Friday, March 23, 2012

LTE Forum: If Technology & Buses Could ‘Solve’ Traffic Congestion, There Wouldn’t Be Any Today, Plus: ‘Rotten Apple’ Effect Rots Anti-Rail Efforts

Today’s letters to the editor are worth that ever-popular “second look,” and we provide it in today’s LTE Forum:

Use technology to solve traffic (Star-Advertiser, 3/23 – subscription)
“I could not agree more with Jay Fidell (Yes2Rail took issue with Mr. Fidell’s column). I’ve been here 2 ½ years and notice so many non-smart traffic signals everywhere. We sit and sit, with no cross or oncoming traffic. Then the light finally turns green for both cars and pedestrians. So we sit longer still…. We need smarter traffic signals. Congestion could definitely be helped.”
Congestion presumably would be helped on streets and thoroughfares if equipped with traffic signals that were smart as smart can be, and for all we know, the city is working on it. But the biggest traffic issue on Oahu is on the H-1 freeway, which obviously has no signals. Improving traffic flow on surface streets using smart signals might attract some drivers from the freeway, but the bottom line on both the freeway and surface streets is that congestion inevitably will grow with the population’s increase. Honolulu rail will bypass that congestion and provide the traffic-free travel option that’s now missing.

Bunda was not realistic either (S-A, 3/23)
“Former state Sen. Robert Bunda’s recent commentary is more of a hit piece against former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s campaign for mayor than offering a real solution himself…. (Yes2Rail commented on the piece). “Bunda…wants us to believe that elevated rail will somehow solve West Oahu’s ‘traffic mess’ and simultaneously reduce the traffic he faces on H-1 from Wahiawa every day…. The facts as presented in the city’s own environmental impact statement show that traffic will be worse with or without rail.”
This letter from an Ewa Beach resident who frequently contributes anti-rail missives is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the anti-railer campaign (see ‘Rotten Apple Effect’ below). Mr. Bunda’s commentary did not say anything about elevated rail somehow solving West Oahu’s traffic mess. He didn’t say traffic would be reduced. These are the anti-railer’s words – inserted into Senator Bunda's mouth as a bogus suggestion that rail proponents have sold rail on the promise of “solving” traffic congestion. Not true!

To whom did LaHood allude? (S-A, 3/23)
“In the wake of the Federal Transit Administration’s email embarrassment…, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye led Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood through a ritual reaffirmation of the FTA’s support for Honolulu rail. LaHood said: ‘We’re committed…until we hear differently from others who are intimately involved in this…’ To whom did LaHood allude? To Ben Cayetano if he becomes mayor? To the opinion of the Oahu public, which has turned against rail…..?”
We don’t know to whom the Secretary was alluding either – maybe nobody, since he was speaking extemporaneously. What’s perfectly clear, however, was his full-on endorsement of Honolulu rail, which the letter doesn’t quote (but Yes2Rail did). As for public opinion turning against rail, we don’t believe it. The Star-Advertiser’s poll showing alleged slippage of public support for the project was flawed in at least two ways, which we outlined here and here.

‘Rotten Apple Effect’
The more we see and read about the anti-rail campaign by major players like Cliff Slater and Ben Cayetano, the more obvious is the problem at its core. Bluntly put, it’s rotten.

Messrs Slater and Cayetano and their supporters, like the Ewa Beach letter writer, falsely claim the city has misled the public on rail and its effect on future traffic congestion. Mr. Slater’s website says, “The City never told the truth about traffic congestion reduction” and calls it “The Greatest Lie of All.” Since Mr. Slater’s claim simply is not true, some would call Mr. Slater’s accusation a lie in its own right. A campaign built on a lie by definition is rotten and missing the vital quality of integrity.

Ironically, one of Mr. Slater’s own websites contains the proof of the city’s truth-telling. It includes a link to a letter from Councilmember Gary Okino to his constituents in February 2006. Mr. Slater uses the letter as a “gotcha” tactic by quoting Mr. Okino’s truthful statement about what traffic congestion will be like decades later in an era of increasing population:
“City and State officials are working to make fixed rail in Honolulu a reality. Building a rail system will not eliminate today’s traffic congestion, but it will provide a convenient and effective alternative for those wishing to bypass highway gridlock in the future.”
Mr. Okino said it exactly the way the city has promoted rail from the start – as an option for travelers to bypass congestion. Rail isn’t a “solution” to traffic; it can’t make congestion magically disappear, but that’s what Mr. Slater, Mr. Cayetano, the Ewa Beach resident and other opponents want you to believe the city said it would do. It didn't then and doesn't now.

This is the cynical, dumbed-down and disrespectful core of their anti-rail campaign that we’ve been highlighting since July 2010 at our “aggregate site" under the Mr. Cliff Slater heading. Oahu residents deserve more respect than these leading rail opponents are giving them, and their lack of integrity may well be their campaign's downfall in the long run.

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