Saturday, April 28, 2012

‘The First 100 Days’ – a Standard Good for US Presidents, Governors and Mayors; Time’s Up for the Candidate Who Vows To Kill Honolulu Rail

Today is the 100th day since Ben Cayetano formally announced his candidacy for mayor with one primary promise -- to kill Honolulu rail if elected.  

To give that promise some needed perspective, here’s what he wants to terminate – a mobility-enhancing, travel-time-reducing, development-guiding, transportation-equity-ensuring and job-creating project that will provide congestion-free travel through the city.  
Our own proposition is simple: If that’s what the former governor wants to terminate, he must describe in detail what he would install in rail’s place as a workable response to traffic congestion that’s become nearly intolerable for thousands of highway commuters.  After all, grade-separated transit -- the only possible mode to achieve fast, frequent, reliable and safe travel – has been in hot, then cold, now hot again development for at least two decades. You don’t just blow up all that effort without a plan.  
If candidate Cayetano had been well-prepared and strategically-focused, he might have descried his plan on January 19 when he announced, 14 weeks and two days ago. “There’s no sense in criticizing if you don’t come up with some kind of solution,” he told reporters gathered for his campaign launch.

Mid-April Gone
But he didn't articulate his "solution" then,and for all we know, he doesn't have it 100 days into his candidacy. Most of what we do know about what Mr. Cayetano intends to build instead of rail was briefly mentioned in his March 13 press conference: 


"We're working on a plan, and I've been asked for that plan by some people, including a blogger who's here today." (Yes2Rail was there.) "The specifics are in the Bus Rapid Transit plan compiled in 2000 by the same company that's advising the city now in the rail project -- Parsons Brinckerhoff. They compared all the alternatives and found that BRT would cost a fraction of what rail would cost."

Mr. Cayetano did not provide any details on his plan that day. His next comments that we're aware of were in an email he sent to Civil Beat, the online investigative news source. Here's what Civil Beat wrote on March 21: "Cayetano told Civil Beat Editor and General Manager John Temple in an email that he would share the full transit plan by mid-April."

If mid-April was his target, Mr. Cayetano has slipped it by two weeks. Today is indisputably late April -- so late that May is only three days away. 
Duck and Cover
Mr. Cayetano isn't the first candidate who adopted the silent strategy after a public opinion survey "snapshot in time" found him or her leading a political race. We're only speculating here, but that's our guess on what's going on: Mr. Cayetano and his advisers believe the less said about transportation during this campaign, the better -- an incredible position if true since his campaign is propped up by an anti-transit plank.

That strategy is appropriate since the campaign surely realizes Mr. Cayetano's BRT plan -- a recycled Harris Administration plan written a dozen years ago -- can't withstand the aggressive challenges that will surely come from rail proponents and maybe even the news media. It's the "Duck and Cover" strategy -- what school children did in nuclear war drills in the 1950s. It wouldn't have worked in a nuclear attack then, and we don't think it can work in 2012.
At some point, the public and its presumed media watchdogs will start asking for details on exactly how BRT would work, where it would operate, which highways it would use, how many car lanes would be reserved exclusively for bus use, how much it would cost to ride and operate, how big its taxpayer subsidy would be, how much congestion would grow by adding more buses to traffic, which communities would be served and which would be bypassed, what the BRT travel times would be and the comparisons with rail and highway travel times, how travel reliability could be assured by using buses that inevitably would be delayed by traffic along their routes, what BRT's accident probabilities are, whether BRT could foster affordable housing development as rail will, what about energy use and pollution creation and about a hundred more questions.
Honolulu's primary election is 15 weeks from today. Mr. Cayetano failed "The First 100 Days" test. He has just 105 more in which to explain away the years of detailed planning that have gone into Honolulu rail.

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