Thursday, January 19, 2012

Details Missing in Candidate’s Pre-Announcement Interview: ‘Something' that’s ‘Less Expensive’ ??

Former governor Ben Cayetano scheduled a late-morning press conference today to announce his candidacy for mayor. The print and broadcast media will have extensive coverage later this afternoon, and we’ll add that coverage to our post.

Mr. Cayetano previewed his announcement on the KHVH morning talk show. He discussed why he’s running (mostly because of city finances and the incumbent’s performance as mayor), but he said nothing about what kind of transit system he prefers, if any, in place of elevated rail.

As we noted yesterday, this isn’t a political blog, and we don’t take sides, but we do discuss the candidates’ views on transportation issues and specifically the Honolulu rail project, this blog’s focus.

Here are a couple excerpts from his interview; the transportation-related quotes are accurate and have been cleaned up with pauses removed. We’ll drop in commentary as appropriate:

“,,,it kinda boggles my mind that the city would propose a 5.3 billion dollar rail project that the city itself in its EIS admits will not reduce traffic congestion below current levels. In other words, in the future, with or without rail, traffic congestion will be worse.”
Close observers of Honolulu rail will recognize this as anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater’s key message that he’s been using in interviews and speeches for years. It’s objectionable for several reasons.

One, it’s deceptive – because it misleads audiences into believing rail isn’t worth building if it can’t reduce (eliminate?) congestion below current levels. That’s not what rail transit does anywhere in the world where it’s built; in Honolulu as elsewhere, rail will be a travel option that will restore mobility to our community (see the project’s goals).

Two, it’s doesn’t give the audience much credit for smarts. Do Messrs. Cayetano and Slater really believe their audiences will buy their line that a single component of the transportation infrastructure will reduce traffic below today's levels in 2030, 2040, 2050 and beyond? Have they forgotten that an additional 200,000 people will be living on Oahu by 2030? Do they not think the tens of thousands of new vehicles here in 2030 will add to traffic congestion?

Three, while they’re comfortable in repeatedly floating this rather specious argument, they’re much less willing to tell the public what they prefer instead of rail. Here’s as close as Mr. Cayetano got to it in his radio interview:

“…if I were elected, (I would) appeal to the Federal Transit Administration that we’re going to go into some other mode of transportation, something that’s less expensive and can do the job.”
What, exactly, is Mr. Cayetano’s “something” that would do the same (or better) job than grade-separated rail? Whatever he has in mind but hasn’t yet shared, it has to have the key attributes of the Honolulu rail project – fast, frequent, reliable and safe. That’s a good description of the project that’s been planned and thoroughly evaluated here and in Washington for the past six years.

As yesterday’s post and many others here at Yes2Rail (see dozens of posts under the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading at our “aggregation” site), at-grade transit can’t approach elevated rail’s safety record. Mr. Cayetano’s off-hand remark to Pacific Business News about the San Diego trolley system may have a backlash attached to it. Too many pedestrians and others have died because that system is built at ground level.

Maybe the media managed to extract some specifics from Mr. Cayetano this morning. We can’t wait to find out.

1 comment:

sumwonyuno said...

The former governor's personal preference is buses. There's a video of him from the 70's arguing against rail and for buses with respect to cost.

Despite that, I actually wouldn't be surprised if he ended up supporting something like the AIA light rail proposal. He'll definitely lose if he offers a tollway plan since tolls are unpopular. Since there is public support for "rail", he'd take a larger share of the vote by offering light rail as the "cheaper transit".

Though, if construction starts and the FFGA is set before the election, the public support will be cemented for rail.