Thursday, September 22, 2011

Final Civil Beat Fact Check Is Half True/Half False; More Fiction Found in Rail Opponents’ Radio Show

On-line Civil Beat has finished its Fact Checks of seven statements made by rail opponents in their newspaper op-ed in August. The independent investigations Civil Beat performed  on the statements revealed the opponents’ tendency to not tell the truth about Honolulu rail. More on that below.

Today’s focus continues to be the statements made on Hawaii Public Radio’s “Town Square” program one week ago by guests Randall Roth and Cliff Slater. It’s important to do this to uncover the deception by both gentlemen in their interview on HPR – a pattern that mirrors their less-than-truthful newspaper column.

It’s obvious by now that Mr. Slater and his anti-rail cadre frequently bend the truth, gloss over it and misstate it to suit their purposes – all acceptable to them apparently in their headlong rush to kill Honolulu rail. The city and the project's supporters have no such license.

Messrs. Slater and Roth called the future system “elevated heavy rail” when in fact it’s “light metro.” The difference is more than semantics; heavy rail systems typically have trains with up to 8 or 10 cars and station platforms 600 to 800 feet long. Honolulu’s trains will never be more than 4 cars, and the station platforms will be 240 feet long. The two guests used the “elevated heavy rail” phrase 25 times during the radio show, so that makes 25 false statements on that issue alone.

This one came through after the show’s moderator noted that Oahu’s population will grow; there will be more cars and people wedded to their cars “as opposed to simply how do we move people more effectively.’ A transcript of the program shows Mr. Slater responded:

“Well, most people think CARS move people effectively. In fact, if you look at, for example, coming in from the Kapolei transit center, trains will not be quicker than the country C bus than it is right now. You can come in on the country C bus any time from 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the time of day, The train is going to take 51 minutes, so it’s not going to make anybody’s commute any faster (emphasis added).”

The truth, of course, is that cars traveling through the urban corridor between town and Kapolei do not move people effectively. That’s the whole point of building a travel alternative to congestion on the H-1 and other highways that’s bad now and bound to get worse. The truth is that the trains will cover the entire 20-mile route between Kapolei and Ala Moana Center in 42 minutes, not 51.

Here’s what “John of Makakilo,” a caller to the program, had to say about Mr. Slater’s assertion about the “country C bus” transit time into town:

“I think the public needs to understand that the people who are against rail don’t live out on the west side. They don’t sit in traffic. They’re not the ones commuting day to day. They don’t view this as an investment in our future. They probably don’t remember Black Tuesday when people got stuck for hours when they shut down H-1. Every time there’s an accident on H-1 is when it take you up to an hour and a half or two hours. And when Cliff was talking about the buses taking 51 minutes from Ala Moana to Kapolei, that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, it takes you an hour and a half. I know, I’ve done it. I do it on a regular basis. So everything they keep on saying the buses, the buses…you add more buses to the congestion, you just get to sit in more traffic."

See our September 1st post for more insight on Mr. Slater’s obfuscation tactics.

We’ve dealt with this one all week already and do so again today because the “truth issue” is so important. The public needs to know that opponents are blatantly misleading them about the city’s motives and statements on the project.

To summarize, Mr. Slater (and now Professor Roth, as heard in the KIPO talk show last week) repeatedly say the city was forced to reluctantly reveal in an appendix in the Final Environmental Impact Statement the truth that traffic will continue to grow after rail is built. As we’ve said, most thinking people would agree that when the population increases, traffic increases. In truth, the city has withheld nothing about future traffic levels.

City Council members openly discussed the future congestion with city transportation officials in Council meetings issue over the years, including the meetings leading up to the selection of grade-separated rail as the locally preferred alternative. The City Council Journal notes for the December 7, 2006 meeting specifically mention it (sorry, we didn't bookmark the site and now can't find it again).

Councilmember Todd Apo: “After an analysis of all the information, he believes that while not a great solution for congestion, rail is the long-term transportation solution for continued growth on this island.”
Councilmember Barbara Marshall: She said one of her reasons for voting against rail is that “rail will not reduce congestion.”
Councilmember Okino: “While rail will not reduce congestion or travel time, commute time will continue increasing until there is gridlock without a rail system. A rail system will allow people to get out of their cars which will stop or significantly slow down an increase in commute time.”

According to the City Council Journal’s notes of that meeting, Mr. Slater was in attendance and spoke against rail in his usual fashion, going so far as to admit “while there are benefits from increasing public transportation, there is no reduction in traffic congestion.” 

Perhaps the best evidence that puts the lie to the shibai Mr. Slater and Professor Roth are promoting is the radio program in November 2008 during which Mr. Slater and the city’s Wayne Yoshioka both discussed the future congestion issue on the public airwaves! Mr. Slater even agreed with Mr. Yoshioka that congestion will continue to increase beyond current levels after rail is built.

Yet despite all the clear evidence that the city has never said rail would "solve" congestion, Professor Roth could still say last week: “And shame on the city for going out of its way to give them that impression. Shame on the city for not making clear to the public what it has admitted reluctantly to the federal government, which is quote Traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.”

It’s all just so much BS, and Hawaii Public Radio by rights should give the city equal time to respond to the inaccuracies. So far, it's refusing to do so.

7 Fact Checks Find Much That’s False
Civil Beat gives a   HALF TRUE   grade to the latest fact-checked statement by the rail commentary – which of course means it’s also  HALF FALSE . The final tally is two  FALSE , three  HALF FALSE , and two that were  TRUE . It’s a terrible record.

Shouldn’t the public expect the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from a former governor, a former judge and a current law school professor? They didn’t get it, which suggests the opponents are being guided by Mr. Slater, who for more than two decades has led the anti-rail fight and is doing so now.

About those “true” findings by Civil Beat: One was simply the conclusion that a state official had said what the opponents said he said – i.e., no big deal. The second “true” was completely disappointing because Civil Beat bestowed it for the thinnest of reasons – another affirmation that the opponents actually had said what they said in the commentary. Our September 14th post dealt with that one and said it deserved a  FALSE . By refusing to change the totally misleading headline above that Fact Check, Civil Beat earned itself the same grade.

(This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the heading Mr. Cliff Slater (and friends).


Anonymous said...

Regarding the term heavy rail. So what if it is? What does that change? Oahu needs a rail solution that fits its needs so if the term heavy best describes it, what is wrong with that? Depending on what continent one is on, light and heavy have varying shades of definition. Heavy could merely mean grade separated and I, for one, am happy it is heavy in that case. As you pointed out, the platforms being planned can only accommodate 4 car trains at most.

If the fearmongerers are trying to paint heavy as some weight issue, light rail cars are actually heavier because they need to be built to withstand collisions with careless drivers.

Doug Carlson said...

Ha! I love your reason why at-grade "light" rail cars have to be heavier. It's true about accidents; just look at all those photos in the blog's right-hand column. Phoenix's system had 52 of them in its first year of operation.

Mr. Roth thinks he has a winner with the "elevated heavy rail" phrase. He personally used it nearly two dozen times during the show. Used that often, it comes a transparent tactic.