Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rail Opposition Has Its Pitch Perfected: Repeat, Repeat & Repeat Some More, then Hope It Sticks, Plus: Radio Host’s Rant Goes Off and Overboard

HawaiiReporter.com, the self-proclaimed award-winning website, is recognized mostly as a clear channel for anti-rail news and commentary. Anyone in serious pursuit of trustworthy information needs to be aware of the site’s predictable anti-rail slant.

Its reporting accuracy can be an issue, too, as seen in a column posted yesterday by HR’s editor. The piece reported on a new pro-rail business group called Move Oahu Forward and named its two co-chairs – Connie Lau, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, and Richard Dahl, president and CEO of The James Campbell Co. The column identified Mr. Dahl as “head of the Bank of Hawaii.” True, he was president of the bank in the 1990s under CEO Larry Johnson, but Mr. Dahl resigned in 2002 to become president of Dole Food Co. on the mainland. He joined the Campbell company 20 months ago. (The mistake had been corrected by early afternoon.)

The casual reader who doesn’t know Dahl from Dole probably didn’t catch the error, and unfortunately, that’s also probably true for the stream of opinionating on the rail project that can be found at HR.com almost daily.

Making Hay
The two media-sponsored public opinion polls conducted in the year’s first quarter have been a godsend to rail opponents. In the referenced column, HR.com ignores the polls’ flaws – discussed at this Yes2Rail post and several earlier ones – as it drumbeats the alleged decline in rail’s popularity.

The media sponsors the surveys presumably hoped they'd be unbiased snapshots of public opinion on rail. The unintended consequence, however, has been the repeated publicizing of the surveys’ questionable results despite their flaws in content and construction.

HR.com predictably solicited a comment on Move Oahu Forward from Ben Cayetano, the anti-rail mayoral candidate who has kept his bus rapid transit plan (BRT) under wraps for all 89 days since he announced his candidacy in January.

“If these wealthy executives think rail is such a good deal, all 30 of their companies should chip in $180 million each and buy the thing,” Cayetano told HR.com along with his standard criticism that rail “wouldn’t reduce traffic congestion.”

It’s a hollow accusation that ignores rail’s promise to lift its riders above congestion and avoid it entirely – not to mention that BRT would add more buses to the traffic mix and make congestion even worse.

On the Radio

The morning talk show host really went off on rail today, and although we couldn’t record his remarks while driving, the main points are easy to recall.

The host continues to position rail and car ownership as an either-or proposition and tells his audience that building rail will eliminate choice to either drive or ride. He said rail supporters look down on car drivers as “inhuman” – his word.

Paraphrasing, the host said rail’s not worth the expense if it would reduce road traffic by only 1.4 percent. He reached that number by comparing the reduction in vehicle trips (due to drivers switching to taking the train) to all such trips on Oahu, which is nonsensical. When compared to trips in the actual corridor that will be served by rail, the reduction will be 18 percent – seemingly big enough to satisfy all but hard-core anti-railers.

That group includes HR.com and the radio host -- a duo that's never heard a negative about rail they didn’t like.

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