Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hidden Message Alert: Paying Close Attention to Anti-Railisms Can Reveal Opponents’ Motivation

Honolulu rail has the ball in the 4th quarter, driving for yet another big score.
The New Year isn’t even 72 hours old, and already we’re seeing the same anti-rail arguments being recycled by leaders of the opposition.

Cliff Slater’s HonoluluTraffic.com website is topped this morning by a link to the Gang of Four’s August 21st commentary in the Star-Advertiser, which was found by Civil Beat to be shot full of factual errors.

As we noted that same day in Yes2Rail’s response, “Absolutely Nothing Is New” in that post. In relying on it to begin his 2012 anti-rail campaign, Mr. Slater is tipping us off that we can expect more of the same recycled rhetoric in the months ahead, which will be rail’s “pivotal year.”

At the always-supportive HawaiiReporter.com site, Mr. Slater yesterday continued to play defense in light of the Federal Transit Administration’s decision last week to approve the city’s entry into the Final Design phase of the rail project. It’s an unquestionably positive development, one that tests the opponents’ creativity in spinning it into a negative.

It’s About Taxes
There’s a phrase within the HR.com piece that might well reveal the anti-railer-in-chief’s true motivation in fighting so long and so consistently against mass transit projects: “You can email, tweet and/or post on your Facebook page your objections to more taxes for rail.”

Look for the thread that runs through Mr. Slater’s many years of public commentary and you’ll likely find it boiling down to “no more taxes.” Most of us have a built-in aversion to taxation; we like to keep what we’ve earned, but most of us also accept the notion that taxation pays for essential services.

As a proponent of high-occupancy toll roads, Mr. Slater presumably has no problem with taxation to support construction of highways that would cover more of Oahu’s scarce open space with concrete.

Rail and Congestion
Also active early in the New Year is University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, who twice has run for mayor on an anti-rail platform and twice has been trounced at the polls. Dr. Prevedouros announced last week he will not make a third run in 2012.

Here’s the revealing phrase in his interview with a morning talk show host today (paraphrased): “Rail systems are not solutions to congestion. The corridor needs congestion solutions, not rail attributes.”

Clearly, Dr. Prevedouros believes transportation projects can only be justified by the amount of congestion that allegedly is reduced by their construction. He’s a highway expert, not a transportation expert, so improved mobility through the corridor – one of rail’s major transportation goals – doesn’t register with him.

The ironic and fatally flawed link in his reasoning chain is that building more highway lanes on Oahu would not reduce congestion because of a phenomenon called “induced traffic,” which has been observed repeatedly around the country. Build more lanes and they fill up, bringing on more of the same congestion they were meant to reduce. That’s just the way it is.

Keeping Score
As the football bowl season winds down, it’s easy to reach (stretch?) for a football analogy in our own commentary on rail at the start of 2012. The project has for years successfully followed a game plan guided by “rules” outlined in federal law and regulations. Game officials (the FTA) know the rulebook better than anyone, and the only flags they've tossed so far are for minor issues – the five-yard variety – and not for any of the major fifteen-yarders.

At the end of the third quarter, the score is Rail Project 42, Opponents 7. There’s more time on the clock, and theoretically anything could happen, but realistically, Honolulu rail has possession and is driving toward the Full Funding Grant Agreement that the feds are expected to award later this year.

The Gang of Four rail opponents will get their hands on the ball sometime during the game’s final quarter, and you can expect more Hail Mary passes like the August 21st commentary. But the city is going to win this game for the basic reason that it knows the rules, has played by them and in building Honolulu rail is being cheered on by the “home crowd” – the majority of Oahu residents who know rail will be a mobility-enhancing critical piece of infrastructure that will serve them, their children and grandchildren for decades to come.

No comments: