The set-up to today’s issue is in editor John Temple’s opening paragraph: “Honolulu’s leading rail opponents argue that the public has been hoodwinked into believing that traffic congestion will be better than it is today if the project is built.”
His piece starts to unravel almost immediately. After noting the poll’s finding that a majority of the participants say they don’t support the rail project, Mr. Temple writes:
“But do (voters) believe what some rail proponents have said to sell the project? To answer that question, Civil Beat asked likely voters on Oahu the following question: ‘Do you believe that if the rail project is built, there will be less traffic congestion in Honolulu than we have today?’”
Fifty-five percent of those polled answered “No,” they don’t believe rail will mean less traffic congestion than today. In other words, they know the truth and that traffic, congestion and population growth are connected. Only 30 percent said they think traffic will be less, and 15 percent weren’t sure.
So with those results, you’d expect Civil Beat to then determine who’s responsible for stirring the pot about future congestion levels and the rail project. Incredibly, the link in that paragraph quoted above isn’t to a city website with statements about the project’s effect on future congestion. It’s to a Cliff Slater website that’s notorious for its misleading statements on congestion and for misrepresenting what the city communicates on this issue.
Those statements are irrefutably true, and Mr. Slater can’t credibly claim otherwise. The project’s EIS estimates that by 2030 there will be 40,000 fewer vehicles trips each day in the urban corridor. Vehicle hours of delay are expected to decrease by 18 percent, which is an even bigger reduction than when the University’s system is in summer break (about 11 percent).
Even with these reductions, the EIS accurately predicts – and the city accurately communicates – that congestion will continue and eventually will be as great as it is today. The city has never misled anyone on this issue – especially since the Federal Transit Administration has been overseeing the project.
The link to the Slater website for examples of the city’s alleged argument is egregious. Mr. Slater consistently spreads misleading information about the congestion issue, as we’ve noted repeatedly and as recently as in yesterday’s Yes2Rail post.
WHAT congestion reduction argument!? The city makes no such argument! Mr. Temple seems to be confused on the whole issue of who has said what about future congestion.
His confusion might be traced to the interview he conducted with Mr. Slater in July 2010 that gave unprecedented video exposure to Mr. Slater’s chief talking point – “traffic congestion with rail in the future will be worse than it is today.”
Of course it will be worse. Rail won’t be the magic bullet that “solves” congestion. With a hundred thousand more people on the island by 2030 along with maybe that many more vehicles, congestion will unquestionably be worse in that and any future decade you want to choose than it was in 2010.
As we noted yesterday, Mr. Temple didn’t question Mr. Slater’s primary talking point during the interview, and neither have Civil Beat’s or any other reporters since, which is incomprehensible.
For Civil Beat to now impute an argument to the city it has never made about future congestion is equally incomprehensible.
We made a “radical suggestion” in our Monday post – that before the next media poll on rail, the sponsor should seek input from opponents and supporters. Doing so would reduce the possibility of unintended influences in the questions (see Star-Advertiser January poll), and it might actually improve the survey’s quality.
Since that’s not likely to happen, we can anticipate even more convoluted results like what’s reported today by Civil Beat.