Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December Goal: Not One Oahu Pedestrian Death

An image from a Montana Meth Project video.
This is a Honolulu rail website, but any local transportation-related condition that has degraded to unacceptable depths and nearly predictable fatalities deserves space here and elsewhere.

Oahu’s 2010 pedestrian death count is 19, nearly double last year’s total. A dozen of those fatalities were pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Every one of them was a family tragedy.

Pedestrians get no respect on Oahu, and now authorities say they're going to launch a campaign to change driver and pedestrian behavior. But is traffic enforcement alone the way to achieve that change?

More patrols citing more speeders, red light runners and illegal turners might help, but street enforcement is after the fact – after the speeding, running and turning. As a society, we need to prevent that behavior before it even starts.

A full-on multi-media campaign would complement the Police Department’s stepped-up enforcement. Are we ready to launch one similar to the Montana Meth Project? You’ve seen the videos on TV and in theaters.

Eliminating pedestrian fatalities is the goal. Getting there may require more than one tactic.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rail Is a City Project, but Its Anticipated Start Will Synch Nicely with Governor Abercrombie’s Term

Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie’s swearing-in ceremony one week from today will mark the beginning of what’s expected to be an era of stronger cooperation between the State government and the City’s rail project.

The final shot across the City’s bow by outgoing Governor Lingle will likely occur this week, when she presumably will release the findings of her $300,000 study on the rail project’s finances.

The subject is not within her legal responsibilities, as pro-rail Abercrombie noted a few weeks ago, but it gives her one last opportunity to criticize the City’s project, which she’s gone out of her way to do in recent years.

Her critical assessment of Honolulu rail is somewhat ironic, since she herself proposed building a 22-mile rail system early in her first term. Her proposal also included a highway “flyover” and would have required unspecified tax increases – possibly of the fuel tax, registration fees, vehicle weight tax and general excise tax.

Honolulu’s share of the rail project’s financing is coming from the one-half percent increase in the GET that began in January 2007 and will continue through 2022. The Federal government has repeatedly signaled its intention to fund $1.55 billion of the project’s cost.

Lingle has refused to sign off on rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement until the financial review is concluded. Abercrombie is expected to do so once the State Office of Environmental Quality Control gives its final approval of the FEIS no matter what Lingle says about financing.

Other approvals are required before rail can break ground, but Abercrombie’s move into the Capitol’s corner office surely marks the end of the contentious political wrangling between the State and City administrations over Honolulu rail. (And we’re not calling you “Shirley.”)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Shopping vs Sandy Beach Surfing

Slip-Sliding Away in Seattle.
It’s a laid-back holiday weekend, but transit never sleeps, so if it’s more transit news you want, there’s plenty to be found at the StreetsBlog Network linked at right.

We’re doing our part for Hawaii tourism today by posting a couple contrasting transit images – one from a video showing how slippery bus transit has been this week in Seattle, and the other featuring the "personal mobility body board" in action.

Today may be Black Friday, but the smart kama`aina is browsing for beachwear on the beach. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Among Reasons To Be Thankful Today: Pro-Rail Votes for Mayor, Governor, Transit Authority

It’s time to bring out the hook for anti-railers’ contention that most Oahu residents are opposed to building the Honolulu rail system. Election results since 2008 for mayor and governor and on ballot measures for a charter amendment and rail technology have demonstrated strong support. We’re thankful for the citizenry’s common sense on this Thanksgiving. Up next: FEIS acceptance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rail Transit Will De-Stress ‘Black Friday’ Shopping

Look for more of the same by week's end.
We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, but without long-term visioning, where would Honolulu be? Regarding rail transit, it’s where we are right now – without it – and that means Black Friday shopping this week could be a driver's nightmare.

Honolulu came close to building a rail system two decades ago with the Fasi Administration’s elevated guideway project. That effort failed in large part due to an anti-rail campaign that continues to this day, and by the same actors, no less. (No, we’re not linking to Mr. Slater’s latest anti-rail screed this time; there’s nothing much new there, and you can find it easy enough.)

Had rail supporters’ vision of the early 1990s been realized, a rail system would have been in operation since 2003 linking Leeward Community College, the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus, Waikiki and points between. One can only imagine its impact on traffic reduction.

But a new vision is now close to being realized, and anti-railers notwithstanding, it’s OK to look ahead to how rail will improve the lives of Oahu residents.

