Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where the Public and ‘Honolulu’ Differ on Rail

Honolulu magazine strikes a familiar tone with its July issue in a long piece that features graphic representations of rail's future elevated look (selected for impact; see Monday's post) and a lead column that suggests city officials are dismissive of rail critics as "loner loons."

Since a Google search found no such utterances by city officials among the 14 “loner loons” citations, that assertion is just hyperbole. What city officials do believe is that the Honolulu rail system is the best alternative to meet Oahu’s transportation challenges (see project goals) and much better than the critics’ preferences for more highways or schemes like the magazine's own on-demand shuttle/car pool concept.

Rail's prominent critics are of course anything but loners – witness former Governor Cayetano, who probably is happiest when he’s giving a speech in front of a crowd (as he did two weeks ago).

What Do People Want?

The magazine's lead column criticizes the city for relying too much on the 2008 "steel-on-steel" charter amendment vote as a reflection of public opinion. Calling that vote a "sham," the magazine says “the administration’s attitude has hardened into, ‘Why are you still asking us to justify rail? You voted for it!’”

Again, we doubt that city officials actually have said that, because they have much more than the 2008 charter vote with which to judge public opinion on rail.

As Honolulu itself noted in its September issue: “The strongest contenders in this month’s election support (rail), including acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell and city prosecutor Peter Carlisle. Only University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros opposes rail, advocating high-occupancy expressways…. It’s up to the candidates to convince you if rail or expressways are the way to go.”

Pro-rail candidates obviously did a better job of convincing. Both Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Caldwell soundly out-polled Dr. Prevedouros. Only pro-rail candidates were elected to the City Council; anti-rail candidates pulled single digits. Two months later, voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment to create the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which will build and operate Honolulu rail.

Speaking of Polls

Ironically, the magazine this month has the results of its unscientific online rail survey showing 55 percent support the project; 55 percent plan on using the system.

QMark, a Honolulu opinion polling company, conducted a scientific survey on behalf of the project that found 57 percent of respondents said they support the rail project, 40 percent oppose it. Honolulu continues to complain about a ballot question that’s nearly three years old as it ignores contemporary evidence that the public supports Honolulu rail.

Please continue reading beyond this paragraph to the July 4th post, immediately below, for more views on where the July issue of Honolulu magazine misses the mark on rail.

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