Monday, April 2, 2012

Are Critics Right? Is Starting Rail Ahead of FFGA ‘Reckless’? Civil Beat Finds Many USA Projects Began before Federal Funds Were Certain, Plus: You Really Must Read Energy ‘Outlook’ for 2020

We begin by referencing yesterday’s Yes2Rail post and a report titled Outlook for Liquid Fuels, 2010-2020 with unsettling predictions of a severe shortfall in supply to meet escalating demand in the years ahead. If you haven’t read it, set aside a few minutes for a skim.

Here’s a taste – the report’s seven predictions:
Liquid fuels and energy in general will be more expensive. (No serious study has concluded otherwise.)
Less fuel will be available to use. (Demand will outstrip supply.)
We will have begun to stay closer to home. (For many Oahu residents, home will be near a rail station thanks to transit-oriented development.)
Supply chains will have begun to contract. (This is especially worrisome for Hawaii, the world’s most geographically isolated society.)
Food (as a percentage of income) will be increasingly expensive. (Producing and transporting food over long distances uses great amounts of more expensive fuel.)
We may begin to see occasional interruptions in some services – electricity, water, sewer, internet, etc. (With no national grid as a backup, our electric utilities require an uninterrupted supply of fuel.)
Rationing of fuel and perhaps even food is possible by the end of the decade. (If it happened in 1974 during the OPEC oil embargo, it could happen again.)

If those predictions have become fact by 2020, Honolulu’s decision early in the century to build a rail system will be seen as prescient. Lowering our dependence on liquid fuels for personal mobility is a smart option, especially here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Start Building or Wait?
Civil Beat shows once again today why an Internet-based news outlet with no space restrictions has a place in the media mix. We may not agree with some of its reporting (see Saturday’s post on Civil Beat’s public opinion poll on rail), but there’s no denying CB’s contribution to understanding complex issues.

Civil Beat’s lead story focuses on a major criticism by rail opponents, including mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano, that beginning construction on Honolulu rail before the Federal Transit Administration issues a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) is “reckless.”

To examine whether that’s true, Civil Beat asked the FTA for examples of other projects around the country that began construction before the FFGA was signed, sealed and delivered. There are many examples, including projects in New York City, San Francisco, Portland, Houston, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Denver and elsewhere.

It’s a good read for rail supporters but not so much for opponents Walter Heen, Randall Roth, Cliff "ABC" (Always-By-Car) Slater and Mr. Cayetano. Civil Beat no doubt will receive another we-tolerate-no-criticism response from the Gang of Four.


Anonymous said...

Doug I respect and appreciate your perspective. The blog you referred to is essentially an end-of-days believer in some bizarre future of scarcity. It's as if we're going to go back to some prehistoric past and our only mode of transportation will be rail-the-savior.

It really shows how far you folks have to go to justify your project. First it was about congestion but now we see that's not the case. Then is was about the 10,000 jobs and now we it's a net jobs loss when you factor the mainland hires coming here. Then it was for development but now we see the only way to get there is by suppressing every environmental safeguard we've had since statehood.

So now you're at at "the world is coming to an end and rail will make it better".

Well I'll be using my flying car powered by banana peels so I think we'll be ok.

Doug Carlson said...

Thanks for reading, Anonymous, and since you do, please point out anywhere in three-plus years of Yes2Rail posts that I have justified rail by saying the primary reason to build it is to reduce congestion and/or create jobs. You won't find that here. The reason is to AVOID congestion. As for suppressing environmental safeguards, rail has been held to the standard of existing law, not what you're complaining about that's now in the Legislature.

Rail won't make the world better for people who won't ride it; that's you, right? But it will absolutely make life better for people who choose to ride the train. What it will do for the rest of the world isn't even worth discussing.