Take Shopping – Please!

Ala Moana and Pearlridge shopping centers will be two of the stops along Honolulu’s future 20-mile rail route. With little chance of error, we predict newspaper photographs (like the one above) and TV news stories in the days ahead with images of jammed parking lots at those shopping magnets.

We won’t belabor the obvious advantages of taking transit to the centers, especially on mega-shopping days like Black Friday. But the Atlanta, GA transit system is doing just that in encouraging residents to participate in Blue Friday – part of the Clean Air Campaign to use transit and carpools on the biggest shopping day of the year.

It’s a good idea for Honolulu, too, and the options will be even better once Honolulu rail is up and running.

Yet another H-1 Smash-Up
It's becoming almost commonplace -- car crashes on the H-1 freeway, Oahu's major east-west throughway. Three crashes ("accidents" is to forgiving a word) happened within a few minutes of each other five evenings ago.
Last night's four-car crash at the height of the rush hour resulted in one driver being in critical condition, and the homeward commute was disrupted once again for countless others.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Driver's Responsibility in Pedestrian Safety

The number of pedestrian deaths on Oahu – seven* in the past two months, including some killed while in crosswalks – has the community searching for answers on how to prevent them.

The impression one gets from reading this morning’s Star-Advertiser story is that officials really don’t know the cause of these family tragedies and therefore don’t know where to concentrate their efforts to safeguard pedestrians. “There’s no specific reason or even any particular areas,” says one official. “It’s probably a combination of things.”

Here’s the problem: Drivers don’t respect pedestrians.

They don’t respect pedestrians’ right to “be in their space” on the streets by treating streets as their territory and theirs alone. Drivers just don’t care.

* 11/30 Update: Oahu Pedestrian Deaths on Pace To Double.

Having lived in Hawaii for decades and in California a much shorter time, it’s obvious to this writer that California’s “protect the pedestrian” ethic is absent in the Aloha State. Golden State drivers have it drilled into them from an early driving age that pedestrians must be respected in all circumstances – even in mid-block.

Pedestrian awareness stands out in California even though both states’ drivers manuals make it clear pedestrians are to be protected and respected. California’s drivers manual accentuates pedestrian safety at the top of its Right of Way Rules section:

“One-in-six traffic fatalities is a pedestrian…. Pedestrian safety is a serious issue…. Drive cautiously when pedestrians are near because they may cross your path…. Remember, if a pedestrian makes eye contact with you, he or she is ready to cross the street. Yield to the pedestrian….”

Hawaii’s manual also is filled with directives designed to enhance pedestrian safety:

“In Hawaii 20% of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians. Most of those killed are non-drivers…. Give motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians plenty of room on ther oad and use extra caution to look for them when making turns or changing lanes…. You MUST STOP for pedestrians in crosswalks….”

Making Comparisons

One can wander into a statistical mine field when comparing the two states’ pedestrian deaths, but it can be useful, too. In 2008, Hawaii’s 20 deaths occurred at a rate of 1.55 per 100,000 population; California’s rate was 1.69. Hawaii in 2008 had significantly fewer vehicles per capita than California – 0.37 and 0.54 respectively.

There may be dozens of reasons why one state’s pedestrian death rate is higher than another’s – demographics, climate, urban density, etc. Bottom line, Hawaii has a higher percentage of pedestrian fatalities among all accidents than California, and authorities are searching for ways in the near- and long-term to reduce their number.

Crafting the Message

The absence of a California-like “pedestrian safety ethic” may explain a good deal of Hawaii’s experience. You just don’t get the same community-wide top-of-mind feeling that pedestrians are vulnerable and drivers must respect that vulnerability.

We’d feel a lot more comfortable that our authorities were prepared to improve this situation if they were communicating a definitive message about the causes of these deaths – not wondering about it, as suggested in the official’s quote above.

Enforcement of existing speeding and right-of-way laws by the Honolulu Police Department may be one area to examine. According to today’s story, police have cited motorists 2.5 times per day so far this year for failing to yield to pedestrians. They've cited pedestrians 11.1 times daily in the same period – more than 4 times as often as driver violations.

Maybe the discrepancy is explained by jaywalking being easier to spot at a distance. But just maybe driver behavior isn’t receiving an appropriate amount of attention and top-down command emphasis in the pedestrian safety campaign. Drivers are the ones doing the killing, after all.

