Today’s focus is what’s driving Messrs. Slater and Roth in their anti-rail campaign, and it turns out to be nothing more complicated than a desire to improve the car owner’s commuting experience at the expense of public transportation. That’s the logical inference, since they’d prefer money intended to build Honolulu rail going instead to largely unspecified highway improvements.
In fact, once you have time to read a long selection from the show’s transcript at your leisure (below), what jumps out in their near-total focus on moving cars quicker through Honolulu’s road and highway network. One of them goes so far as to suggest – seriously, it seems – that there are actual “traffic solutions” that would dramatically reduce congestion to accomplish their quicker-car goals.
We think that statement betrays a couple things. First, Mr. Roth must be a relative newcomer to transportation issues if he thinks there are finger-snap “solutions” that could virtually wipe out traffic congestion “overnight.” Second, his opinion of public servants in city government is remarkably low if he believes they would deliberately abuse the public by making the daily commute more difficult than it needs to be.
The transcript begins around the 36th minute of the program; you can listen to the show yourself until HPR removes the recording from the “Town Square” archive, but reading the excerpts takes much less time.
Moderator: “You’re saying they’re not using it all the time, every day, for several trips, it may be a once-in-a-while situation, but still, what does that do for people who have to make a commute every single day and they don’t get to use it because they can’t afford it?”
Mr. Slater: “Traffic signals.”
Moderator: “Which goes back to the point that we’re going to have more congestion no matter what.”
Mr. Slater: “Right.”
Both men are motivated by a desire to improve travel times for car drivers but not so much for public transportation users. Users of Honolulu rail will experience improved travel times and reliability by avoiding all surface traffic, but Mr. Slater brushes that significant benefit aside because he thinks rail wouldn’t do enough for automobile drivers.
If Messrs. Slater and Roth believe highways are the way of the future, perhaps they should see how much support they have with the public and its elected and appointed representatives in local, state and federal government. Instead of doing that and launching a parallel project, they’re trying to kill rail with their federal lawsuit, which Mr. Roth said "in theory" might be decided by the end of this year but more likely "it’s going to be in the first half of next year.”
It’s more than a theory that the public wants rail built. That’s evident in the public opinion polls, the election of pro-rail candidates to political office, the defeat of outspoken anti-rail candidates and in the approval of charter amendments to create the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and affirm the city’s pursuit of a steel-on-steel rail system.
Far as we know, HPR is still refusing the city’s request for equal time to rebut Messrs. Slater and Roth. If you believe the city deserves its hour in the studio, you might want to call the station – 955-8821.