Rail doomsayers – we defined them as doomrailers in July – will be there to remind us of their “better” ideas long after Honolulu rail is successful. One of their “solutions” is HOT lanes.
A letter in the Star-Advertiser today (subscription) complains that “we hear very little about HOT lanes…” and enthusiastically praises them without mentioning three significant drawbacks.
If you can’t afford the toll, you’ll have no alternative but to sit in the traffic congestion that the well-to-do avoid. As the community's “solution” to ever-increasing congestion, HOT lanes would be a total failure, and that brings us to drawback number two.
HOT lanes benefit car drivers and owners while denying access to those without the means to pay the tolls or even own a car. Proponents will argue that buses also can use the lanes, but since access is usually limited to the beginning of the elevated highway, bus riders along the route would receive no benefit whatsoever and would sit in traffic along with the rest of us.
Our last word on this letter is that its writer completely misunderstands Honolulu rail. The system will not be the “solution” to ever-worsening traffic congestion; it will be the commuter's alternative to that congestion and the key component of a system that includes the efficient integration of TheBus. And as even Cliff Slater admits, rail will have the positive effect of reducing congestion from what it would grow to if rail were not built.
The experience of other rail systems around the country is that people choose to stop driving and start riding trains for two reasons – cost and convenience. By predicting few will ride Honolulu rail even as traffic congestion worsens and the cost of driving increases, the writer missed the very reasons Honolulu rail will be a success.