The Rail Tie-In

Once Honolulu rail is in operation, the train stations will be magnets for pedestrians – attracting them to access a system that will provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation across the city.

Pedestrian safety in the station's neighborhoods will be a key component of the system’s eventual success or failure, a point that receives ongoing attention at the StreetsBlog Network linked near the top of this page.

Those rail system concerns are years away for most of us, but the issue of pedestrian safety and law enforcement is with all of us today. Greater awareness among drivers of their responsibilities and more emphasis by authorities on driver behavior undoubtedly would improve pedestrian safety now.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hawaii’s Economic Outlook Is Sunny

Economic Optimism Grows

A state forecast puts the recovery at a faster pace than expected, thanks to strong visitor numbers

The state forecasts a speedier recovery, thanks to strong visitor numbers

The four headlines above trumpet the Star-Advertiser’s top business story today and were a little repetitious (“thanks to strong visitor numbers”), but if the news is this positive, it can’t hurt to shout it out more than once.

Even the visitor-number rebound is starting to sound repetitious, inasmuch as it’s been happening for months.

You have to believe the improving economic climate will be reflected in the current governor’s $300,000 study on Honolulu rail’s financing plan. She has refused to sign off on the Final Environmental Impact Statement until her Maryland-based consultant assesses Honolulu’s ability to pay for the system.

Since rail is planned to operate for the remainder of this century and beyond, the consultants undoubtedly brought a crystal ball with them.

The one dark note in today’s story concerns the construction industry, which is still lagging the tourism sector.

“Hawaii construction jobs, which peaked at 40,000 workers a month in 2007, continue to hover around 28,500 per month today, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” the Star-Advertiser reports.

Anti-railers are fond of saying Honolulu rail is a “jobs project." It’s not; rail is a mobility-restoring, traffic-avoiding reliable-transportation project, but it will create tens of thousands of jobs during this decade.

That's exactly what Hawaii's economy needs now. Surely our Maryland visitors will notice.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Last Night’s Commute – Another Nightmare

Wednesday night accidents prolonged homeward commutes.
We’ve had the “What riding the train will avoid” photo (at right) as a recurring graphic on this site for months, and maybe it’s time to install a new one.

Finding a replacement didn't take long. The Honolulu Traffic Cam photo above was snapped last evening and posted online after a three-car accident on the H-1 freeway between the Houghtailing and Middle Street exits.

It was just one of three crashes inside 11 minutes and within not much more than a mile on the freeway. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser says they snarled traffic for more than an hour.

On Tuesday, H-1 traffic was blocked for more than an hour at the start of the afternoon drive home after two trucks collided near Waimalu and spilled hydraulic fluid for half a mile on the freeway. As Hawaii News Now reported:

“…all eastbound lanes were closed for more than an hour leaving drivers stuck in gridlock with nowhere to go. Some people got out of their cars and even tossed a football around to pass time.”

Pardon us for making the obvious point again: Honolulu rail will make these commuting nightmares a thing of the past for those who choose to ride the train.

Only grade-separated transit, like Honolulu’s elevated system, completely avoids traffic congestion and allows riders to predict their time of arrival. You can’t do that using surface streets and the freeway.

Anti-railers are quick to insist that the majority of commuters will continue to drive. We know that; it’s no surprise in light of Americans’ decades-long car-dependent habits that drivers are loath to break. But as we noted here earlier this week, people do change their travel choices once transit’s many advantages become obvious.

Like everything else in life, riding transit will be a personal choice. Those who ride will have chosen fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation that avoids traffic blockages like the H-1 crashes that bedeviled them this week.

From the Political File

We're hearing assertions by anti-railers that the Republicans' control in the U.S. House spells doom for Honolulu rail. Today's post at DC.StreetsBlog.org is worth a couple minutes of your time to appreciate how precarious those predictions are. It quotes "Tea Party darling" Michele Bachmann (R-MN):

"This week, (Bachmann) told the Minnesota Star Tribune that she wants to redefine earmarks so that they don't include transportation earmarks. Meaning, she wants an absolute ban on earmarks, except the ones she really, really likes. 'Advocating for transportation projects for one's district, in my mind, does not equate to an earmark,' she said."

So much for having Washington all figured out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting in Touch with Your Inner Walker

You remember walking. It was your second major achievement in life, right after crawling. Then came running, skateboarding, bike riding, driving and dating – not necessarily in that order.

