Listening to Cliff Slater and Randall Roth make yet another pitch against the Honolulu rail project tracked nicely with the idea that the decades-old anti-rail effort resembles a drawn-out, endless baseball game.
Unlike the three other major sports, baseball has no clock, and play continues until the game’s over. As we now know about both rail and baseball, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Honolulu rail has gone into so many extra innings we’ve all but lost count. Some say regulation play was close to ending in the early ‘90s but has dragged on thanks to the slow-down tactics of Mr. Slater and his team.
Since the tough Oahu crowd listening on the radio in the stands already is poised for victory (rail’s winning), you might have thought Mr. Slater and Professor Roth would try something new to reverse their fortunes – maybe mix up their routines, move to the edge of the pitching rubber or drop down to launch a few sidearm pitches. Expectations were high with Professor Roth now on board; the highly touted rookie just up from the Manoa Valley League might have brought something novel to the game, or so we thought.
It was not to be. From their first utterances, the two anti-railers were throwing the same junk – even Professor Roth. Over and over again he rubbed “overhead heavy rail” dirt onto his pitches, apparently believing it might give him the edge enjoyed by only the game's best hurlers – a so-called “heavy ball” that’s hard to drive.
As he has for years, Mr. Slater relied on one pitch repeatedly, and so did the team’s rookie:
Curiously, Mr. Slater especially treats this fairly obvious fact of urban life as if it were some kind of horrible secret that city officials admit only under torture in order to not reveal how much a failure Honolulu rail would be if traffic were to grow even after rail is built. Yes, it is a strange conclusion, but that’s what he believes.
Mr. Slater stepped to the lectern, twirled the well-worn argument around in his head as he looked in and then delivered his favorite pitch – a slow curve:
Time and again the two fixated on the “more congestion than now” argument. “There is no possibility once rail is built of traffic getting better,” Mr. Slater said. “Traffic will be worse with rail than it is today. We say so, the city says so, the federal government says so…..” And our fourth-grade granddaughter probably would say so, too, since this is all about common sense.
Millions of commuters in the USA and around the world use transit every day as an alternative to driving, but it’s a concept that seems lost on yesterday's pitchers. When Mr. Slater insisted repeatedly that building rail will not reduce congestion one bit, no one on the phone or in the studio pointed out the obvious: People who ride the train will reduce their congestion problem to zero!
Mr. Slater finally was asked about High-Occupancy Toll roads, his favorite mode of transportation, and he had to duck a couple hard come-backers off the bats of listeners who strenuously objected to having to pay a toll “of up to five dollars,” he said, to travel quickly through the urban core.
You wouldn’t have to use the toll road for all your trips, he told one caller – just when you really needed to be somewhere urgently. The rest of the time you could use the regular highways and streets, where everyone who couldn't afford to pay the toll would be stuck in congestion. The distasteful implication of his suggestion also seemed lost on him.
The “bottom line” to this radio broadcast is fairly simple: Mr. Slater and his anti-rail colleagues realize they have lost the battle they’ve been waging for decades and are now working their public relations campaign hard before the game finally ends.
One wonders if Mr. Slater and Professor Roth had set a condition on their radio show participation yesterday – that they appear alone, with no possibility of having their softballs knocked out of the park by knowledgeable, well-prepared rail advocates with them right there in the studio.
Had that happened, surely everyone would know today their game's over – and it’s about time.