Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Columnist Has 10 Reasons To Back Honolulu Rail; Headline Writer Gets a Free Pass to the Woodshed

“Rail: Ugly But Necessary Evil” ??? Hold on! Electrical engineers praise 138,000-volt overhead transmission lines for their beauty. How could something so essential to modern life be anything but beautiful – or so their reasoning goes.

The same could be said about the future overhead guideway for Honolulu rail's trains that will give residents traffic-free commuting along its 20-mile length. Tell us that won't be beautiful!

Beauty is where you find it, and so apparently is ugly. But nowhere in his MidWeek column this week does Bob Jones say overhead rail is “evil.”

Just the opposite! Mr. Jones practically gushes with enthusiasm over Honolulu’s fixed guideway project, and he gives 10 reasons why Oahu residents can be enthusiastic, too.

Why Bob Jones Says Yes2Rail
It’s not David Letterman’s comedic “Top 10 List” – just 10 solid reasons why this veteran journalist believes rail critics are wrong, plus some editorial comment by us.

1) The argument that alternatives were not fully considered is not fact-based. They were, in great detail. Saying otherwise is a canard from the let’s-keep-our-horse-and-buggy people. No comment necessary; he has it exactly right.

2) Yes, it’s heavy rail rather than light rail. Light rail essentially means a streetcar. That was tossed out early on because running a many-coaches train on the street would mean stopping traffic at every intersection and substantial pedestrian risk. Toru Hamayasu, HART’s interim executive director, told HPR’s “Town Square” audience last week: “We’re saying ours is a light metro system. It’s certainly not heavy rail like other systems such as (San Francisco’s) BART or the Washington METRO where each car is 75 feet long….” Honolulu’s trains will be much shorter and lighter, “so we’re not heavy rail. We’re not light rail. That’s why there’s now this new terminology, light metro.”

3) Yes, elevated heavy rail will be on the ugly side (see #2 above), but we long ago uglified Oahu with suburban sprawl… We’re already ugly except in those Hawaii Five-0 beauty shots. It’s all in the beholder’s eye, isn’t it? See yesterday’s Star-Advertiser (subscription) for graphics showing how some of the anticipated twenty-seven new high-rises might look in Kakaako if the height limit is raised to 650 feet. Rail's guideway will be 30 feet above the street.

4) Buses are great, but to move large numbers of people into downtown would require an enormous add-on of buses, and that would mean more vehicles on our already-jam-packed roads during rush hours. Why add to the traffic count? Why, indeed?

5) Freeway flyovers sound great when proposed by would-be mayor Panos Prevedouros, but he’s a hard-core highway aficionado. He ignores that all the added vehicles on the flyover have to get off somewhere. The problem is compounded. We could go on about what Dr. Prevedouros thinks – and we do at our “aggregation site.”

6) Standing down and rethinking the whole project isn’t an option at this point. We’ve invested big bucks in basic planning and community meetings. There are times when you’ve taken huge steps and you must make the next leap of faith. This is one. Oahu residents have been perched on the edge of this particular leap forward to modern commuting for decades. Let’s go!

7) The train will not make traffic congestion a thing of the past and no government official has said it will. What’s been said is that without the train, traffic will be totally gridlocked in later years…. Amen, Bob Jones, amen! We’ve dropped more words into Yes2Rail about this particular canard, a favorite of anti-railer Cliff Slater, than any other subject. See aforementioned “aggregation site.”

8) We eventually need to extend the train to UH and Waikiki, so we’ll likey be paying that extra excise tax forever. Get used to it…. Option: Limit vehicle imports. Chance of that is zero. Decisions about extensions into Waikiki and up to UH will be for another crop of office holders, transit planners and voters in the decades ahead. Our bet today: Rail will be so obviously successful that it’ll happen asap.

9) A major reason for the train is to allow development along its corridor. I would hope vertical housing with retail space. It would present a marvelous opportunity for small business if done right. The Star-Advertiser has carried three major TOD-related stories in the past week. TOD makes so much sense it’s one of the rail project’s four main goals.

10) Nobody’s lied or misled on this project. Many have mis-inferred. To say the city or the state misused the law to ram this through is false. The city’s done exactly what the Federal Transit Administration said to do. As noted here innumerable times, Mr. Slater is the inferrer-in-chief, and that’s a polite way of referring to his tactics over the years. Spend some time at the “aggregation site” for chapter and verse.

Here's our rewrite of this column’s headline – a little shorter and a lot more accurate about what Bob Jones wrote:

Rail: Necessity for our Sanity

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