Monday, April 19, 2010

Rail Critic Serves Up Another Pro-Car Commentary

The man we’ve credited with being the chief obstacle to rail transit creation in Honolulu is at it again today with yet another column in the Honolulu Advertiser. The paper – soon to be acquired by the owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin – has been a platform for Cliff Slater’s views for literally decades. He even was given a recurring “Second Opinion” commentary slot in the paper from the early 1990s to around 2006.

To his credit, Mr. Slater has been able to fire off 500 or more words on just about any subject over the years (see his Second Opinion website) on Public Education, Governments & Markets, Labor & Privatization, and of course, Traffic & Transportation.

Living by the ABCs

It’s the latter category that defines him, however. Mr. Slater is a diehard believer in the private automobile. The tie that binds his commentaries into one whole body of work is the car. We started referring to him as A-B-C “Always By Car” Cliff as evidence of his car preference piled up.

Today’s commentary is another example. He writes glowingly about a toll road to be built by private investors in Oregon. They plan to build a $400 million pay-to-ride highway south of Portland that will have tolls sufficiently high enough to cover the cost of construction, financing and operations.

The rest of his commentary has examples of government’s inability to accomplish the same goal, no matter what it builds. His chief target is the current Honolulu rail project, of course, as was the City’s plan to build a similar grade-separated system two decades ago.

What Mr. Slater doesn’t dwell on today is the big difference between a toll road and a municipal rail project. Toll roads serve the well-to-do, leaving the less financially able to sit in traffic congestion the wealthy pay to avoid. Major City infrastructure projects like Honolulu rail and TheBus system naturally must serve everyone’s needs and therefore are more progressive than toll roads.

Restoring mobility to the masses – that’s what Honolulu rail will accomplish. It’s something Mr. Slater can’t claim for his toll roads, no matter how many times he tries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of people who simply don't take the disadvantaged into consideration. The attitude is one that disregards those who can't afford what they consider to be the basics: Two cars. Three-bedroom home. Five weeks of vacation somewhere outside the state.

What they fail to appreciate is that a strong economy requires a mobile society. The jobs often aren't where people live. And few can simply pull up stakes and move when employment changes.

The reduced cost of reliable commuting is part of the advantage of rail transit. Get to and from work in a reasonable amount of time, regardless of the traffic mess. That's an attractive alternative to many who live out on the Leeward side. Those who haven't had to face that traffic mess simply wouldn't understand... until it affects their neighborhood, too.