Friday, June 8, 2012

Second Shoe Has Fallen; Mayoral Candidates End Silence on Opponent’s Intention To Rely on Buses, Plus: Why Randy Roth Is ‘Flat Wrong’ about BRT; LTE Forum: There Are Many Ways To Cut Traffic

It's been obvious for months: Sooner or later, the mayoral candidate who would kill rail would be called out on his bus rapid transit “plan.”
It happened yesterday. Fellow candidates Mayor Peter Carlisle and former Managing Director Kirk Caldwell both took aim at the few details former Governor Ben Cayetano provided in a Sunday paper commentary about his proposed BRT plan.
This is a rail transit blog, not a political blog, so we’ll leave the details of the infighting to the mainstream media (see Hawaii News Now and KHON2). But we can note their major criticism because we made the same point several days ago: Mr. Cayetano’s plan apparently would deny cars the use of at least one lane on Beretania and King streets during rush hour, and maybe at other times.
Notwithstanding Yes2Rail’s non-political bent, what the presumed rail killer says to defend his transportation plan is fair game here. And what he said yesterday did little to advance BRT’s cause.
‘Buses Are Flexible’?
Not long after the Mayor’s media event, Mr. Cayetano called a counter-press conference in his home within a gated community at the top of Waialae-Iki ridge.  

Said Mr. Cayetano: “Different things” could be done to ease the worry about reducing the number of car lanes on the busy King and Beretania thoroughfares, he said. “The thing about the bus is that it’s flexible, it can go around things.”
Except when they can’t – and buses can’t go around surface street congestion that they inevitably encounter on each and every trip. Your own eyes tell you when you’re on the street. They also can’t go around stoplights, and sometimes they can’t even make it through intersections – witness this April crash of a bus into Kawaiahao Church’s stone wall at King and Punchbowl streets.
By way of contrast, elevated rail will go “around” things like traffic congestion, intersections and all other surface impediments to smooth travel. The photographs in our right-hand column show some of the numerous crashes that both bus and at-grade rail have been in over the past couple years.
Rail’s ability to bypass all those potential choke points gives it the ultimate flexibility that bus advocates can only envy.
Professor Roth
We’ve been highlighting (here and here) UH law professor Randy Roth’s appearance on a morning talk show on Tuesday, and we have to go there again today.
Professor Roth is a member of the Gang of Four – plaintiffs in the lawsuit that intends to kill the rail project. What he says about BRT and rail also is fair game in this transit-oriented blog.
Mr. Roth had just said on the radio that cars and buses traveling on managed lanes “…can be going 55 miles per hour, 60 miles per hour…” A caller took issue with that claim:
“…cars won’t be going 55 miles an hour once they get off the toll road. They’re gonna be caught in the same traffic that people are caught in now on the surface roads. So there is no guarantee that these alternatives to rail can deliver people at a predictable time as rail will….”
To which Professor Roth said, “No. I think you’re flat wrong.” And to which the caller and many other rail supporters might respond, “What can you possibly be thinking, Professor Roth?”
Vehicles that currently use the Zipper Lane, which Mr. Roth said is a managed lane, eventually return to surface streets. It’s a fact, and when they do, those vehicles are caught up in severe traffic congestion on Nimitiz Highway and other roads. The caller was not “flat wrong” about that. It’s obviously what happens.
So Professor Roth, whose expertise is in law, seemingly doesn’t appreciate or perceive what commuters from West Oahu experience each and every day. Zippered cars can’t avoid traffic congestion somewhere along the way, and it’s likely to be especially severe on streets near managed lanes’ entrance and exit. No such congestion will ever impede a train traveler.
LTE Forum
We end today by quoting from a sensible letter to the editor on today’s Star-Advertiser (subscription):
Use many ways to reduce traffic (Star-Advertiser, 6/8)
“…why not improve the local neighborhood schools to the point where parents don’t feel the need to transport kids to schools outside their residential areas?
“Also, provide an off-ramp from the zipper lane to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, accelerate the move of the University of Hawai`i students to West Oahu, telecommute as many government employees as feasible and still provide a rail system between the airport and Waikiki…
“Much like the energy needs of our state and country, let’s look at an ‘all of the above’ approach to solve traffic congestion on Oahu.”
Solving congestion isn’t likely to happen, as we repeatedly note here at Yes2Rail. But the writer has it right: Multiple approaches are necessary to manage our ability to tolerate congestion.
Those measures naturally must include Honolulu’s elevated rail, which will avoid congestion completely. There’s even a place for BRT in a multi-modal system, but rail will be the spine of that system.


Anonymous said...

Quoting Ben's own words where he posted a reply in a Civilbeat discussion forum for today's rail article.

" I will explore what many cities throughout the US have turned to: bus rapid transit and/or at grade light rail. "

There you have it, admission that Ben does not have any concrete alternative solution for the public. Light rail is now being mentioned by him again, flip-flopping. He's simply riding on fear mongering and the politics of "no" in hopes of getting elected. Once that happens and he shuts the rail project down, Oahu will not see any transit solution proposal until we try again in the next decade.

Roy Kamisato said...

What the in-town BRT does is increase traffic congestion for people living from town to East Honolulu. We will now be stuck on narrowed King and Beretania Streets along with people from West Oahu sitting on buses. Is the purpose of the in-town BRT to share the pain of West Oahu traffic congestion with the entire island?