Thursday, January 12, 2012

Portland Asks What’s Boosting Transit Ridership, Wonders whether It’s a Desire To Text and Talk; Plus, LTE Forum Refutes Gang of Four’s Latest

A recent study found "curbside" bus patrons are technologically adept. Graph shows their stated intent to use a mobile device while traveling.
Yes2Rail’s LTE Forum (below) focuses on a letter to the editor that refutes the most recent Gang of Four commentary. But first, we report on the latest from a city that receives a lot of praise for its public transportation system.

TriMet, the agency that provides public transit in the Portland, OR metropolitan area, reported earlier this month on significant ridership increases in December compared to the same month in 2010. The TriMex website notes the agency’s mission and says:

“Our transportation options connect people with their community, while easing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution – making our region a better place to live.”
Note the use of “easing.” We have to wonder whether someone opposed to TriMet’s mission has ever tried to misinterpret that mission by saying Portland transit is supposed to reduce or eliminate congestion, not ease it. That’s what Cliff Slater continuously attempts to do with Honolulu rail – repeating his big fib ever chance he gets, and we’ve posted several of those chances at our “aggregation” site. Civil Beat found no merit in his accusation that the city misled the public on this point.

Mobile Freedom
TriMet is speculating on why transit ridership was up so much in December compared to a year earlier, and one possible reason is the freedom to talk and text on their mobile devices. Says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch:

“(Transit) is a safe environment where you can be texting or be on the phone or reading a book without the stress of being behind the wheel. People just may be enjoying taking transit more these days.”
Joseph Rose, writing for, links to a study by DePaul University that found the ability to text and talk while riding so-called “curbside” buses is a perk “that could revolutionize public transit ridership.” Curbside systems provide inter-city bus service in competition with traditional fleet companies like Greyhound that operate out of bus stations.

Honolulu doesn’t have this kind of transportation option, of course, but our commuters are just like those in the Midwest and East who have fallen in love with their mobile communications devices. There’s every reason to believe future patrons of Honolulu raill will be as enthusiastic as their mainland cousins about hands-free travel while on the ‘net.

The study noted, “…almost 90 percent of passengers today use a portable digital communications device at some point during their trip.” And “today” is literally present-day; think of the array of new communications options we’ll have by 2019, when Honolulu rail goes into service.

LTE Forum
Honolulu rail’s deputy chief project officer has a letter in today’s Star-Advertiser (subscription) that goes beyond disagreeing with the Gang of Four’s Sunday commentary, the focus of our post yesterday. His letter doesn’t merely dispute the Gang’s op-ed piece; it refutes it, as in “proves to be false or erroneous.”

The evidence continues to pile up that the Gang's anti-rail media campaign has been producing misleading statements, accusations and innuendo starting with the August 21st commentary, “How the city misled the public.” That’s not surprising if our presumption is correct that Cliff Slater writes most if not all of the Gang’s material. Bending facts or simply ignoring them is one of his favored tactics, as today’s letter makes clear:

Rail’s financial plan was OK’d by FTA (Star-Advertiser, 1/12)
“Once again, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to kill the rail project have misled the public…. In fact, the Federal Transit Administration approved the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s latest financial plan and cleared the project for its final stages of development.
“The FTA would not have moved this project forward if the plan were not acceptable. HART is now working with the FTA to strengthen its financial plan in preparation for the full funding grant agreement.
“This is typical of the process with federally funded transit projects.
“These four plaintiffs falsely stated that the project has not received any federal funds. The project has received $120 million in federal funds and is slated to receive its share of $510 million in fiscal year 2012, as reported in the Star-Advertiser.
“U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stated Honolulu’s project has been done ‘by the book,’ and that if we continue to work together, he has no doubt the project will move forward.
“We couldn’t agree more.”
This post has been added to our "aggregation" site under the LTE Forum heading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think HART should consider ways of raising additional revenue and making the rail an even more attractive ride by working out partnerships so that private enterprise will chip in. For instance, allow digital signage in stations and on the train to generate advertising revenue. Oahu has a strict billboard ordinance and this limits where businesses can advertise.

Another would be to work with Internet providers so they will provide the free WiFi on the trains and stations in return for additional advertising when people hop on. Two birds with one stone, offer an amenity to attract more riders and get some revenue in return.

Let's get a little more aggressive in fighting back against those who are hell bent on spoiling a travel alternative so badly needed.