Lots of people have left walking behind and do as little of it as possible. As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.”

But there’s a movement across America to make walking part of a healthy and active lifestyle. America Walks wants you! And so will Honolulu rail once it’s up and running.

Walking will be one of many ways to access the stations, along with driving and parking, driving and being dropped off, taking the bus and riding a bicycle.

The Streets Blog Network (linked also at right) is loaded with information from around the country on citizen-driven efforts to integrate walking and transit into their communities' daily routine. In city after city, people write about how using transit improves their lives, reduces their living expenses and makes them healthier.

Going Car-Free

Some even give up their cars entirely and rely on bus and rail transportation to get around and get closer to their neighborhoods, as San Francisco resident Leo Babaula wrote about in his “lessons from a car-free life” blog.

Anti-railers would have you believe life is virtually impossible without driving a car for each and every need, but Mr. Babaula ticks off all the reasons why he and his family believe their lives are even better than before now that they’ve gone car-free. Here’s a taste:

“We sold our van (yay!) and didn’t buy a vehicle here in San Francisco. A few times we’ve rented or borrowed a car, and boy, it really reminds me how lucky we are to be without one. It’s such a hassle to drive, to find parking, to get a parking ticket (which I’ve done), to retrieve your car when it’s towed (yes, that happened, and yes it was dumb of me), to try to find places when you’re driving, pay tolls and pay for parking, to get stuck in rush hour… and so on.
“We ride buses and trains and walk. We’re getting bikes soon, but we decided to do one step at a time. We walk a lot! We purposely picked a home that was a block away from the train stop and has bus lines that are within feet of our front door. We can get anywhere in this city easily.”

The Babaula family made conscious choices where to live – close to train and bus stops. It works for them in San Francisco, and the same kinds of choices will be made by families here on Oahu, which already has one of the best bus systems in the country.

Not everyone can go car-free, but the option of relying on public transit is indeed available to most. Once Honolulu rail is operating and providing traffic-free transportation, a sizable number of Oahu residents will have made choices that allow them to walk or take TheBus to the nearest station.

Going car-free in your daily commute would give you many if not all of the advantages Leo Babaula mentions in his post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

PBN Sees a Future with Rail and Ocean Power

Rendering of future Pearl Highlands train station.
The current issue of Pacific Business News is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in knowing what living on Oahu could be like decades from now. If you’re not a subscriber, pick up a copy of PBN in a bookstore or newsstand -- or better yet, become one.

The November 12th edition has stories on the Honolulu Authority on Rapid Transportation (HART) and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), which will be key components of our future society if events play out as expected in the years immediately ahead.

(Subscribers can log in to read complete stories on the website, but others are restricted to only the first couple paragraphs. Clicking on “View This Week’s Digital Edition” allows a temporary preview of the weekly paper’s pages, and you might get as far as page 8 and the HART story before your preview expires.)

Light at the End of the Tunnel

HART, which was approved by Oahu voters earlier this month, will guide the construction, operation and maintenance of Honolulu rail. The system will be the transportation backbone of Oahu’s urban core that will continue to grow between downtown Honolulu/Kakaako/Ala Moana and the Second City of Kapolei to the west.

PBN editorializes in this edition that the election of pro-rail Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie and pro-rail Mayor Peter Carlisle has removed a great deal of uncertainty about the project:

“… it is tantalizing to think that last week’s elections seem to have gotten us one step closer. In other words, the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel may be just the train we’ve been waiting for – well past due, but at least headed in the right direction.”

Ocean Powering the Train

Elsewhere in this issue, PBN continues it series on renewable energy technologies by giving page-one treatment to OTEC, which long has been appreciated by advocates as the ultimate game-changer to get Hawaii off oil- and coal-fired electrical generation.

OTEC uses the temperature difference between warm ocean surface water and deep water (3,000 feet) to generate electricity. A working fluid with a boiling point between those two temperatures (such as ammonia) can be boiled off into a gas when exposed to surface water in a heat exchanger, compressed through an electrical generator and then condensed back to a liquid when exposed to cooler deep water (as illustrated in this NELHA graphic).

Pages 30 and 31 of PBN’s print edition are dominated by the continuation of the OTEC story and by the “Light rail headed in the right direction” editorial – a nice juxtaposition, since decades from now Honolulu rail could well be powered almost entirely by ocean power.

