5 Years of Tax Growth
After a couple years of dismal forecasts for Hawaii’s economy, the state Council of Revenues has issued a five-year tax forecast that anticipates positive long-term growth.

August 30
Bids for Rail’s First Segment Under Budget
Bids for the first construction phase of the transit project between Kapolei and Waipahu are coming in 10-25 percent under expectations in February, when the request for proposals went out.

September 13
What Every Consumer Asks When Making a Purchase: ‘Will It Do What I Need It To Do?’
That’s what also must be asked of the allegedly “cheaper rail plan” for an at-grade system that some in the community are promoting. (Answer hint: At-grade wouldn’t be a fast, frequent and reliable alternative to sitting in traffic congestion.)

September 24
Among At-Grade’s Negatives, Part 2: Accidents
It’s not exactly Demolition Derby, but the number of train-vehicle accidents since the Phoenix, AZ at-grade system opened nine months ago is pretty astonishing.

September 29
City Report Says Rail’s Tax Revenue Sufficient; Collections for FY ’09 $12 Million Above Forecast
As the City correctly noted in August, when headlines trumpeted the alleged shortfall, the May report on which those headlines and finger wagging were based was outdated. Now comes the August financial plan, with updated information the City stands behind.

October 6
When Safety Is Crucial, Think Elevated Rail
Phoenix’s METRO light rail has been operating since December and is averaging five collisions a month, which has prompted the operators to launch a Light Rail Safety campaign called Stay Aware, Stay Safe.

October 12
Feds OK Honolulu Rail for Preliminary Engineering
The Federal Transit Administration has given Honolulu a green light to begin Preliminary Engineering for the local rail transit system.

October 26
Star-Bulletin: ‘Foolish’ Not To Build Rail Now
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin today continues the daily newspapers’ editorial support for Honolulu’s rail project. Disagreeing with rail critics who urge a go-slow approach, the paper says “…prompt action is warranted to help Hawaii’s economy and keep costs down.”

October 30
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. But watch out for at-grade rail proponents who want you to give up your common sense.

November 3
Behind Rail Opinion Poll Numbers – Solid Support
A public opinion survey has revealed strong support among Oahu residents for the Honolulu rail project – support that appears to have increased since 53 percent voted in favor of rail in last November’s election.

November 16
Searching for ‘News’ in the Rail Tax Stories
Until the economy turns around (which it will; it always has), can’t we safely predict that rail tax revenues any given month will be below those of a year earlier? Tax revenues are lower in a recession, and when the recession is behind us, they'll be higher.

November 17
Mayor Says Transit Tax Can’t be Raided by State
With Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s announcement today that a Project Labor Agreement with the trade unions has been sealed, the anti-rail crowd must sense that their opposition is being overtaken by events.

November 25
Governor’s Stated Insistence on Preserving Road Lanes Seemingly Eliminates At-Grade Alternative
The inevitable results of building at-grade transit – either property condemnation to widen the roadway or a loss of traffic lanes – has been thoroughly evaluated and found unacceptable compared to the Locally Preferred Alternative of an elevated fixed guideway.

December 2
Train Meets Van in Another At-Grade Rail Collision
The relatively small but vocal group of at-grade transit advocates here continues to make a noisy case for Honolulu’s trains to run at ground level. As they do so, we’ll continue our focus on the safety issue.

December 11
Story Criticizes Opinion Poil w/out Giving Results
Today’s Honolulu Advertiser takes a swipe at the opinion poll conducted in September on Oahu residents’ views about the rail project. The story implies impropriety that wasn’t there; amazingly, the poll’s results continue to not be reported in the newspaper.

December 18
Entire Rail Survey Is Available for Downloading
The public accessibility of the QMark opinion poll on Honolulu’s rail project should effectively counter the din from critics who allege the poll was rigged, the questions were slanted, the results are worthless, etc.

December 23
Poll Results Among Non-Reported Stories of 2009
Although both Honolulu newspapers have known about the poll for several weeks and maybe as long as two months, they have steadfastly refused to print its results. Far as we know, the broadcast outlets have followed suit.

December 24
A Dickensonian Christmas Tale with a Difference
It was the night before Christmas in Kapolei, and all three of the family’s generations were in a happy mood after watching “A Christmas Carol” on TV. Mean old Scrooge turned out to be a great guy after all, and Tiny Tim was just fine. Everybody was happy but dad, that is. “I’ve been stalled on H-1 for the last hour,” dad growled, “and I know something a lot scarier than anything Charles Dickens dreamed up – the Ghost of Traffic Present!”

It’s been quite a year, and 2010 will be even more eventful. Check back with us early and often as we write about the major developments within Honolulu’s rail project, and don’t forget to have a…


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