Tuesday, February 7, 2012

FTA’s ‘Letter of No Prejudice’ for Honolulu Rail Contrasts with Anti-Railer’s Decades-Long Fight To Kill Mass Transit Projects Here, Plus: SLC’s At-Grade Trains Involved in 2 Crashes in 2 Days

“Mandatory Cliff Slater Anti-Rail Responses to Positive News” is hereby added to our 2012 predictions list, joining “Three Star-Advertiser Columnists Will Have Nothing Good To Say about Honolulu Rail This Year.”

One of the most positive developments in the history of Honolulu rail projects over the decades was greeted yesterday by another Slater denunciation. Do Honolulu reporters silently snigger as they type their phone interviews with the car-loving businessman-activist who has opposed every transit project that could have provided traffic relief to the masses?

Maybe they can assign numbers or letters to his dour downers as they write their stories with helpful suggestions, such as “insert Slater Response #5 here.” His anti-railisms are utterly predictable, as well as inaccurate. More on that below.

Take Mr. Slater’s response in the Star-Advertiser (subscription) to the Federal Transit Administration’s granting of a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) to the Honolulu rail project – a huge step forward for a truly effective transit alternative to driving that’s been envisioned for decades. 

The LONP authorizes the city to begin building the first phase of Honolulu’s 20-mile line. The FTA issues the document only when its continuous oversight has determined a project is managed properly and has a high probability of eventual success.

The city is pursuing a Full Funding Grant Agreement that would obligate the federal government to provide $1.55 billion in funding for Honolulu rail.

Hoping We Fail
Mr. Slater, of course, hopes the FFGA never comes through, since that would be an even bigger development for the project – topping the LONP, which his prepared statement said “merely continues the city’s ability to risk city taxpayer dollars. There is still no guarantee that there will be any federal dollars.”

Somewhat unexpectedly, Mr. Slater said his Gang of Four plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit to kill rail will not seek an injunction to block construction. It had been considered likely they would use every legal maneuver in the book to prevent it.

According to Civil Beat’s report on the LONP, the Gang said the city has promised that if the lawsuit prevails, “any work undertaken between now and then will be torn down.” Yeah – and if this were a poker game, the city has seen the Gang’s bet and raised it.

With the LONP in place, construction can now begin on the first leg of the 20-mile elevated guideway at the western end of the project.

Slater’s Misinformation
A key characteristic of Mr. Slater’s long opposition to rail still seems to have escaped the attention of reporters covering rail – perhaps because they’re too caught up in the daily give and take of the story to give it much thought.

Mr. Slater’s intellectually dishonest campaign deliberately attempts to confuse Oahu residents as they follow Honolulu rail. We’ve pointed this out repeatedly; see our “aggregation” site and the links below the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading.

As recently as two days ago, Mr. Slater’s HonoluluTraffic.com website trumpeted: “It’s final: Traffic congestion will be worse with rail” This headline and the copy that follows it attempt to confuse readers into believing rail is being built primarily to reduce traffic congestion. He's been peddling this falsehood since at least July 2010, and probably earlier.

While that will indeed happen after tens of thousands of drivers switch to riding the train to save money and time, that’s not one of rail’s goals, which also are linked from the “aggregation” site.

Rail will be an alternative to traffic – not its end. It doesn’t take much thinking to grasp that traffic will continue to grow with the population. As we noted a few days ago, Oahu will have nearly 84,000 additional residents by the end of 2020 if this decade has the same growth rate as the 2001-2010 period. Vehicle registrations will increase by 123,000.

Logically, with that much growth, congestion eventually will be worse than it is today. That’s why the rail option – elevated above surface traffic and thereby immune to it – will be the missing link in Oahu’s transportation infrastructure that more than 100,000 passengers will ride daily.

Mr. Slater would do well to come clean and start speaking the truth to Oahu residents. It might give him a better legacy after rail has been built and commuters are thanking their lucky stars they didn’t listen to him. Somehow, we don’t think his "cleansing" will happen.

Salt Lake City Accidents
Phoenix’s at-grade rail transit system recorded accidents on Saturday and Sunday, and this week it’s the Salt Lake City TRAX system’s turn.

The driver of a pickup truck ran a red light yesterday and slammed into the lead car of a TRAX train, derailing it. Service was disrupted for several hours – and so was consumer confidence, no doubt.

Earlier today, another truck driver ran another red light and encroached into a TRAX train’s right-of-way. No one was injured in this crash, but TRAX has recorded a long string of incidents involving vehicles and pedestrians, some of them fatal, as we recounted in November.

We continue to post these crash notices to make the point that light-rail transit systems operating at ground level cannot be as reliably on-time nor as safe as grade-separated systems. To attract sustained and growing ridership, systems must deliver quality service.

Elevated Honolulu rail will do that – and no amount of confusing campaign sloganeering by Mr. Slater and other rail opponents can change that.

This post has been added to our "aggregation" site beneath the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The decision by Slater and friends to not seek an injunction to block construction greenlit by the LONP is beyond baffling because if they are supposedly trying save the landscape and local tax money, it defies logic to step aside now and pursue a block of federal dollars and committing the city to spend money unconstructing down the road. How is that helping the locals? It seems almost malicious.

Perhaps they should simply drop the entire lawsuit and help contribute towards building the best possible rail system instead.