Friday, August 26, 2011

PBN’s Understanding of Honolulu Rail: 0

Pacific Business News came out today with an editorial against building Honolulu rail as it is planned – proof positive that public relations works!

Cliff Slater and his Gang of Four have been working their PR campaign at fever pitch this week, starting with a Sunday commentary in the Star-Advertiser (subscription) that had as much substance as a donut hole. We’ve been writing about it all week starting Sunday, and a Star-Advertiser columnist channeled it yesterday.

The Gang has lost the public opinion war – as verified in three scientific polls – and is flying around like a magician’s assistant on the stage. “Look over here at my distractions," they’re saying, “not over there at the evidence of our failure."

One wonders what PBN’s editors think of those results, if they think about them at all. Dismissing them as biased would be charging local polling firms QMark and OmniTrak with dishonesty and a willingness to sacrifice their credibility by slanting poll results to favor rail.

No, Oahu residents have clearly listened to everything that’s been said for and against the project over the past five years and concluded they do want rail, by an average majority in those three polls of 58.6 percent.

Elevated Gullibility
What is frankly amazing to us is PBN’s apparent willingness to go weak in the knees over the Gang of Four’s members, described in the editorial as “four influential leaders” whose “reputations are beyond reproach.” Nevertheless, their actual transit expertise is zero.

We’ve never assailed their reputations, because they are what they are, including leader Cliff Slater, who we’ve been calling “ABC” Cliff – Always By Car – for more than a decade. He never saw a taxpayer-subsidized highway he didn’t like, and his favorite kind is HOT Lanes, the anti-equity subsidized mode that favors the wealthy and, of course, car owners.

Here’s a good example in PBN’s editorial of its swooning over businessman Slater’s views – the first of several points in the Gang’s commentary that PBN says “cannot be summarily dismissed:"

“Wayne Yoshioka, recruited from rail consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff to head the city’s Department of Transportation Services, says ‘traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.’ In other words, he’s saying rail is going to fall well short of solving our traffic congestion problem.”

Wrong, PBN
Nowhere in the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement or any other document does it say the rail system is supposed to “solve our traffic congestion problem.” PBN's editors would know the true goals if they had read the FEIS, but they obviously are familiar only with the Gang’s commentary and its made-up goal for the project.

"ABC" Cliff has been peddling this intellectually manipulative, misleading and embarrassingly dishonest argument for years, as he made clear in his interview with Civil Beat in July 2010. He said then – and we’ve called attention to it at least a dozen times since – that he starts his presentations by noting the project’s cost, then says traffic will be worse after rail’s built than it is today, then asks for questions – as if that neatly sums up the anti-rail argument.

Sorry for shouting (can PBN hear this?), but Of course traffic will be worse in 2030 than it is today!!! What else could it be, PBN, with 200,000 more people on the island in 2030 than 2005?

The Gang has convinced PBN that rail’s goal is to reduce traffic congestion decades into the future – forever maybe? – when that is not one of the goals. They aren’t hard to find in the FEIS; we started the year by listing them. THOSE are the goals, not the straw-man-of-a-goal "ABC" Cliff has propped up and then helped PBN in all its gullibility knock down.

Elevated rail will be the only way, PBN, for commuters in this and future generations to travel through an increasingly crowded urban core with an ever-increasing number of vehicles in it and completely avoid all traffic congestion. Is that a goal worth pursuing? And oh yes, because residents will come to realize that, an estimated 40,000 former drivers will be riding the train by 2030, reducing congestion by about 18 percent in the urban core from what it would otherwise be without rail.

Fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation that’s equitable for all people and rationally guides future development on Oahu – that’s a recap of the project’s goals.

One wonders what the Gang of Four told PBN about their own preferences – what plans they have as an alternative to rail. We think they had nothing, because if they had them, they’d have said so, and there's nothing in the commentary about the Gang's preferences.

The Meaningless Lawsuit
PBN has decided it can’t wait for federal court to pass judgment on the Gang’s lawsuit, which has been filed with the clear intent of killing rail. The court proceeding could and likely will find for the defendants for all we know, but that possibility apparently doesn’t register or matter to the business weekly.

The plaintiffs, after all, are honorable men, and PBN is here to praise them. We're left to wonder what George Mason, PBN's late and great publisher and editor, would think of his baby today.

1 comment:

Doug Carlson said...

We can't leave this August 2011 standing alone without this coda:

Honolulu voters in 2012 validated the earlier public opinion polls by electing a pro-rail mayor with a healthy majority (see Yes2Rail's final post on 8/13/12). Pacific Business News's editorial was embarrassingly out of step with public opinion and, as seems clear nearly two years later, with basic journalism standards of fairness and clear thinking.

The rail project is proceeding toward completion later this decade, having received the FTA's Full Funding Grant Agreement in December 2012.