Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Review: Rail Project’s Concrete Pours, BRT Plan Leaks, the Lawsuit Shrinks and Rail’s Opposition Shows Signs of Coming Unhinged

Let’s begin with the unhinging, which is what the leadership of the Honolulu rail project’s opposition appears to be undergoing.
Cliff Slater, who has fought every mass transit project proposed in this city for decades, is intensifying his accusations that city officials are just a bunch of liars about rail. He called the anti-rail morning talk show host yesterday and said “the city lied through its teeth” about rail’s effect on future traffic congestion in the lead-up to the 2008 “steel-on-steel” election.  He also posted on his website yesterday that City Director of Transportation Services Wayne Yoshioka has been spreading “outright lies.”

Accusing others of lying is a time-tested way to divert attention from one’s own dubious statements, so it’s a logical tactic for the Obfuscator in Chief to adopt. We’ve posted links to many of Mr. Slater’s more outrageous statements over the years at our “aggregation site.”

Stopping Short
Mr. Yoshioka and all other credible rail supporters truthfully say rail will reduce future road congestion as many commuters and others who now drive through the urban core will take the train instead. The city estimates there will be 40,000 fewer vehicle trips through the core each day in 2030 than there’d be if rail were not built.

Mr. Slater acknowledged the truth of that assessment when he testified before the City Council on July 14, 2010 and said: “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….”

But that doesn’t stop Mr. Slater from calling Mr. Yoshioka a liar. Why? Because Mr. Slater believes city officials like Mr. Yoshioka aren’t telling the rest of the story when they say rail will have a positive effect on future congestion.

The rest of the story – which is obvious to anyone without an anti-rail agenda – is that congestion will continue to increase long after rail is built no matter what happens on the island. It will be worse in 2030 (and 2040 and 2050) than it is today. Congestion grows when the population and number of vehicles grow, and there’s nothing remarkable about that fact.

A True Believer
But Mr. Slater is a highwayman at heart and believes rail isn’t worth building if it doesn’t reduce road congestion. It’s this mindset that leads Mr. Slater to come close to lying in his gross misrepresentations about the project:

By implying in his speeches (to the Rotary Club of Honolulu and many other venues) that rail should reduce congestion, he avoids telling his audiences about one of rail’s biggest future deliverables – a way to travel that’s avoids traffic congestion altogether.

Rail isn’t the “solution” to traffic that Mr. Slater says it should be. Nothing will "solve" traffic – not even his beloved high-occupancy toll lanes. Abundant evidence exists that congestion is a natural consequence when the public is on the move. It happens.

Mr. Slater believes it’s a lie to say rail will have the positive effect of slowing congestion’s growth. The City is indisputably truthful in saying that, but since he wants congestion to actually decrease, the statement is a lie in Mr. Slater’s world.

Such is the nature and motivation of the anti-rail lobby that rail supporters must counteract with their communications efforts.

Project Developments
The anti-rail lawsuit that will be heard in Federal District Court in August was narrowed somewhat this week when the judge hearing the case removed some of the plaintiff’s challenges from the case.

Judge A. Wallace Tashima said Mr. Slater and his fellow plaintiffs, including former Governor Ben Cayetano who’s running for mayor with an intent to kill rail, had no standing to challenge environmental valuations of certain historic sites along rail’s 20-mile line.

Also this week, construction workers began pouring the concrete foundations for the columns that will hold up the overhead guideway. The work on the line is beginning on the west end and will proceed over the next months toward town.

The Federal Transit Administration gave its approval this week for the city to begin construction of a pre-cast yard in Campbell Industrial Park. That’s where the overhead structures will be cast and cured before being trucked to the construction site for placement atop the columns, as detailed in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story (subscription).

That Elusive BRT Plan
The week ended without the release of Mr. Cayetano’s bus rapid transit plan that he said in March would be released by mid-April. It’s a remarkable situation we’re in – approaching an election that might mean the death of rail without knowing what the rail killer would launch instead.

We did learn on Wednesday that turning highway shoulders into bus lanes apparently is part of that still-secret plan. Anti-rail Panos Prevedouros was a guest on that same morning radio show and said the plan will include BOS – bus on shoulder. It sounds crazy to us for obvious reasons – including safety, slowness and being inadequate to meet Oahu's transportation needs.

But that’s just our thinking here in Yes2Rail, a “biased blog,” according to a TV reporter who gets all worked up about rail’s public relations efforts (to combat Mr. Slater's misinformation) but ignores the biggest rail-related story – Mr. Cayetano’s BRT plan, whatever it is.

Stay tuned for more healthy bias next week.

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

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