Honolulu rail will improve energy efficiency and air quality even though the system will be powered mostly by electricity generated by Hawaiian Electric’s fossil fuel power plants in its early years. But if OTEC finally realizes its enormous potential and becomes commercially viable in the coming decades, Honolulu rail could run entirely on ocean power.

That scenario is likely to be realized during the lifetimes of most Oahu residents, so this could be one PBN issue you’ll want to read to your children and grandchildren. Firing up their imaginations on what Oahu life could be like by mid-century will help make it happen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It’s Hug-a-Veteran Day; Pick Your Campaign

The best we could do to fit today's theme.
As our graphic suggests, Yes2Rail goes beyond the day's traditional honoring of the nation’s military personnel who served in the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the all-encompassing Cold War between the hot ones.

On the local scene, thousands are veterans of the multi-generational campaign to build Honolulu rail. We can't leave them out. So to all the traditional veterans and all the others who’ve given their best in other campaigns to improve transportation, education, health care or whatever -- Happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leeward Tests Continue on Honolulu Rail Project

Honolulu rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement is still caught between the outgoing Lingle Administration, which has insisted on a financial review of the project, and the new team headed by Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie, who says his duties don’t extend to project finances.

Civil Beat today headlines its story on the FEIS status with “Abercrombie: If Rail EIS Done Correctly, I’m Obligated to Sign it.” CB’s Fact Check feature says that assertion is “True” – “The facts support the claim.”

Although the FEIS is in limbo, that doesn’t mean the project is at a stand-still. The Hawaii Filipino Chronicle has an update on the soil testing and community outreach underway along Farrington Highway in Waipahu.

Eight shafts are being drilled along or adjacent to the highway, with work accomplished during non-peak commuting hours. Some lane closures are required, but at least one lane in each direction remains open during the work.

Community outreach also is ongoing with residents and businesses in Waipahu to keep them informed of possible impacts on their neighborhoods. Outreach will be a continuing process throughout the project’s construction, which could begin early next year depending on the Abercrombie’s disposition of the FEIS.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Both Young and Old Have Reasons To Want Rail

Today’s selections from the Internet suggest reasons why both the young generation and the elderly will value the addition of Honolulu rail to our community.

Hawaii’s life expectancy is the highest in the nation at 80.0 years, so it figures we’ll have growing numbers of active seniors in the decades ahead. Getting around could be problematic for seniors whose driving skills don’t keep up with their enthusiasm to be mobile, however, and their children at some point will wonder about when it’s time to ask their parents for the keys.

Hawaii also has the highest cost of living among the states, according to a Huffington Post ranking of the states. The cost of owning and maintaining a car can only increase in the decades ahead. Rail transit will give seniors a relatively inexpensive way to move quickly through town without having to rely on a budget-eating private car.

The Generational Shift

What about the youngest generation? You can find plenty of evidence on the 'net (here's some) that the youngest adult Americans value networking and mixing with their peers online and in urban environments more than driving their cars.

Says one member of Generation Y at the Transit for Livable Communities website:

“I think there could be any number of reasons why Gen-Yers aren’t driving as much as previous generations. I think we are more likely to embrace transit-oriented development and the idea of compact living.”

He's just one person, but you can see the shift to Internet-based social networking everywhere you go. With texting by car not only illegal but dangerous, Generation Y members (and whatever they’re called in 20 years) will have “productive” time on the train to network with friends and work associates.

The times are changing, and so are the needs and wants of our bookend generations.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Honolulu Magazine Coughs Up Jitney Idea Again

Oh, brother. What a drubbing Hawaii is taking from Boise State. Thankfully, Honolulu Magazine just arrived in the Saturday mail, and it contains a good diversion.

And we gotta say it: The November issue gives us another “oh, brother” moment. Editor A. Kam Napier apparently can’t let go of his suggestion first floated in September that Honolulu’s transportation needs can be satisfied by creating a personal shuttle service.

“Imagine a network of on-demand shuttle buses,” he wrote back then. “From your home or your phone, you send the network a request to go somewhere….” Our reaction to his “retro” idea -- reminiscent of the Popular Mechanics issues of the 1950s – was to dub it the Shaxi-Pool, a combination of shuttles, taxis and car pools.

