Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Parting APEC Shot: Morning Drive H-1 Shutdown; Radio Host Goes Ballistic over Traffic Congestion, Ignores Future Rail Option that Will Avoid It All

Honolulu’s only daily newspaper’s top headline on page one today says the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum proved Hawaii is a place to do serious business. Elsewhere, the paper is in “day after” mode with reports on APEC’s impact on the local economy – whether business was up or down, which businesses benefited and which were hurt, and so on.

The broadcast media, however, are still reporting on APEC as if it’s still here, and part of it is. President Barack Obama’s entourage is heading from the west-end resort where he spent the night to Honolulu International Airport during drive time.

The S-A’s website announces “Police close H-1 Freeway for President Obama’s departure.” Honolulu radio stations all are carrying updates from the Traffic Management Center and from callers stuck in the shutdown.

We’ve been listening to the morning talk show host who regularly blasts Honolulu’s elevated rail project. Ironically, he’s been saying things about today’s traffic that we can confidently predict congestion will resemble without a presidential visit in decades ahead.

Drivers are caught in a very difficult situation,” he says, and then asks whether “there's a better way” that would have avoided the congestion. What you’re enduring right now has to be just unbelievable,” he says. We have limited routes to get around. We have the H-1, H-2, H-3, and it all filters into downtown, and you have to get there.”

The Future is Now
A caller complains that he’s at a standstill on the H-3 freeway that brings commuters over the mountains from the windward side. The backup is three or miles long, he says, prompting the radio host to note that traffic’s impact is “unbelievable on the daily lives of all our citizens, and it directly impacts our productivity.”

The host says everybody caught in traffic has an absolute right to be outraged at the President’s insensitivity about the plight of the freeway shutdown on citizens. It’s an ironic statement, since everyday commuters might well feel outrage at the insensitivity of Honolulu rail opponents like the radio host and the plaintiffs on the lawsuit that was filed to kill Honolulu’s future traffic option project – elevated rail.

Everyday commuters along the H-1 freeway and on east-west thoroughfares confront slow-crawl congestion morning and night. That much is obvious to anybody watching late-afternoon TV newscasts that show views from H-1 traffic cameras.

What truly is outrageous is the failure of rail opponents, including the radio host, to suggest a workable alternative to elevated rail that would satisfy the project’s goals of providing fast, frequent, reliable and safe traffic-free transportation through the urban core.

“Gang of Four” plaintiff leader Cliff Slater’s HOT lanes wouldn’t do it; ex-Governor Ben Cayetano’s preference for at-grade rail wouldn’t do it, and as far as we know, former Judge Walter Heen hasn’t suggested an alternative at all.

“We have elevated our politicians and statesmen to a position of celebrity,” the radio host says as he continues his rant against the car caravans that shut down freeway and street access during APEC and again today.

Maybe he’ll never ride Honolulu rail, but those who do will ride an elevated guideway that completely avoids traffic. Drivers might well take some comfort from that reminder if they're caught in freeway shutdowns when the President and his family return to Oahu next month for their annual holiday.

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