Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anti-Rail Leader Works on His Confusion Game, Compares Reduced Town Traffic to All-Oahu Trips; ‘Go Rail Go’ Says H-1 Accident Showed Rail Need, Plus: Still Waiting for a Believable Opinion Survey

Here are two things you need to know about Cliff Slater, leader of the opposition to every mass transit project proposed by the City and County of Honolulu for at least two decades:

(1) Mr. Slater deliberately misstates the facts about Honolulu rail and related issues to mislead and confuse the public, and (2) he can’t be trusted to tell the truth unless he’s cornered.

Here are two truths Mr. Slater avoids: (1) Commuters who ride the train will avoid all congestion, and (2) Traffic congestion will be worse without rail than with it.

The latest example Mr. Slater’s practice of spreading confusion in his anti-rail campaign was posted on his website on April Fool’s Day, which seems appropriate. He made fun of the number of vehicles that will be taken off the roads by Honolulu rail:

“…if the City’s forecasts are right, rail transit will reduce car trips by 40,000 daily – actually 48,000 if I may correct the Mayor. It is 24,000 round trips. That sounds like a huge amount but it only reduces the number of cars on the road in the rush hour period by 1.7 percent from what it would be if we did nothing, and no one is suggesting doing nothing.”
Note that Mr. Slater first mentions the number of vehicle trips that will be reduced by rail. He doesn’t say where those trips won’t happen, but logically, they’ll be subtracted from the urban core served by the rail line.

But then he compares that number to the total number of trips throughout Oahu. That makes no sense whatsoever because it includes trips between Kahuku and Haleiwa, Kailua and Kaneohe, Hawaii Kai and Kahala, Waianae and Maili and a million or more daily trips outside the urban core.

A meaningful comparison would be rail’s impact on reducing traffic on the H-1 freeway where it passes through Pearl City. About 230,000 vehicle trips are made each day on that segment, and it’s reasonable to conclude that many of the projected 40,000 fewer trips thanks to rail would be on that segment.

Using Mr. Slater’s math, if 48,000 trips are 1.7 percent of the total, that would make the total 2,822,400 – a figure that must necessarily be the all-Oahu number of trips. But when you compare those reduced trips to traffic on H-1 through Pearl City, the percentage is much higher than Mr. Slater’s 1.7.

Even if only half of the city’s 40,000 figure in the environmental studies is used, that would be a traffic reduction of nearly 9 percent on the H-1. The rail project’s prediction of trip reduction in the core is actually 18 percent, a significant improvement in reducing congestion.

As for Mr. Slater’s penchant for avoiding meaningful comparisons and telling the truth only when cornered, here’s what he told the City Council in July 2010 when he found himself boxed in: “We don’t disagree at all that rail will have an effect on reducing traffic congestion from what it might be if we did nothing at all….”

Isn’t that's the critical piece of information about rail – that congestion will be better with rail than without it? Not if you’re an “ABC” guy – Always By Car – like Mr. Slater. We can expect to see more of his deliberately misleading tactics as long as he continues to lead the opposition.

Yesterday on the H-1
No elaboration is needed on the GO RAIL GO group’s statement issued yesterday afternoon:

“Today’s asphalt truck turnover that shut down H-1, Moanalua and H-3 freeways provides yet more evidence why we need rail transit. If the rail transit project was already completed, everybody who lives west of Aiea could bypass the congestion completely and arrive home quickly. Travelling to and from the communities on the rail route will be fast, convenient and affordable every day, regardless or traffic or weather. Let’s get this project finished!”

Poll Problems
There’s nothing to be learned from public opinion surveys on the rail project that are bogus from the start. All those online click-in polls that pop up on websites are obviously bogus, since there’s nothing scientific about the sampling. Savvy computer users can vote repeatedly if they know how to clear their cache and/or sign in with multiple IDs.

The results of polls take without regard to unusual spikes in media coverage on rail, either positive and negative, also are less than believable. We criticized the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now survey two months ago because it launched one week after Ben Cayetano officially announced his candidacy for mayor.

Hawaii News Now apparently has doubts now about that survey based on a story it aired last night on a new survey by the Sierra Club (questionable because it's a mail-in poll) and another by Pacific Resource Partnership:  

“That poll and Hawaii News Now's poll with similar findings were in the field in late January, right after transit foe Ben Cayetano, the former governor, announced his campaign for mayor, so that could have skewed results against the project.” 
 How ‘bout that? Even one of the sponsors doubts the poll’s validity!

NEW RULE: No public opinion survey on rail shall begin during periods of atypical media coverage on the project, one way or the other.
Then there’s Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca, one of the paper’s three columnists who we’ve predicted won’t write a single paragraph of positive comment about rail in 2012.

In today’s column (subscription) on the impact Mr. Cayetano’s fellow Filipino-Americans will have on the mayoral race, Mr. Borreca says this about the S-A/HNN survey:

“The Hawaii Poll, taken in February, showed that 62 percent of Filipino voters support Cayetano’s campaign and want to see him as mayor. It was the highest level of support from any ethnic group.”
Anti-rail Mr. Cayetano announced his candidacy on January 19. The poll began one week later and continued through February 5, which means it was in the field for six days in January and five in February. Yet Mr. Borreca says it was a February poll – a dubious assertion on its fasce that distances the survey from Mr. Cayetano’s announcement.

Not to be forgotten is Civil Beat’s survey on rail that excluded non-voters from the sampled population – a decision that ignored the views of nearly half of Oahu’s potential rail riders.

And so it goes with the recent polls on rail. Isn’t our community entitled to at least one survey so science-based, timed and well-constructed that it’s above reproach?

This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the Public Opinion and Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) headings.

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