Mr. A. Napier responds in November to a letter that asks “why can’t Kam Napier cite even one city where it exists?” The writer continued, “For every rail ‘failure’ such as L.A., I can show Mr. Napier five complete rail success stories.” The editor's comment refers readers to Wikipedia and 28 jitney services around the world.

But Not in Honolulu

This is Oahu’s transportation problem, Editor A. Napier – traffic that clogs the H-1 freeway and surface streets morning and night and often at noon. Honolulu residents have lost true mobility – the ability to move through the east-west corridor unimpeded by traffic congestion.

You put your shuttle, taxi and car pool idea into service and they’d all be caught in the same traffic that now brings tens of thousands of drivers to a halt every weekday and often on weekends. Only grade-separated transit – like Honolulu’s rail project – can give users true mobility.

We know Honolulu Magazine has a dim view of rail transit, but just like HOT lanes, the magazine's Shaxi-Pool concept with jitneys and shuttles would not deliver what we need – fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation through our city.

Let's hope Honolulu Magazine finally shelves its retro idea and leaves the jitney concept to cities where it actually might be useful in addressing their primary transportation need. Honolulu isn't on that list.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Abercrombie: FEIS Review Won’t Involve Finances

Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie’s first post-election remarks on the Honolulu rail project signaled a sharp departure from the outgoing governor on what his responsibilities are on rail's Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Governor Linda Lingle said she wouldn't evaluate the FEIS until first concluding a $300,000 study on the project’s financial plan, a review that isn’t likely to be completed by her last day in office on December 6. At a news conference yesterday, Abercrombie said such a review goes beyond his legal responsibilities.

“I’ll look at it, but the governor really doesn’t decide that,” he said. “That’s decided by the City Council, the mayor and the Federal Transit Administration. Honest, that’s the way it works.”

Lingle’s insistence on reviewing rail’s finances was broadly interpreted as a cover for her opposition to the plan promoted by political rival and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, an assessment nurtured by her many non-supportive statements.

They included her comments in a long public television interview in March in which she continued to express a preference for an at-grade system, which transit experts say would not satisfy the project’s goals.

She as good as hosted a State Capitol forum in January that featured a plan by a faction of local architects for an at-grade rail system (see Star-Bulletin, Yes2Rail and Honolulu Advertiser coverage).

The National Scene

Abercrombie also said he doesn’t believe the transfer of control in the U.S. House of Representatives will affect Honolulu rail’s future federal funding. Rep. John Mica (R-FL) is expected to chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and replace defeated Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN).

Several websites have commented on what Mica’s agenda is likely to be and have concluded that transit projects will continue to have the committee’s support. One quotes him:

“Well….if you’re on the Transportation Committee long enough, even if you’re a fiscal conservative, which I consider myself to be, you quickly see the benefits of transportation investment. Simply, I became a mass transit fan because it’s so much more cost effective than building a highway. Also, it’s good for energy, it’s good for the environment – and that’s why I like it.”

Those are a fiscal conservative's views that we like! (Here's more on Mr. Mica's transportation priorities.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roundup: 73% of Transportation Issues Approved

Buried under the avalanche of election news are some nuggets of information relevant to Honolulu rail and Oahu. By approving a Charter amendment to create the pro-transit Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), voters were in step with Americans across the country in supporting transportation ballot measures.

The Center for Transportation Excellence’s press release said 22 out of 30 ballot measures were approved in 13 states, a 73-percent winning percentage. Honolulu’s results are included in the Center's results matrix and also in a Progressive Railroading web post.

This generalized pro-transit national attitude is noteworthy for local residents, since some here would have you believe transit is out of favor in America. That’s clearly not the case.

By approving HART with 69 percent of their votes, Oahu voters have shown their common sense ability to separate fact from fiction and the wheat (rail transit) from the chaff (more highways).

Follow-up to post immediately below: BART did in fact smash its old ridership record yesterday -- by 20 percent! Read about it at the SFBART's blog.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BART Sees Record Travel for Giants Parade; Happy Fans, Tailgate Parties Crowd into System Stations

We’re always looking for instances when rail transit is what the doctor ordered for the public, and here’s one close to our Giants-lovin’ heart (witness our license plate).

The Bay Area Rapit Transit (BART) system set what could be an all-time ridership record today by moving more than 400,000 people to, from and around the San Francisco Giants’ World Series Championship parade and rally. Still others rode their bikes to the rally.

