Thursday, February 9, 2012

Anti-Rail Candidate: ‘If We Had Dedicated Bus Lanes and ALL OF THAT….’ It’s the ‘All of That’ That’s Missing from His Transportation Scheme

No sooner had we finished yesterday’s post when the Ben Cayetano interview in Honolulu Weekly landed in our inbox. We started reading to see if the new mayoral candidate had finally provided details of his transportation plan that he wants to implement instead of building Honolulu rail, which he vows to kill. This stood out:
“Let’s go with something less expensive – which the studies have indicated will do the job. If we had dedicated bus lanes and all of that, I think we can do the job,” said Mr. Cayetano (shown here in a Honolulu Weekly photo).

It’s the “all of that” phrase that’s so arresting. What is the “all of that” Mr. Cayetano is proposing? What exactly does he suggest can be implemented to roll out his express buses concept? What are the implications of adding more surface vehicle traffic to existing streets and highways? What would relying on a vastly larger bus fleet do to surface congestion at the start and end of his express lanes? How would existing highway infrastructure have to be modified to accommodate them? Has anyone in his entourage checked into “all of that”?
Stop the Presses
In the same paragraph as the “all of that” comment, Mr. Cayetano makes an observation that seemingly undercuts his previous anti-rail talking points, which of course are actually Cliff Slater’s talking points. Here’s that observation:

“If we had dedicated bus lanes and all of that, I think we can do the job. And also, because you’re never going to get rid of traffic congestion, you manage it. You combine that with other things….”
Mr. Cayetano acknowledges in this quote what the city has been saying for years – that congestion will continue to grow even after rail is built. The population and number of vehicles owned by our residents will increase, and rail will be the critical piece of infrastructure that will give commuters a traffic-free travel mode through Honolulu’s congested urban core.

But just one day before the Honolulu Weekly interview appeared, Mr. Cayetano was repeating Mr. Slater’s key talking point that’s at the heart of the Slater/Cayetano anti-rail argument. Here’s what he said in his statement issued after the Federal Transit Administration authorized the city to begin heavy construction on rail:

“In its Environmental Impact Statement, the City concedes rail will not reduce future traffic congestion below current levels – a statement with which the FTA agreed on page 208 of its Record of Decision.”
Clearly, this is a case of trying to have it both ways – criticizing rail for not reducing “future traffic congestion below current levels” one day but freely acknowledging we’re “never going to get rid of traffic congestion….” the next.

The problem with rushing past the “all of that” details in transportation planning is that they simply can’t be brushed aside so easily. Years of analysis and critical thinking go into a project like Honolulu rail. Supplying snapshot suggestions to toss it all away with a detail-free plan to use express buses “and all that” shows no evidence of any critical thinking whatsoever.

As for the “something else” that Mr. Cayetano says “will do the job,” there is nothing else that would give commuters a traffic-free commute through the east-west corridor. That’s the job rail will do, and that’s why our grandchildren will look back at our generation’s decision to build elevated Honolulu rail with gratitude – not the ridicule the candidate suggests.

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