Monday, December 19, 2011

More on ‘Honor System,’ plus Flip-Flopping Rail Opponent Who Fought BRT Now Thinks It’s Swell

Saturday’s edition of the LTE Forum reacted to two letters to the editor that questioned use of the so-called honor system rather than ticketing barriers on the Honolulu rail system. Transit systems elsewhere have good experience with “honor.”

But a letter in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser did a better job of responding to the skeptics. The Manoa writer had several reasons why “proof of payment” systems make sense for Honolulu:

‘Proof of payment’ is not ‘honor system’ (Star-Advertiser, 12/18, subscription)
“…Since a turnstile system can be hurdled or crawled under, a more costly system would not guarantee payment by all riders. As most Honolulu riders carry a monthly pass now – especially seniors, disabled persons and University of Hawaii students – fare evasion will probably be lower than average. Because 42 percent of all transit riders will use rail for part of the trip, many cash-paying riders will be holding a paper bus transfer, good for their train ride…. Finally, fare checkers will keep homeless people, drunks and criminals off stations and trains.”
As with most issues that provoke knee-jerk reactions by rail critics, the “proof of payment” system will work in Honolulu, just as it does in dozens of other cities with rail transit.

Flip-Flopping on BRT
We make a point of dropping in on anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater’s website. It’s often rich in material that blunts his arguments against Honolulu’s future rail system, and this weekend was worth the visit.

Mr. Slater has posted three items since Friday in praise of bus rapid transit. His fondness for BRT is laughably ironic to those of us who remember his opposition to Mayor Jeremy Harris’s BRT plans a decade ago. After quoting Mr. Harris on how “cutting-edge” bus technologies and operational systems “can make big improvements at an affordable cost,” Mr. Slater asked on Friday: “In your heart of hearts, don’t you really miss the guy?”

Mr. Slater continued his new-found enthusiasm for BRT into the weekend with two more referrals – a 2010 speech in Boston by FTA chief Peter Rogoff and a Detroit News story on the FTA's support of a regional bus system.

The FTA believes BRT would work well in the Detroit region, and that’s great. The agency has its reasons, which you can read, but unless I missed it, there’s nothing in the newspaper story about what’s right for Honolulu – just for Detroit.

As for Mr. Rogoff’s speech about the importance of transit system maintenance, he mentions BRT only once: “Is Bus Rapid Transit a workable option for every corridor – no. But it’s a fine fit for more communities that are seriously considered it.”

Honolulu seriously considered BRT under the Harris and Hannemann administrations, and it didn’t fly either time. What works for one city or region doesn’t mean it would work in Honolulu. Don’t we hear all the time about “how different” Honolulu is? We know it’s true, and two reasons it’s different are outside for everyone to see – the mountains and the ocean.

Quotes by ABC Slater
Mr. Slater’s weekend work on BRT was just more obfuscation in his long-standing attempt to confuse Oahu citizens about the issues. We’ve found so many of them that we’ve created a special corner at our “aggregation site" about his tactics, and we’ll add today’s post to the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) section.

Calling Mr. Slater “Always By Car Cliff” is another way of saying he favors car travel over mass transit options, but he’ll endorse BRT if he thinks doing so can add to the confusion in his fight against Honolulu’s elevated “light metro” system.

Here are some of his quotes from Honolulu’s brief exposure to Mr. Harris’s proposed BRT system:

City’s rapid transit vision will fade – Honolulu Advertiser, 9/4/01. “First you must understand that while BRT is rubber-tired, it is like a streetcar in that it uses dedicated lanes in the middle of the streets. Thus, it embodies all the congestion-causing drawbacks of a light rail line that Mayor Harris quite correctly opposed when he was promoting heavy rail transit.”
City’s BRT has degenerated into a farce – Honolulu Advertiser, 2/16/04. “While (BRT would be) great for bus riders, private transportation providers and UH traffic experts noted that the use of exclusive lanes in town would have a terrible impact on traffic congestion. Traffic congestion in town is already bad enough; taking road space away from existing traffic would cause a traffic nightmare.”
The Congestion Issue
You can find numerous Slater-BRT connections. We also found other quotable material from Mr. Slater in our BRT search, and they shed light on Mr. Slater’s tactic of attacking rail because it won’t reduce road congestion to the extent he wants.

Mr. Slater himself is the source of the erroneous belief that Honolulu rail’s principal goal is to reduce or even eliminate road congestion. He’s responsible for this "straw-man" argument that he works so hard to knock down. Rail will be an option to driving in that congestion, and since rail can’t possibly lower overall congestion to below current levels, he attacks rail for failing to do the impossible.

Here’s a quote from his “Second Opinion” column on 6/3/02: “…these fixed systems just do not do what people assume – reduce traffic congestion.” They assume that because Mr. Slater works hard to convince them that’s rail’s goal; see his Civil Beat video interview and our next-day post.

Here’s Mr. Slater’s newspaper ad (7/5/11) that solicited contributions to support his federal lawsuit to stop Honolulu rail: “Traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today.” Yes – absolutely true, but Mr. Slater’s intent is to suggestion rail will be a failure if traffic increases. With the population growing by 200,000 in the 2005-2030 period, of course traffic congestion will increase.

Mr. Slater is nothing if not clever; having it both ways on BRT and capitalizing on his straw-man tactic show that much. As Internet searches reveal, he’s been anti-mass transit for as long as anyone can recall, and he’s not going away now.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to catch him on his contradictions and in so doing lessen the likelihood he'll add another notch to his belt by killing rail.

As noted above, this post has been added to our "aggregation site" site under the heading Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends).

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