Monday, December 6, 2010

New Governor Should End State Bickering on Rail

Neil Abercrombie will become Hawaii’s seventh governor since attaining Statehood in 1959 at noon HST today. It’s widely anticipated he will end the State’s intrusion into the City’s rail project on issues for which it has no legal responsibility.

That includes the project’s financial plan. Outgoing Governor Linda Lingle insisted she was required to assess whether Honolulu can afford to build and maintain the system. She commissioned a $350,000 study by Infrastructure Management Group, which released its report last week.

Abercrombie disagreed with Lingle’s position, saying State financial oversight is not what the law requires. He said he’ll ensure the project’s environmental impacts have been properly addressed and leave the financial analysis to City and Federal officials.

About the Study

Almost as soon as IMG’s study was released it became controversial and was attacked by Mayor Peter Carlisle as an “appalling waste” of taxpayer money. Carlisle and others noted that anti-rail activist Tom Rubin, whose views are well known across the nation, was a member of the study team.

IMG chairman Steve Steckler compounded the controversy by saying he was unaware of Rubin’s anti-rail reputation, a seemingly incredible assertion that invited more questions about the team’s study.

We urged readers yesterday to enter Rubin’s name along with “rail” in Google’s search window to find dozens of references to Rubin’s opposition to rail projects. One website mentions Rubin seven times in that context.

But beyond the obvious appearance of bias Rubin’s involvement suggests, there are other problems with IMG’s conclusions. The study has no factual basis for predicting a worst-case scenario for GET collections, which are running at 99 percent of projections despite a bad economy in recent years.

The study’s prediction of low rail ridership because of Honolulu’s well-used bus system also seems at odds with reality. Across the country, experience shows that strong bus transit usage actually translates to high rail patronage.

The fact that IMG and Rubin are closely associated with the anti-rail Reason Foundation, for which Honolulu resident Cliff Slater has proselytized against rail for years, is another reason to agree with the Mayor’s assessment.

The Abercrombie Administration is expected to bring fresh approaches to a wide variety of island issues, from education to environmental protection. Among them will be encouragement rather than pessimism about Honolulu rail, a project that will restore mobility to Oahu commuters and employ tens of thousands of workers at just the right time to spur economic growth.


Anonymous said...

LMAO! "If you're put off that I'm a paid communications consultant on the project and started this blog specifically to advance it, you probably don't want to read any further."

Doug Carlson said...

Always happy to help someone laugh a piece of their anatomy off, Anonymous, although I don't quite get the joke. It's called "transparency," unlike commenting anonymously. Not that there's anything wrong with that....