Sunday, January 1, 2012

Here We Go – Charging into Rail’s ‘Pivotal Year’

Expected? Automatic? However it got there, the first word in the morning paper’s first major page-one story on the first day of the year was rail. Read it here if you have a subscription – or only the first paragraph if you don’t – under the headline Pivotal year for rail, elections and public school.

A story right next to it at the top of page one says former Governor Ben Cayetano, one of the anti-rail Gang of Four, is “considering” a run for mayor to kill the project. Having given the reporter several quotes for the story, Mr. Cayetano is more than “considering” a run. He's in the race.

So although it wasn’t our intent to begin blogging this soon in the New Year, here we go – with this necessary observation: Yes2Rail is not a “politics” blog; we leave commentary on what’s said by politicians inside City Hall for others to pursue. But when someone outside those walls announces his or her intent to gain the most powerful position in City government for the purpose of killing the Honolulu rail project, different rules apply.

Under the Microscope
Former Governor staked out his anti-rail position several times in 2011. He officially joined the so-called Gang of Four in May when he became a plaintiff in the lawsuit to kill the project. The other three “gang” members are anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater, former judge Walter Heen and UH law school professor Randall Roth.

In June, Mr. Cayetano participated in a panel discussion at the Plaza Club at which he expressed a preference for at-grade transit. Close followers of transportation issues on Oahu know by now why at-grade transit would not come close to addressing the island’s major transportation problem – highway congestion.

We won’t belabor on Day One of the year why at-grade transit is inferior to elevated rail, but what’s worth noting is that Mr.Cayetano isn’t creating quotes for close followers of transportation issues. As a mayoral candidate, he’s speaking to everybody else – the majority of residents/voters who don’t follow these issues closely and therefore may not see the gaping holes in his arguments.

Buses? Really?
From today’s Cayetano-focused story:

“(Cayetano) said he favors an enhanced bus system with dedicated lanes to speed bus traffic because buses in a dedicated lane ‘will beat the train all the time.’”
This and other of Mr. Cayetano’s expressions of support for bus travel presumably are not his own thoughts but those of Cliff Slater, the brains of the anti-rail campaign. Mr. Slater’s record of opposing all forms of mass transit (including his assessment of Mayor Harris’s bus rapid transit project) is well documented by now, but he’ll support other modes of public transit if he thinks it will help fight rail.

Mr. Slater is the chief architect of the buses-are-better theme, including in September when he was a guest on public radio’s “Town Square” program:

“…if you look at it, for example, coming in from the Kapolei transit center, trains will not be quicker than the country C bus than it is right now. You can come in on the country C bus any time from 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the time of day. The train is going to take 51 minutes, so it’s not going to make anybody’s commute any faster.”
Later in the same radio show, “John of Makakilo” had this response:
“I think the public needs to understand that the people who are against rail don’t live out on the west side. They don’t sit in traffic. They’re not the ones commuting day to day. They don’t view this as an investment in our future. They probably don’t remember Black Tuesday when people got stuck for hours when they shut down H-1. Every time there’s an accident on H-1 is when it take you up to an hour and a half or two hours. And when Cliff was talking about the buses taking 51 minutes from Ala Moana to Kapolei, that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, it takes you an hour and a half. I know, I’ve done it. I do it on a regular basis. So everything they keep on saying the buses, the buses…you add more buses to the congestion, you just get to sit in more traffic. (paraphrased) Congestion is gonna get worse before it gets better, we all understand that. Opponents don’t take into account $5/gallon gas.”
We can almost hear the tappety-tapping of computers in Makakilo, Kapolei and Ewa Beach as residents type their letters to the editor to refute Mr. Cayetano’s pro-bus comments.

Also from today’s Cayetano-as-candidate story:

“Jobs? Tell that to the 1,000 workers who lost their jobs when two hospitals went bankrupt. If we want to create jobs, (let’s) build new schools, renovate old ones, build public housing, (which will create) jobs we know will go to local constructions workers.”
Those projects presumably have some merit, especially if they  result in more housing and improved health care for our citizens, but building public housing and hospitals would do absolutely nothing to help commuters improve their travel through the urban core by avoiding highway congestion.

In highlighting jobs, Mr. Cayetano appears intent on convincing the casual transportation follower that Honolulu rail is a “jobs project.” It’s not. Read the goals; they're the same at the start of this year as last. Jobs will be created in building rail, of course, and that will be an important benefit for our economy, but job creation is not a project goal.

Restoring transportation mobility is a goal. Improving travel reliability through the urban core is a goal. Providing a development rationale for Oahu throughout the 21st century is a goal. Assuring travel equity for people of all ages and financial means is a goal. Creating jobs isn’t.

If Mr.Cayetano is focused on job creation, there are many ways he could make a contribution to the community, but killing Honolulu rail – which will truly create thousands upon thousands of jobs – would be his worst possible option.

This post has been added to our "aggregation" site under two headings -- Project Goals and Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Didn't Malia Zimmerman with Hawaii Reporter posted that Ben Cayetano was part of the cycle of the "pay to play" corruption in which contractors landed public works projects based on their campaign contributions? The BRT was the biggest example of them all? So now Ben is back to the BRT with dedicated lanes again? Didn't Slater say dedicated lanes in town was not going to work? So many contradictions and irony.