Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Prediction: Candidate Cayetano Will Not Offer Details of a Plan that Would Replace Honolulu Rail

We’re batting 1.000 in the prediction department so far this year (see below), and we’re going out on a thick and sturdy limb to make another:

Anti-rail mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano will not describe and defend a detailed transportation plan to replace the Honolulu rail project.
The latest evidence of his aversion to addressing the intolerable congestion that’s strangling the community is in Richard Borreca's Star-Advertiser column today (subscription): Tough-talking Cayetano takes aim at rail officials

Mr. Cayetano is not taking aim at traffic congestion, according to Mr. Borreca. He’s vowing to go after members of the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), which voters approved 16 months ago to plan, build and operate Honolulu rail.

Hoping for Wrong
We hope this prediction is wrong, because instead of attacking HART, what the community needs to hear from Mr. Cayetano is an actual transportation plan he’d try to implement if he were elected mayor. Without a plan, there’s no expectation of action to address east-west congestion on Oahu’s streets and highways.

Knowing details of his plan would give the community something to digest and dissect instead of the candidate’s heretofore vague references to the San Diego trolley, express lanes and bus rapid transit.

No limb is required to predict that whatever he proposes, Mr. Cayetano’s plan will be incapable of matching rail’s deliverables – fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation through the city.

Opening the Poke
Without details, Mr. Cayetano is running a “pig in a poke” campaign so far – something that’s offered with no evidence that it even exists, or in what form. The idiom dates to an era when farmers delivered goods to the marketplace in pokes, or sacks. A purchaser of what supposedly was a piglet in the poke might later find a cat instead.

Will Mr. Cayetano actually have a transportation plan, or will he let the cat out of the bag in the end by offering “alternatives” that already have been considered and dismissed?

The Honolulu news media should be asking these questions, of course, but like the candidate himself, they’re avoiding mentioning Mr. Cayetano’s transportation poke and what it might contain.

We already can predict that whatever the candidate has in mind, it can’t provide traffic-free travel to beleaguered west-side residents in place of their highway commutes between the ewa plain and downtown.

That’s the unmatchable benefit of the rail project – something at-grade transit, buses and toll roads can’t achieve.

That Other Prediction
Our prediction in January was that the Star-Advertiser’s columnists “will write not a single paragraph of positive content about the Honolulu rail project in 2012.”

So far this year, the prediction is holding true, and that’s unfortunate for the community, since David Shapiro, Cynthia Oi and Mr. Borreca are what’s called “opinion leaders” in the trade. They do the thinking for far too many people who can’t be bothered to spend the time required to be minimally conversant about the Honolulu rail project.

We noted in January that the anti-rail opinions on display in the three columns are to be expected. “Afflicting local government, elected and appointed officials and their projects is what they do and have done for decades. It’s their calling, and they’ve made it work for them.” The three have a total of more than 100 years working in Honolulu journalism.

What’s missing elsewhere in the media is any sense of curiosity about the details of what Mr. Cayetano wants instead of rail. Maybe reporters will begin such an inquiry, but that’s a prediction we’re not prepared to make.

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