And here's a new one on us: According to SFBart’s Blog, fans held tailgate parties in BART stations as they turned the BART experience into a day-long happy-time event. Check out a video.

Daily ridership is rebounding this year from an economy-induced dip, and the average weekday ridership is around 350,000. A final tally won’t be available until tomorrow, but today’s parade may have just broken the record of 442,000 riders set on October 29, 2009 during a Bay Bridge emergency closure. (Next-day follow-up: a new record indeed was set: 522,000.)

See, Dr. P? Despite your disinclination to believe it, transit can be exceptionally beneficial during a freeway closure.

Voters Again Support Rail by Creating HART

The City Charter amendment to create the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) passed overwhelmingly with 68.58 percent of the vote yesterday, and let’s be clear about what it means:

Honolulu citizens without question are solidly behind the Honolulu rail project. HART’s creation is yet another rejection of anti-railers’ claims that rail transit lacks the electorate’s support.

Their support was evident as recently as September in the primary election, when two pro-rail mayoral candidates -- City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle and Acting-Mayor Kirk Caldwell – finished one-two in that race and left the anti-rail candidate in their dust.

Voters supported rail in 2008 when they approved the concept of a steel-on-steel transit system. And now they’ve endorsed creation of a semi-autonomous transit authority to build, operate and maintain Honolulu rail.

That isn’t the only good news for rail in the election. Hawaii’s new governor will be former 10-term Congressman Neil Abercrombie, who is solidly behind the project and can be expected to accept rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement early in his term.

Abercrombie defeated the state’s lieutenant governor, who during the campaign increasingly echoed his boss’s concerns about rail’s finances and threatened to withhold acceptance of the FEIS.

Year after year in election after election, Honolulu voters have supported rail. The opponents no doubt will ramp up their rhetoric to the contrary, but despite their protests, rail transit is what the public wants and expects to be built.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Helping Search Engines Find Dr. Prevedouros

We’re convinced that helping publicize the anti-rail views of Dr. Panos Prevedouros of the University of Hawaii and decades-long opponent Cliff Slater is an excellent way for this blog to support the Honolulu rail project.

The more their views are highlighted, the more vulnerable their anti-rail positions become to common-sense analysis. That being the case, we have to fess up to a serious error of judgment last month – the failure to mention Dr. Prevedouros’s name in some of our posts.

Thanks to our SiteMeter tracking service, we know that many visitors find this site after using a search engine. By referring to Dr. Prevedouros’s recent series of columns in Hawaii Reporter but not mentioning him by name in some posts, we discouraged visits by anyone who might have searched for him.

Correcting the Mistake

Dr. Prevedouros’s series represents one of the best tools we’ve found to cast doubt on his high occupancy toll (HOT) road proposals. We started our own four-part series on his columns on October 16 by quoting Dr. Prevedouros (by name) to highlight the key principle behind HOT lanes:

“Higher tolls are necessary to discourage overloading.” In other words, the HOT lane promise to keep traffic flowing is premised on keeping tolls so high that only those who can afford to pay them can access the lanes. We thank Dr. Prevedouros for his quote.

Two days later we used his quote that rail would be “….unable to be of any use during an emergency such as freeway closure, flooding, hurricane and tsunami.” Only a rock-ribbed rail opponent could conclude that Honolulu rail would be an ineffective transportation option if the H-1 freeway were closed.

But it was in our two most recent posts on Dr. Prevedouros’s series that we messed up by not specifically mentioning his name. Our October 22 post observed that having Dr. Prevedouros judge the Honolulu rail project was “like having the East Germans score America’s gymnastics team” in the Olympics. His career-long preference for highway transportation over transit makes any such evaluation suspect (note the absence of transit in his background).

Finally, our October 29 post concluded that Dr. Prevedouros used a highly questionable analysis to compare rail and HOT lanes by lumping in all possible happenstances that a rail passenger might confront (including pickpocket crime) while leaving out potential incidents for car drivers (including something as obvious as vehicle crashes).

By using Dr. Prevedouros’s name 11 times (including the headline) in today’s post, we’ve increased the potential for web searches to find Yes2Rail’s assessment of his anti-transit series. We encourage everyone to read his opinion pieces. They help make the case for Honolulu’s future elevated, traffic-free, fast, frequent, reliable, safe and cost-effective rail system.