Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As Rail FEIS Awaits Final OK, Anti-Rail Faction Continues Attacks with Unsupportable Claims

One of the recent claims – or maybe “ongoing claims” is a better description – by some rail opponents is that the City has inaccurately characterized Honolulu rail. A leading rail opponent who has filled that role for at least two decades recently posted comments in the subscriber-only section of Civil Beat, the new online subscription news service in Honolulu.

His comment at Civil Beat states: “Finally the City admits that rail will do nothing for traffic congestion….” He then quotes a letter contained in the Final Environmental Impact Statement to him from Department of transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka:

“You are correct in pointing out that traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail, and that is supported by the data included in the Final EIS.”

We’re likely to read and hear a lot more about this in the months ahead, so let’s dwell on the issue. The rail opponent treats Yoshioka’s statement as a revelation and suggests with his use of “finally” that he has somehow extracted the truth from a reluctant City official.

Attacking the “Straw Man”

This is typical of the anti-rail faction’s tactics over the years – attributing a dubious position to rail supporters, then attacking it.

The City has never in this writer’s experience suggested that traffic congestion will be reduced from current levels by building rail. What the City has said – and what opponents can’t or refuse to hear with precision – is that congestion will be reduced from what it would grow to if rail were not built.

With Oahu’s population expected to grow 200,000 between 2005 and 2030, how could congestion not increase? Rail will moderate the amount of the increase by eliminating approximately 40,000 daily vehicle trips.

Pave Paradise?

Some in the anti-rail faction suggest congestion could be reduced by building more freeways and increasing the number of highway lanes and ribbons of concrete on the island. They say toll roads might reduce congestion in their lanes with variable pricing; charge enough for access to those roads and most people won’t enter, so the theory goes.

The FEIS addresses all alternatives to rail transit and dismisses each of them for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the project’s goal of achieving transportation equity for all, including the elderly and low-income populations.

Rail will provide an alternative to an ongoing dependency on the private automobile, ownership of which is beyond the reach of many in the community. It therefore also will be an alternative to the inevitable congestion that will exist on our island as families have children who get married and have children and others move to Oahu from elsewhere.

Let’s be clear: Without rail, traffic congestion would be worse in the east-west commuting corridor than it will be with rail in place and transporting more than 100,000 passengers a day. That's what the City has said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Refuse to hear would be the reason for the anti-rail camp. Repeatedly I've seen their arguments compare traffic level with rail in the future against traffic level of 2007, always ignoring what the traffic level without rail will be in the future. That would be comparing apples to apples. They also continue to refer to any relief rail provides as a mere percentage, never having the courage to simply list that raw number of daily trips. Guess it would paint a bad light for their position.