Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 1 of Honolulu Rail Project Construction also Is Day 95 of Anti-Rail Candidate’s ‘Silent Treatment’ On Alternative He Proposes To Implement Instead

Talk about contrasts. Day 1 in the decade-long construction of Honolulu rail the announcement was made three days ago dawned today with a Star-Advertiser editorial (subscription required) that praises the commitment to transparency brought to Honolulu by Dan Grabauskas, the new chief executive officer of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART).

Just the opposite characterizes the man who would kill rail. Mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano announced his race 95 days ago on January 19, and he still hasn’t provided a detailed look at his bus rapid transit (BRT) scheme he says he’d implement instead of rail.

One man is transparent, the other opaque. Take your pick, Oahu.

Mr.Cayetano told Civil Beat in an email (date uncertain, but no later than March 21) that “he would share the full transit plan by mid-April,” quoting Civil Beat’s March 21 post.

Even if you widen the mid-month definition by a week on either side of April 15, the month's midpoint, April 23 falls in late April, so where’s Mr. Cayetano’s plan?

If you haven’t visited HART’s website, now’s a good time to see what transparency looks like. Want to know how and why Mr. Grabauskas was selected to run HART? The website has reports by Krauthamer & Associates Inc. and by HART’s Human Resources Committee on his recruitment. Just click on Library, then on General Information.

You’re more interested in the project’s work with the Hawaiian community and Traditional Cultural Properties concerns? Clicking on the Planning tab reveals a drop-down menu with the link.

Pick a rail-related topic and you can find it at the website – station design, environmental impact statements, HART board meetings, interactive route maps and so on – even why elevated rail was selected instead of adding more buses.

That last point leads us back to Mr. Cayetano, who wants to kill mobility-enhancing, travel time-shortening, development-guiding, transportation-equity ensuring and job-creating Honolulu rail without revealing details about his big idea – to increase the number of buses on our streets and highways by implementing the Harris Administration's BRT plan circa 2000.

That plan failed, by the way – run out of town for its obvious defects, such as dedicating a car lane on Ala Moana Boulevard to the exclusive use of buses. If you weren’t around a dozen years ago, you can nevertheless imagine the howls of protest – from average citizens and City Council members alike.

Cliff Slater, who supplies anti-rail talking points to Mr. Cayetano, called the BRT plan a “farce.” He referred primarily to in-town BRT, which documentation showed would save only a minute or two in travel time compared to car travel, but we gladly apply that term to Mr. Cayetano’s new-old-yet-still-undisclosed BRT plan, even without the details.

Adding more buses to already congested surface roads and highways and suggesting that would be an appropriate response to congestion would be farcical, ludicrous, absurd – take your pick.  Elevated Honolulu rail will avoid that congestion; BRT would add to it.

Silent Treatment
Equally absurd is the notion that a candidate can run for mayor on a one-plank platform to kill rail without telling voters anything about his alternative. We even created a NEW RULE to cover this absurdity:

Candidates who propose killing large municipal projects that have been planned and vetted for years must disclose an alternative plan’s details within 90 days of launching their campaigns.

Mr. Cayetano’s 90 days expired on April 18, and so has any shred of integrity in his anti-rail campaign.

The incredibly patient Honolulu news media live up to their laid-back reputation by not pressing the candidate for a full exposition of his BRT plan, which reasonably should have been available on Day 1.

What will come first – Mr. Cayetano’s release of BRT details or media demands that he produce them? We’re taking no bets; this race looks like a toss-up.


Anonymous said...

born in hawaii....."stop" the system now. It is not for hawaii people and u know it. its for the military and tourist.only ahout 5 percent of hawaii people will benefit. when the h-1 was built it caused so much traffic jambs for a long time and no one planned for the future. salt lake has the largest number of working people.the whole project cost to much for our pocket books. been around for 76 years. u can't fool an old bird. someone is involved in MONEY.

Doug Carlson said...

Thanks for visting, Anonymous, but no -- I don't know what you suggest. Rail isn't being built for tourists or the military; it's for Oahu residents who now contend with some of the worst highway congestion in the country.

Ironic that you should bring up the H-1. There were opponents to building that highway more than 50 years ago, and where would we be without it today? You don't contend the traffic jams weren't worth it, do you?

Scroll down in the right-hand column of this blog until you reach the red print. Click on the "aggregation site" link, then read the links below the Project Goals heading. They describe why this project is needed and why it's now being built.