Friday, June 15, 2012
Tsunami of Questions Washes Up on Cayetano’s BRT ‘Plan’; Caldwell’s List Goes On and On, Plus: Denver At-Grade Rail Has Another Car Accident
Car meets at-grade train in Denver.
It was only a matter of time before a proposal to build bus rapid transit to serve Honolulu commuters instead of an elevated rail system would begin crumbling like a sand castle on the beach.
That’s what’s likely to happen now that mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell has thrown a long list of questions at opponent Ben Cayetano’s BRT “plan.”
We’ve been asking some of those same questions for months here at non-political Yes2Rail, since anything that threatens Honolulu’s rail project is fair game. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s recent editorial also probed for answers, but Mr. Caldwell’s list of literally dozens of questions is the most complete we’ve seen.
Here’s a sample, and they’re all good:
• If candidate Cayetano is elected, he will undoubtedly have to conduct a new EIS for BRT with all relevant studies (traffic, air quality, other environmental impacts, social impacts, economic impacts). He cannot use 2003 EIS as he claims – his preferred route, traffic, population and economic conditions have changed and costs for construction have changed. Since the EIS process normally takes four years before construction starts, how can he claim his plan will be in operation before his first term ends?
• How does candidate Cayetano propose to pay for the cost of conducting a new EIS for his transit plan?
• Why does candidate Cayetano keep saying that no one is using steel-on-steel technology anymore when several cities – Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Dallas, to name just a few – have recently completed successful steel-on-steel rail systems? (Every new rail transit system in the U.S. is steel-on-steel.)
• Which specifically are the all the city rail systems that candidate Cayetano keeps referring to as failures?
• Which cities are effectively using Bus Rapid Transit exclusively instead of rail?
• How are diesel-guzzling buses environmentally smarter than electrically-powered trains?
That’s just a small fraction of Mr. Caldwell’s barrage of legitimate questions that Mr. Cayetano has yet to answer about BRT. And if the heat on his BRT plan gets too hot, it appears the former governor may be willing to abandon BRT for – wait for it – at-grade rail transit.
Cayetano Wants Rail?
A week ago, HawaiiReporter.com carried a piece by Mr. Cayetano following the first assaulton his no-rail manifesto by Mr. Caldwell and fellow candidate Mayor Peter Carlisle. Included in the opening paragraph was this:
“I will explore what many cities throughout the US have turned to: bus rapid transit and/or at-grade light rail (emphasis added).”
There it is – without equivocation: Mr. Cayetano apparently would try to build an at-grade rail transit system either as a substitute for or supplement to his BRT plan, which is under assault.
Yes2Rail has published more words than we can estimate about at-grade rail’s severe and obvious problems – with safety ranking at the top of the problem list. We dedicated the right-hand column of this blog to the visual evidence.
Another incident happened this week when a car ran a red light in downtown Denver and collided with a Regional Transportation District light rail train, resulting in injuries on the train and in the car. At-grade vehicle collisions with at-grade transit are commonplace across America, so they’d be commonplace in Honolulu, too. Ask just about anybody, and they’ll confirm they see extremely poor driving habits on just about every trip around town.
Beyond the safety issue, at-grade rail could not begin to match the speed of Honolulu’s elevated project, nor its reliability and frequency. It would cost more to operate, too, since at-grade trains require drivers.
The biggest cost, though, would be the injuries and worse that citizens would incur due to vehicle and pedestrian mishaps in Honolulu, a city with one of the highest age demographics in the country.
Yet there’s no evidence Mr. Cayetano has considered these drawbacks any more than he’s considered the questions posed by Messrs. Caldwell and Carlisle. He’s had all the time in the world to think them through, but the evidence suggests he hasn’t.
Only elevated rail will be a congrestion-free option that will deliver fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation to commuters and others as they travel through the urban corridor. It’s a message we can expect the other two mayoral candidates to hit hard in the weeks ahead.