Saturday, January 28, 2012

LTE Forum: A Letter from 2002 Makes Rail’s Case; One from This Week Sees another TheBoat Fiasco

Some research into the origins of the anti-rail campaign of certain long-time opponents had a surprisingly good discovery – a letter printed by the Honolulu Advertiser in December 2002 that’s as good a description of how Honolulu rail will serve the community as any other we’ve seen. We’ll have more to say about those campaign origins later.

Today’s LTE Forum starts off with that letter and ends with one published just yesterday (Star-Advertiser subscription required). It’s not as if we’re giving the pro and con rail arguments equal weight, as you’ll see.

Rail system is only way to ease traffic (Honolulu Advertiser, 12/16/02)
“The Dec. 18 article ‘City bus plan far from certain’ reported officials as saying opposition to the Bus Rapid Transit System at the state and Civil Council levels could delay or derail the project.
“I found the use of the word ‘derail’ very ironic and sadly prophetic. It should be painfully obvious by now that any kind of proposed ‘bus rapid transit’ system that does not service a ‘rail rapid transit’ system is bound to failure. These ridiculous proposals that suggest adding more buses to already congested roadways make absolutely no sense at all.
“For those who have never lived in a city with rail transportation, please allow me to explain. Here in Honolulu, as in other cities, every day, all over the world, a rail transit system works like this:
“Step 1: In the morning commuters make their way to the nearest bus stop. Yes, almost all of us on Oahu live within walking or biking distance of a bus stop. And yes, these bus stops are equipped with bike racks for those who prefer to ride a bike rather than walk. Perhaps one may even choose to be dropped off at the bus stop or train station by car.
“Step 2: From the bus stop the bus takes us directly to the nearest train station. And, as an added bonus, there are many shops and cafes there. We get our morning coffee, read the newspaper, perhaps have breakfast with our friends and co-workers. We could even do a little early morning shopping before work (hmmm…helping the economy?).
“Step 3: Board the train that takes us to the station nearest to our workplace. We arrive on time, relaxed and ready for the day’s work.
“Step 4: Repeat the above, only in reverse. Oh, and don’t forget, on your way home please stop at the supermarket at the train station to pick up those items on the grocery list.
“It seems very simple, really. And, having lived in Japan for nearly four years, I can assure everyone that the above mentioned daily transportation ritual works and is the only viable way to get from here to there in the least amount of time and using the least amount of energy and resources.
“Furthermore, for the Japanese people, bicycles and walking are an essential part of everyday life, and just coincidentally, Japan has one of the healthiest populations on earth. Hmm….”
The writer’s endorsement of rail transit nearly a decade ago – based on his personal experience – is as sound as anything anyone could submit to the newspaper today. Wherever he is this morning, he’d probably just shake his head in disbelief if he knew the anti-rail minority is fighting Honolulu’s project in court and running a candidate for mayor in opposition.

TheBoat = The Train?
We move from the sublime to the difficult to swallow – yesterday’s letter that deserves a short response.

Rail will sink like TheBoat (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1/27)
“…How many people rode TheBoat to work? I believe the fare was subsidized by the city. TheBoat is gone for two reasons: Lack of ridership and lack of maintenance.
“If people did not ride TheBoat, what makes the train advocates think they will ride the train? And if the city could not maintain TheBoat, how in the world do they think they can pay to maintain the train?...”
Let’s answer the Hawaii Kai writer’s questions. We never were overly impressed by the concept of commuting by boat from the leeward side to downtown. “Rapid transit” it wasn’t; we have no idea what TheBoat’s top speed was, but it wasn’t anything like the 55+ miles per hour Honolulu’s trains will achieve – probably more like 8. With that “speed” to offer commuters, TheBoat didn’t attract customers looking for fast and convenient travel to and from downtown.

As for comparing a boat plowing through saltwater waves to a modern 21st century train system, there’s no comparison.

Stumbling across the 2002 letter was a stroke of luck, and we recommend it to anyone who wants an appreciation of how rail will work for more than one hundred thousand daily riders when the system’s up and running.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No surprise that a writer from Hawaii Kai is putting up arguments against rail.

It's becoming increasingly clear that many who live out in that community have little or no concern or knowledge about what life is like in other parts of the island.

For many of them, if you're not upper-middle class, and can't afford to drive and pay for downtown parking, then it's not their problem.