Thursday, November 17, 2011

If You Believe Rail’s Goal Is To ‘End Congestion,’ You’ve Been Fooled by the Project’s Opponents

A tactic used by some of Honolulu’s most visible anti-railers is to misstate the project’s goals and intended outcome, then attack the project because that outcome can’t possibly be achieved by building rail.

They posit something that’s completely absurd – that rail is being built to achieve absolute reductions decades from now in traffic congestion below 2011 levels in the urban corridor on the H-1 freeway, Farrington Highway, Kamehameha Highway, Nimitz Highway and presumably all surface streets.

Since a new rail system can’t possibly do that as the population grows by a couple hundred thousand by 2030, they argue rail will be worthless and a failed project and therefore should not be built. (NOTE: building additional highway lanes doesn’t reduce congestion, either, as demonstrated repeatedly in studies around the country; see our October 25th post.)

This anti-rail tactic is pretty clever when you think about it. For most people, the rail project and most other functions of local government are fringe issues that are “out there” somewhere but not top of mind day in, day out.

Cliff Slater highlights his “gotcha” argument in his anti-rail presentations but ignores entirely rail’s actual project goals, which include improving travel mobility and reliability in our community. There’s nothing in the goals about eliminating congestion in our time or even drastically reducing it to levels far below what commuters experience today.

Misleading the Public
The radio host has been following Mr. Slater’s lead all week – boldly going where no transportation expert or even thinking citizens have gone before. Here’s how he put it yesterday (paraphrasing):

“Rail was supposed to be a transportation issue in the beginning. The initial conclave was called by Governor Linda Lingle, and rail was supposed to alleviate congestion, improve our quality of life and provide relief to those who’ve been forced to sit in traffic.
This project was supposed to give you a better morning and afternoon drive, but the overriding agenda was never about taking care of you folks out in Waipahu and Kapolei and the ewa plain. They don’t care about your drive or about the hours you spend in traffic.”

Notice how he applies ex-Governor Lingle’s alleged goal – a “transportation issue” of traffic reduction, if that truly was what she had in mind – to Honolulu rail without actually saying what the true goals are.

The host delivers this standard anti-rail line with considerable outrage, either feigned or legitimate. If his outrage is truly legitimate, it’s a reflection of his gullibility in swallowing Mr. Slater’s bogus talking point hook, line and sinker. That can’t be good for someone so prideful about his alleged independence and original thinking,

The Congestion-Free Choice
But he did get something right in yesterday’s rant: The city is building rail to “improve our quality of life and provide relief to those who’ve been forced to sit in traffic” with no option to avoid that congestion.

Riding rail will be that option, and those who find rail’s convenience and economy to their liking will choose to ride and thereby completely avoid the thoroughfare congestion that robs hours from their lives each week. Millions of commuters use traffic-avoiding rail each day all over the planet. We highlighted grade-separated systems in several cities in last Saturday’s post.

So when you hear the radio host, Mr. Slater and other anti-railers blast rail because it won’t reduce traffic congestion below current levels, ask them what would. When they say an elevated reversible-lane highway and/or High Occupancy Toll roads would achieve that pie-in-the-sky outcome, tell them flat-out they’re wrong.

Be ready with facts to confront their outrage at your defiance. Facts are available in abundance, and our October 25th post contains links to useful websites.

Ansaldo Caution; Revenues Up
News stories about the financial viability of Ansaldo Honolulu’s parent company prompted the City Council yesterday to request a delay in approving a contract with the company to supply rail cars for Honolulu’s rail project and operate the system. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription) has the story today.

Civil Beat (free to occasional visitors) reports that revenues in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2012 from the rail surcharge that’s funding the local share of the project’s construction cost were $46.4 million, 5.9 percent above the budgeted amount.

No comments: