Thursday, November 3, 2011

City Council Kills Anti-Rail Charter Amendment; Opponents Hint They’ll Fight for a Vote on Rail; White House Says Infrastructure Investment Is Key to Economic Recovery, Community Growth

Yesterday’s City Council 7-2 vote to reject a proposed City Charter amendment on its first reading was an example of representative government in action. Seven Council members who’ve sat through innumerable hours of testimony and briefings wasted no time in killing a proposal that had a goal of blocking Honolulu’s steel-on-steel fixed guideway project.

The vote didn’t sit well with the morning radio talker, who (unconsciously?) minimized the defeat by repeatedly calling it a 5-to-2 vote – minimizing the impact of a 77-percent Council majority beat-down to 55 percent.

The Star-Advertiser’s story (subscription) reported on Council members’ rationale for their unusual defeat of a measure on its First Reading. Transportation Committee Chair Breene Harimoto: “We can no longer afford to be divisive, we can no longer afford to just prolong the agony of revisiting over and over and over past decisions.”

Civil Beat blogged yesterday from the Council meeting a concern of Council member Ikaika Anderson “that such a charter amendment would result in the federal government demanding all of its funding returned.”

No Deviation
That’s of no concern to the radio talker, who hasn’t deviated from his anti-rail campaign throughout the project’s life – including the span of time when three scientific opinion surveys of Oahu residents revealed an average of 57.6 percent support for rail.

The radio host ironically said something that’s true about Honolulu rail (paraphrasing): “Rail proponents who believe rail will alleviate traffic need to know it won’t! Reducing traffic is not a component of this project.”

We agree; traffic reduction is not one of the project’s four main goals. What the radio talker never ever mentions is what the project will provide – an alternative form of transportation through the urban core that completely avoids congestion.

Anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater also avoids that point altogether, and in that respect, the radio host and Mr. Slater are in complete agreement.

What They Really Want
They both want a traffic-reduction project (as if that’ll ever happen with a growing population), not a mass transit project – and that’s perfectly OK for them to want that. We all want things that either are attainable or just wishes.

Through representative government, Oahu residents put grade-separated rail on their attainable list and made that clear with their votes in 2008 and 2010 – when they approved steel-on-steel rail, when they created the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and when they elected pro-rail politicians and defeated anti-rail candidates.

Since Mr. Slater and the radio host yearn for traffic reduction and not traffic avoidance, they might want to propose such a project and run it up the proverbial flagpole to see if anybody salutes. Our guess is they’d find lots of agreement about wanting to reduce congestion, which has become intolerable for hundreds of thousands of drivers who contend with it daily.

But saluting isn’t enough. Getting a project built that actually accomplishes their goal is the tough part – and as we noted last month, congestion simply doesn’t go away when new highways are built or existing ones are widened. Building more highway lanes results in more congestion, and that’s just the way it is, as metro areas across the country have experienced.

Without a Clue
Ending congestion in our time, which is what these two particular anti-railers and many of their supporters illogically think is possible, is not an attainable goal unless we also limit car imports, immigration and baby making. They’re not advocating any of those, so how exactly do they propose Oahu residents avoid congestion?

They don’t have a clue, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying to kill rail. The host today ended his commentary on yesterday’s City Council vote with his call to arms – an appeal to residents to put rail on next year’s ballot:

"You can mobilize over the next year and garner signatures and submit them to the county, and with initiative you can get this question on the ballot. Did you know that? If these five (sic) other Council members who believe they supercede your voice, who believe they have the knowledge to make this decision, and believe evidently that you should not go through the agony of a $6 billion commitment that they are making on your behalf without a is astounding, the height of ignorance. And it's ultimately all about you."
So there you have it – an unmistakable indication that the anti-rail movement led by a minority of citizens is determined to carry on this fight by attempting to put rail on the November 2012 ballot. And if it comes to that, they'll lose that vote but undoubtedly continue plotting against rail. Get used to it; that also is just the way it is.

Around the Web
Yes2Rail will continue to highlight the pro-rail norm and other transit-related news in cities across the USA. The White House yesterday released a report titled “Recent Examples of the Economic Benefits from Investing in Infrastructure.”

You may have seen the President on network news yesterday making the case for his infrastructure spending proposals as he stood in front of the Key Bridge in Washington, DC, one of thousands of structures across the country that require upgrading.

Although Honolulu rail is a mobility project, job creation certainly is an important part of the whole effort. From the White House report:

“A large body of economic research has shown that investments in transportation infrastructure can have a substantial positive impact on the long-run performance of an economy. Investments that create, maintain, or expand transportation networks are likely to promote improved economic efficiency, higher productivity, and more rapid growth of economic activity.”
Go Giants!

This wasn’t the Giants' year, but last year was. We noted a year ago today that San Francisco’s BART system set a new all-time record for passenger numbers as San Francisco Giants fans flooded the system on their way to and from the team’s World Series victory parade. It was St. Louis’s turn this year. Nearly 87,000 passengers rode the city’s MetroLink system on Friday, including the happy Cardinals fans below who enjoyed Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. Another 79,905 rode on Sunday for the Cardinals parade and the Rams game, prompting MetroLink folks to gush: “That means on Friday, MetrtoLink carried more people than those who live in Chesterfield, Hazelwood, and Bridgeton combined. Wow!” We don’t know those fields from the woods, but we’re envious of MetroLink and its passengers who already are enjoying the joys of congestion-free travel in their urban community.

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