Friday, December 3, 2010

If Rail Financial Study Was To Be Objective, Why Was It Written by a Known Anti-Rail Activist?

Linda Lingle’s final act as governor turned out to be both unsurprising and controversial – unsurprising because the $350,000 study on the Honolulu rail project’s financial plan she released last night was critical of the project, and controversial because of whom she chose to write it.

Civil Beat, the Honolulu-based online subscription news service, posted a long piece late Thursday under the headline, "Lingle Rail Consultant: ‘Bus Is Good. Rail Is Bad’"

Only the first three paragraphs of the article can be read by non-subscribers:

“One of the members of the team Gov. Linda Lingle hired to conduct an independent review of the finances of Honolulu’s proposed rail project is an outspoken rail critic.
“Tom Rubin is an expert in transit finance who began a 2004 lecture on transit with this summary of his views: "Bus is good. Rail is bad."
“Rubin came to Honolulu this fall to examine the project's finances under a $350,000 contract from the state. The governor must sign off on the project before construction can begin and Lingle has expressed pessimism about the city's financial projections. The consultant's report was forwarded to the city Thursday, but its findings have not been made public.”
The rest of the piece backs up the writer’s assessment that Rubin is an anti-rail activist and notes that including what Civil Beat calls a "vehement" rail opponent on the study can only raise doubts about the report's credibility.

Civil Beat even documents Rubin’s meeting with Dr. Panos Prevedouros, the University of Hawaii highway expert who has twice run for mayor on an anti-rail platform (“I’ll stop rail in its tracks”) and vows to do so again.

Rubin’s pro-bus, anti-rail sentiments were mentioned in the New York Times story we linked to yesterday when calling attention to the expansion of rail transit in Los Angeles, CA.

Rubin has called a subway project there fiscal folly, and he’s urged LA to add more buses and not build trains. He's gone on record as a pro-bus, anti-rail advocate there on other occasions.

Rubin’s anti-rail views are well-known in transit circles, so the Governor knew who she was hiring when she selected him to analyze Honolulu rail. With public funds expended on the effort, the question must be asked: Why him?

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