Monday, October 3, 2011

Critic Says Rail Will Fail if Traffic Won't Be Cut, but His Beloved Tampa Highway Hasn’t Done That

Cliff Slater, leader of the minority anti-rail faction, repeats himself a lot. His most repetitious line is that rail isn’t worth building if traffic congestion in Honolulu’s urban core will be greater after rail is built than it is today.

In other words, he believes rail will be a failed project if it can’t actually reduce congestion from current levels – even as the population and number of vehicles both increase. He believes this preposterous logic so much that he has used it as his focus in innumerable anti-rail presentations.

In his next breath, Mr. Slater is likely to praise the managed lane highway in Tampa, FL as a better alternative for Honolulu than rail. Tampa built its reversible high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes a few years ago, and Mr. Slater is lavish in his praise.

It seems reasonable to judge Mr. Slater’s HOT lanes in Tampa with the same standard he wants to apply to Honolulu rail. It really isn’t reasonable, of course, but it’s the same logic Mr. Slater applies to Honolulu, so we’ll do it – for now.

Yes2Rail yesterday used the Urban Mobility Report 2011 to highlight the growth in the number of wasted hours commuters spend in traffic congestion here. Honolulu rail will be fully operational 9 years from now in 2020, so we looked back to 2001 to see how much congestion grew from 2001 to 2010 as a probable predictor of congestion’s growth by 2020.

Doing the same for the Tampa-St. Petersburgh, FL area is bad news for Mr. Slater. Congestion grew there between 2001 and 2010 – after the managed lanes went into service. The average rush-hour car commuter experienced an additional 3 wasted hours in congestion annually – 33 hours in 2010, compared to 30 in 2001.

Oh, Dear
Using the same logic to slam Tampa’s managed highway as Mr. Slater uses against Honolulu rail, one could conclude that Tampa’s HOT lanes are a failure because they haven’t reduced traffic congestion. Isn’t that what they were supposed to do?

It’s such a specious argument that it makes us wince just to type these words – but we detect no such reticence in Mr. Slater. Just the opposite is true; he even bragged before the City Council last year that he nearly had to water-board – his word – the city’s Wayne Yoshioka to uncover the unremarkable truth that congestion will continue to increase in future years and decades.

Mr. Slater has gone so far as to recruit a University of Hawaii law professor to carry this theme into the public discussion on rail. “Shame on the city for not making clear to the public….(that) traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail,” Professor Randall Roth said on public radio last month.

Duplicity like this from a professor at the local law school also makes us wince. Do they think Honolulu citizens are dummies?!

For Shame
The city has never lied or tried to cover up the facts of congestion’s anticipated growth on Oahu or that Honolulu rail will be the only reasonable alternative to sitting in that traffic. Doing so while under the Federal Transit Administration’s tight scrutiny of the project would be unthinkable, and shame on anyone for suggesting otherwise.

And shame on Mr. Slater and former Governor Ben Cayetano if they make the same duplicitous charge when they appear on KHET’s “Island Insights on PBS Hawaii” program a week from Thursday.

They’ve accepted the station’s invitation; quite reasonably, the city has declined to appear. There’s no way city defendants in a federal lawsuit aimed at killing rail will appear on a "live" television show with two of the plaintiffs. (Shame on the station if it finds the city's decision remarkable.)

Messrs. Slater and Cayetano probably will make an issue out of the city’s refusal, too. Judging from their near-empty trove of anti-rail arguments, that’s just about all they’ve got.

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

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