Friday, April 2, 2010

Lingle Still Supports At-Grade Rail Despite Flaws; Doesn’t Fast, Frequent, Reliable & Safe Matter?

Maybe the most charitable thing to be said about the Governor’s rail-related comments on Insights PBS Hawaii last night is that she’s too distracted by other issues to fully understand the project.

Or maybe she understands it but as a Republican can’t bring herself to appear supportive of the pet project of a mayor who's a Democrat and who’ll likely run for her office.

Whatever, she asserted last night that building half of Honolulu’s rail project at ground level would save on construction and financing costs. She also said the federal government has strong reservations about the City’s plan to finance rail.


Some rail supporters undoubtedly shouted back at their TV sets last night as the Governor glowingly supported putting half of Honolulu’s system at ground level. Host and Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca not once challenged the Governor about her preference for slow, neighborhood-disrupting, costly, accident-prone and therefore unreliable at-grade rail.

For reasons described in great detail by federal and local officials, transit experts, citizens and plain old bloggers, at-grade rail can’t possibly provide the kind of transportation Honolulu commuters need – fast, frequent, reliable and safe service. (You’re invited to slog through any number of posts here at Yes2Rail to read about each of these grade-separated attributes.)

Information Under-load?

The most puzzling thing about the Governor’s comments last night was her apparent obliviousness to the reasons why building any part of Honolulu’s system at ground level would spell failure. For example, does she not know about the accidents that affect at-grade systems wherever they’re built?

It makes you wonder about whether important information is actually reaching the Governor. If her aides were doing their jobs right, they’d be exposing her to diverse views about the project, but she shows no sign of having been exposed to at-grade’s negatives.

Also, despite the several strong statements of support by Washington for Honolulu’s rail project, she continues to suggest federal officials have major reservations about rail's financing plan.

So maybe it’s not so much about the Governor’s views as it is about her distractions and the quality of her support system. That’s about as charitable as we’re prepared to be.


Question from a viewer: Re the Governor’s stand on the rail project, what alternatives does she have to avoid traffic if she doesn’t accept the rail EIS?

A: (after an aside about working hard to the end of her term....) This rail issue is an acute issue for the people of the island of Oahu and for the entire state for that matter. It’s the most expensive project ever undertaken in the state. It will create an amount of debt that will be very difficult for the people I think to withstand.

And I think it’s a fair question to say, OK, if it’s not the rail, then what? There have been some good suggestions made about making the rail system, instead of all above ground, make it half-way at street level and half above ground, and that would reduce the cost by $2 billion, and that would reduce the debt on people. So there’s a huge difference between what’s been proposed and what could be implemented, so I think that’s one response.

But we’re not going to wait for rail, because regardless of which system, It’s years down the road. We need to do things now, and we have, as you know, by getting North-South Road open. We’re now going to move forward with the pm contra-flow lanes.

And also, of course, is to create jobs out in the region, so you don’t have as many people making this long commute across the island. And we’ve been so supportive of the Ko’olina Resort project out there, and of course Disney will be opening in 2011. There will be at least 1,000 jobs there, so perhaps people who are commuting will be taken off the road that way. They won’t have to come into town to work. We’ve also been big supporters of UH West Oahu, which would be another way instead of people driving to Manoa, another way to keep people more in the region.

Q: If you could, would you stop the rail project now?

A; Well, that’s a decision that the City is going to have to make. But what I am going to do is the financial analysis, and if I feel that it’s something the people simply could not afford, if it’s something that doesn’t make financial sense, I won’t sign off on it and neither will the federal government.

As you know, they have raised an issue about the City’s financial plan, and they’ve said it simply doesn’t work now as it’s been presented. And one of the things that the federal government looks at very closely — and they made this point to me when I was with them in Washington — if the City or any city is going to take a lot of money away from the existing bus system, they don’t like that as a financial plan. And this plan has $300 million being taken away from the bus system to make the financial plan work for rail.

So that’s something that’s going to have to be looked at as well. You might be able to say rail can work, but would you degrade our existing bus system so much that it would just have a poor quality of service, so that also has to be looked at.


Anonymous said...

Lingle's opposition could just be part of a Republican trend to stop anything from the Democratic party. Has nothing to do with efficient transportation or good ideas. The object of their game since the last election is to make the Democrats fail by obstructing the process.

AlexHawaiiKai said...

I think she's acting more POLITICALLY than rationally. She should be making a good and sound decision for the people of Hawai`i , which everything she is presenting on rail is hogwash.

At-grade rail doesn't work for Honolulu. Just check out what's happening with at-grade disasters in Phoenix with an accident a week and in Houston as their rail's nickname is the "Wham Bam Tram" or a "Street Car Named Disaster." And, most accidents take place in the urban core or the downtown'd think we would learn from other cities mistakes.

I just WISH that I could take back my vote for her from the last election.