Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Civil Beat Asks Questions about Candidate’s Plan To Replace Rail, Finds Mayor Harris’ BRT Scheme That Was Run Out of Town for Stealing Car Lanes

We’ve been asking for details of Ben Cayetano’s plan to replace Honolulu rail if he’s elected and succeeds in killing it, as he’s promised to do. Call us naïve, but it seems only reasonable for any candidate with such a sweeping threat to have an alternative ready to roll out from Day 1 of his campaign.

That isn’t how the former governor rolls, however, and he’s offered virtually no details on what he’d do to address the bad and growing-worse congestion that plagues commuters between west Oahu and town.

Finally, a media outlet is showing some curiosity, too. Civil Beat, the online subscription news service that’s free for occasional visitors, today concludes that Cayetano’s Transit Plan Mirrors Harris’ in 2000.

In an email to Civil Beat, Mr. Cayetano says Oahu voters will have to wait only another month or so before we can dissect his bus rapid transit plan and see how, or if, it differs from Mayor Jeremy Harris’ ill-fated BRT scheme.

“The specifics are in a plan approved in the year 2000…,” Mr. Cayetano wrote. “It compared rail, it compared BRT, it compared other systems. And they concluded that Bus Rapid Transit was the most cost-effective because it cost a fraction of the cost of rail and because it could deliver about the same level of service.”
The Death of BRT
Civil Beat noted Mr. Cayetano'a concession that BRT had problems, “particularly with the in-town section that would have taken lanes fo traffic and dedicated them to buses.” That’s an understatement. Residents might recall that the prospect of narrowing major thoroughfares like Kapiolani Boulevard, King Street and Ala Moana Boulevard had the effect of blowing up Mayor Harris’ hopes for BRT.

Critics were in full voice against BRT back then, and since they include many of the same people who now oppose Honolulu rail, let’s see what they had to say about BRT a decade ago.

Anti-Railer-in-chief Cliff Slater:
In one of his many Second Opinion columns (BRT: Pattern of deception?), Mr. Slater touched on the dedication of exclusive bus lanes, thereby reducing the number of car lanes available to drivers, as well as the alleged reduction in congestion the administration was promising.

“Have you been led to believe that BRT will help reduce traffic congestion?” Mr. Slater asked. “Think about this: For the afternoon commute from Downtown going in the Diamond Head direction, commuters will find that two of the lanes on King Street, two lanes on Kapiolani and one lane on Ala Moana Voulevbard have been taken over by the BRT and cannot be used by regular traffic. Help reduce congestion?"
We can only assume Mr. Slater is waiting on the details of Mr. Cayetano’s BRT plan so he can extol its virtues in support of the newest mayoral candidate – even though Mr. Cayetano already says it’s pretty much the same as the 2000 plan.
Another vocal critic of BRT back then was, which now enthusiastically supports Mr. Cayetano’s continuing anti-rail campaign every chance it gets. Here’s a snippet of one HR commentary on BRT under Mayor Harris:

“Besides the obvious political payoff to supporters, opponents can’t understand why the mayor is going forward with his plan to spend $1 billion on the system just to start, with millions more to subsidize and maintain the system, especially when the city continues to face a financial crisis….”
Sound familiar? Maybe is simply recycling its anti-BRT commentaries for use today against rail. Continuing:

“Besides causing a traffic nightmare in an attempt to social engineer people from their cars, Harris’ plan will cost the state millions in lost revenue. His plan will drive out private business by funding a second monopoly bus system primarily operating in Waikiki, shut down small retail and restaurant businesses on the route, and cause the loss of hundreds of jobs, according to opponents of the plan.”
Back to the Future?
HR then included a link to an anti-BRT commentary at Cliff Slater’s site, but because the more things change, the more they stay the same, what comes up today is a commentary blasting Honolulu rail! It's perfect.

We – and we hope the media led by Civil Beat – will be urging Mr. Cayetano to release his BRT plan at the earliest opportunity. From what we can surmise, those small businesses HawaiiReporter said would be put out of business by BRT won’t even be created in the decades ahead if BRT is built. Honolulu rail’s 21 stations will be the catalyst for those business developments, but BRT express lanes would bypass communities from Kapolei to downtown.

That’s just a guess, however, since the plan is still a secret. If the plan’s release is delayed, maybe it’ll be to give Mr. Slater and HawaiiReporter adequate time to massage their new pro-BRT talking points and disguise the flip-flop.

No comments: