Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More from the LTE Forum: Writer ‘Shudders’ at Rail Cost as He Tells Young Adult What to Think

If we know anything about the “young adult” generation, it’s that it doesn’t want to be told what to do or think.
Yet that’s what the writer of a letter to the editor published in today’s Star-Advertiser (subscription) does by suggesting the author of a pro-rail commentary published on Sunday doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Not a good idea, and it’s certain to simply alienate today’s letter writer from the generation that’s stepping up to assume leadership throughout the community.

We’re using the newspapers editorial section again (as we did yesterday) as a source of good thinking about the rail project. To be sure, rail opponents use the letters column as a tool fight the project, and their letters are pretty much what you’d expect.

But even anti-rail letters can be instructive, too, and that’s why we’re here – illuminating the rail project’s components and digging into the arguments from both sides of the issue.

Young Adults
Brandon Elefante’s Sunday commentary contained many of the same descriptions of elevated rail that the project’s spokespeople and public involvement team members have been making in our educational communications.

“Rail transit will provide us with an alternative mode of transportation that will be reliable, efficient and cost effective,” Mr. Elefante wrote. “With the escalating costs of gas, car registration, insurance and vehicle maintenance, owning a car could become a thing of the past and may no longer be an affordable option for many. As young adults, we continue to struggle to make a living here in Hawaii, considering the rising cost of our educational loans and other bills.”

His commentary envisions an expanded rail project beyond its initial 20 miles, extending from Ala Moana to Waikiki and to the University of Hawaii in Manoa. And that’s where today’s letter takes issue with Mr. Elevante:

I wonder if (Mr. Elefante) has any comprehension of the cost of such a system. The 20 miles in the current plan are estimated to cost more than $5 billion. From Ala Moana to Waikiki and Ala Moana to the University of Hawaii? I shudder to think! I wonder if he realizes that the cost of construction, maintenance and subsidy will be borne by his generation? (sic)

We’re not here to defend Mr. Elefante’s piece, but we can easily imagine that he’s already thought through the cost of building the extensions compared to the cost of not building them. Congestion can only worsen for his generation and all the generations beyond, so his calculation undoubtedly is that it’s worth it and will be much most cost-effective for all the future generations of commuters along Oahu’s southern corridor.

The Manoa letter writer might also reflect on the approval given Honolulu rail by this generation of island residents in the numerous election of pro-rail candidates and approval of rail-related City Charter amendments..

PR and Shibai
Another letter to the editor today made us smile:

HART PR needed to counter shibai
(A certain Council member) asks Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Director Dan Grabauskas why HART needs so many public relations people, when there is only one at the state level for the airports and harbors divisions.

It’s simple: People aren’t going around town spreading blatant falsehoods about airports and harbors. HART needs public relations people simply to counteract the sheer amount of shibai coming from (rail opponents') camps.

At least one citizen out there understands what the rail project’s public relations people do a good deal of the time!

1 comment:

Roy Kamisato said...

An important aspect of economics is what's called alternative costs. While we can quantify the cost of rail most can't quantify the alternative costs of not building rail. Peter Calthorpe simply stated that the alternative cost of not building rail means using twice the amount of land for homes than the TOD's which accompany rail. The loss in ag lands will be devastating. The non-rail solution means additional infrastructure for the urban sprawl which happens without rail. The cost of that infrastructure rivals the cost of rail itself. So yes Brandon Elefante is fully aware of the cost of not building rail.