As we’ve said here repeatedly, the more we know about what they think and advocate, the better rail looks. That’s why we’ve clumped numerous posts in one “aggregation post” under headings such as Mr. Cliff Slater and Dr. Panos Prevedouros. As always, you’re invited to read those posts.
The guests on Thursday’s program were Cliff Slater and Randall Roth, two plaintiffs on a federal lawsuit that they hope will kill rail. They also co-authored – with fellow plaintiffs Walter Heen and Benjamin Cayetano – an anti-rail commentary in the August 21st edition of the Star-Advertiser headlined “How the city misled the public” (subscription required; see Yes2Rail's comment).
What did we learn from this radio show? Quite a bit actually, including the guests’ adherence to the maxim that if you repeat something often enough, people might just believe it. In fact, Messrs. Slater and Roth have been repeating some of their talking points so often that they’ve apparently come to believe them, too, despite the implausibility of it all.
What will the Honolulu system be – “elevated heavy rail” or something else? Here’s what Toru Hamayasu, interim executive director for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, wrote in his own September 10th newspaper commentary (subscription):
The site defines heavy rail as “an electric railway with the capacity to handle a heavy volume of traffic.” By using that description, Mr. Slater and Professor Roth are implying something they regularly discount – high passenger acceptance of Honolulu’s rail system.
Wikipedia’s “light metro” entry says the category fits between light and heavy rail and lists numerous examples of such systems, including Copenhagen’s Metro, Vancouver’s Sky Train, New York’s AirTrain JFK and the Los Angeles Green Line.
You can read this information yourself if all of this is important enough to you. Frankly, we think Professor Roth’s near-obsessive use of the “elevated heavy rail” term is a heavy-handed effort to mislead the public – something he accuses the city of doing.
It boils down to a common sense realization that with population growth, traffic also will grow. Oahu’s population will be greater in 2030 than it is today, as virtually all thinking people would agree. You can take your pick on what the growth number will be – 100,000, 200,000, whatever. (The planning horizon often is set at 2030 by the federal government, but common sense thinking also suggests the population will continue to increase in future decades barring inhibitors not now recognized.)
Studies suggest the vast majority of these new residents will be living in the corridor between town and the ewa plain. Will traffic increase along with the population? Again, most thinking people would conclude as much – and here is where Messrs. Slater and Roth practice their intellectually dubious anti-rail rhetoric.
In their opinion, the ultimate result of building Honolulu rail should be a reduction in traffic congestion in future decades to levels below what it is today. As illogical as that sounds, that’s what they want to accomplish – reduce traffic congestion decades from now to levels below what we experience on Oahu’s streets and highways today.
That’s different than what the city will accomplish by building Honolulu rail. If you conclude, as most thinking people will, that traffic congestion will be a natural consequence of an increasing population, it follows that a mechanism is needed to allow residents to move through the southern corridor between the ewa plain and urban Honolulu without being caught in that congestion.
That’s the key – enhancing mobility no matter how much traffic grows in the decades ahead. That has been one of the city’s goals for this transportation project from the start.
We’re going to quote Professor Roth extensively here – you also can listen to the archived program at HPR’s website – because it displays the extent to which he and Mr. Slater are venturing into extreme territory with their accusation that the city has deliberately misled the public on rail and the future congestion issue. At one point in the program Professor Roth said the city was guilty of “strategic misrepresentation” in its information campaign about rail. That would be quite a revelation if it were true, but neither Professor Roth nor Mr. Slater produced any evidence of a misinformation, misleading campaign.
There’s one answer to all of that: It’s not true. Professor Roth did not reference any document that says what he says the city said. All he did on the radio show was cite a truthful statement made by the city in the FEIS and elsewhere and goes on to tell us what he thinks about it. Like Mr. Slater, he treats it as a revelation of monumental proportions – the proverbial cat that's been let out of the bag.
The city’s transportation director, Wayne Yoshioka, had this to say about this presumed revelation: “No kidding, in the future, traffic congestion will be greater than it is today. I don’t think that’s any earth-shattering news.” Incredibly, Professor Roth seems to think it is.
Why do some people, including Professor Roth, believe rail is supposed to reduce traffic congestion and that it would fail if it can’t do that? Because that’s what Mr. Slater has been implying with his obfuscation campaign for years – even decades. He laid it out in detail in his interview with Civil Beat in July 2010:
The implication is clear: Rail will fail if it doesn’t reduce traffic. Seen another way, it’s obvious that Mr. Slater – and now Professor Roth – are highway advocates, not mobility advocates. They want the public to believe that if only the city had listened to them, traffic problems would disappear in the future. The fact that no city in America has “solved” traffic congestion doesn’t dissuade them; that’s their story and that’s what they want you to believe.
And they do care what you believe – very much so. Their new anti-rail campaign was launched on August 21 in clear recognition of the fact that they’ve lost the public on rail as revealed in scientific opinion polls, and they’re willing to say just about anything to turn the tide. That includes misrepresenting what Honolulu system will be – the “elevated heavy rail” business – and accusing city officials and others of lying to the public.
We’ll have more to say here this week about the “Town Square” component of the Slater/Roth anti-rail campaign.
(This post has been added to our "aggregation" site under the heading Mr. Cliff Slater (and friends).