Friday, November 4, 2011

Audiences Agree: Anti-Rail Argument Falls Flat with Only a Little Thought about Future Growth

All aboard the anti-rail train -- Zimmerman, Slater and Heen.
There’s nothing quite as comforting to a public speaker as an agreeable audience. Nodding heads beat arms-crossed frowning any day (as long as they’re not nodding off), so that’s why we begin presentations asking audiences for their agreement on three observations.

Number One: Oahu’s population will continue to grow in the decades ahead. No laws will be passed to prohibit migration to Hawaii from the mainland and elsewhere. The Aloha State can expect new arrivals for the foreseeable future.

Number Two: The number of cars on Oahu will continue to grow with the population. Former State Director of Transportation E. Alvey Wright once floated the idea of limiting the number of cars a family could register. It died a quick death. The car dealer lobby on Oahu is anti-rail, but it really was anti-Wright.

Number Three: Young people will continue to marry or otherwise hook up, and babies will be born. Heads nod vigorously to that one, since more babies means more grandchildren – always important to many in our audiences.

More + More = More
Everyone by now is in agreement, and that’s good, because our next point builds on the first three: Traffic congestion on Oahu will be worse in the future than it is today. Nobody in any of the audiences where we’ve spoken disagrees with that notion. It’s not just a probability; it’s a fact that’s easily understood by everybody!

This all is a lead-in to the next portion of our talks about Honolulu rail, and it’s the same point we’ve been making month after month: Anti-railer Cliff Slater likes to tell his audiences, as he did three weeks ago at the Rotary Club of Honolulu, that “traffic congestion with rail in the future will be worse than it is today,” and then he sat down! That was it – his meat-and-potatoes smack-down of rail that’s nothing more than what our audiences appreciate without any visible effort whatsoever.

The difference is that Mr. Slater and his supporters try to use future traffic growth as if it’s a reason to kill the rail project. It’s totally ludicrous to argue rail will fail if traffic increases, but….

Unabated Ludicrousness
It’s fairly amazing that anti-railers continue to use that argument – to our advantage, we might add. Hawaii Reporter posted a new 30-minute interview to YouTube this week of HR’s Malia Zimmerman’s interview with Mr. Slater and Walter Heen, a fellow plaintiff on a lawsuit that hopes to kill rail.

Mr. Heen: “You know, the bottom line – and I’m surprised (Slater) hasn’t pointed this out yet – is that the city says, ‘Traffic will get worse, even with the rail.’ So what are we doing with the rail system if traffic’s gonna get worse?”
Anti-rail Ms. Zimmerman: “The other night you both were at a neighborhood board meeting with Council member Stanley Chang, and he got up and, as you say, he danced around, but he actually did in the end say, ‘Well, yes. We know this isn’t going to improve traffic.” He had to admit that, and he’s one of the rail supporters.”

“He had to admit that…” Council member Chang had to admit what our audiences also "admit" – the obvious.  But here are a couple things rail opponents like Mr. Slater and Mr. Heen only reluctantly if ever admit and only if they're under pressure:

Traffic will be worse in the future without rail than with it. Rail will reduce the daily number of car trips by 40,000 and produce an 18-percent reduction in vehicle hours of delay in the urban corridor by 2030. Mr. Slater had to admit the truth of rail’s contribution to reducing traffic after being boxed in at a City Council meeting in July 2010.

The second thing rail opponents hate to discuss: Commuters will completely avoid traffic congestion by taking the elevated train.

The audiences we’ve met listen pretty carefully to rail presentations, and we can only hope they do the same with opponents. Better yet, they could watch the opponents’ videos and decide which side sticks to the facts in this protracted rail discussion and which side confuses them.

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