Friday, October 14, 2011

With a State-Wide Audience and a Chance To Give Their Alternatives to Rail, Two Opponents Blinked

Some show-and-tell was on display during INSIGHTS.
Last night’s “INSIGHTS on Hawaii PBS” hour-long public television show had the potential to reveal what rail opponents Ben Cayetano and Cliff Slater think would be a better way for west Oahu residents to commute to and from downtown Honolulu, the employment center of the island and state.

That seemingly should have been a subject ripe for considerable discussion, wouldn’t it? Messrs. Cayetano and Slater and a few others are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that they hope will kill rail. At a minimum, it seems likely to delay the start of major construction.

So knowing what they prefer as an alternative to a grade-separated, traffic-avoiding transportation mode was something we expected to hear on this program.

It didn’t happen. The anti-railers didn’t go there. They blinked and flat-out refused to discuss their preferences. One can imagine a pre-program huddle in KHET’s parking lot between the two:

Mr. Cayetano: “Cliff, listen. Do not under any circumstances discuss high-occupancy toll roads on this program. I know you think they’re great, but they’re TOLL roads, Cliff. We don’t have any toll roads in Hawaii for a good reason: nobody wants them aside from you and a few of your supporters. I’ve not met a single person here who wants to pay a toll and add to their cost of living.”
Mr. Slater: “OK, I understand, Governor, and I won’t say a word about HOT lanes, but I’m imploring you to not say anything about your favorite – at-grade transit. If you start promoting slow, unreliable, accident-prone at-grade rail or whatever you have in mind, Dan Boylan will bore in and you’ll be on the defensive for the rest of the show. Just don’t go there.”
Get to the Point!
And he didn’t, neither did Mr. Slater and there wasn’t much boring in on the show. Messrs. Slater and Cayetano had absolutely nothing to say about their preferred alternatives when former City Council member Gary Okino tried to move the discussion away from sideshow issues that were bogging down the discussion.

“You’re missing the point,” Mr. Okino said. “We need an elevated system. That’s the only thing that’s gonna work, and you gotta accept some of these tradeoffs – the aesthetic, the view planes, whatever – because only an elevated, grade-separated system that doesn’t mix with traffic will move commuters. Everything else will be stuck in traffic. With two hundred thousand more people living out in ewa in the next twenty-five years, can you imagine how many more cars will be on the freeway? The only thing that’s gonna move is something that is not mixed in with traffic.”
Disappointingly, nearly everything else discussed on the show amounted to side issues or flat-out obfuscation – sideshows about computer modeling, cost overruns in other cities, comparing cities for the comparables as if this were a real estate transaction.

Drew Astolfi, director of Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), noted that Honolulu’s long and narrow geography is perfect for a rail system and one reason federal authorities are so supportive of the project. Like Mr.Okino, he wanted to discuss the real issue – traffic.

“This project promises to fix that for every single rider. It ends traffic for every single rider, and that point has been lost as we’ve gotten into the weeds and computer models and different cost projections. I think this does cost a lot, and I think it’s worth what we’re paying for it because we’re buying a sustainable, livable city for the next hundred years. That’s how long a transit system lasts….”
The No-Car Option
Mr. Cayetano’s response to that line of thought was to pose a question to Mr. Okino, who lives in Pearlridge: “This is a question that should be asked of everyone who lives in the corridor,” the former governor said. “Are you gonna go and walk to the bus stop, catch the bus to get to the rail station and take it into town.”

Mr. Okino: “At some point, traffic congestion is gonna be so terrible, you’re gonna have to make a choice….. (Mr. Astolfi) said you’re gonna end congestion for people who get on the train. There will be no congestion if you take the train. Now if you have a train that can get to town in a half an hour, congestion out there is gonna get worse, and the projections are going over an hour. It’s 65 minutes already. So the choice of the people will be, 30 minutes on the train (or) two hours in traffic on the freeway. I guarantee you there will be a whole bunch of guys getting outta their cars.”

Mr. Cayetano: “Behavior is a big part of the failure of these rail systems throughout the country…. Are you gonna walk out from your house to a bus stop, wait for the bus, take the bus down to the rail station and then wait for the rail and get on it to get downtown?”
Mr. Okino: “If it takes me two hours to commute by car, of course!”
That exchange pretty much sums up the pro-car mindset of Mr. Cayetano, Mr. Slater and their fellow anti-rail friends. They’ve been dependent on their private automobiles so long they simply cannot imagine using public transit and leaving their car at home – something hundreds of millions of people do every day around the world. Their August 21st newspaper op-ed asked plaintively, “Where will commuters park their cars?”

Mr. Boylan might have asked Mr. Cayetano to describe a present-day or future commute by car from the ewa plain. He didn’t and Mr. Cayetano didn’t offer one. Messrs. Cayetano and Slater were silent on their at-grade transit and HOT lane preferences, so instead of extracting obvious differences between the lawsuit plaintiffs’ vision for the future and the vision shared by Messrs. Okino and Astolfi, the program sat there “in the weeds.”

Despite the disappointing outcome, we’ll have more observations about last night’s INSIGHTS show in future Yes2Rail posts.

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Around min 53, Ben said traffic congestion never killed anyone. I wonder if he remembers when the H1 was shut down due to a damaged overpass, someone did die while stuck in traffic.