Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Letting “Mobility” Linger While We Travel

This site has pulled a “Haleakala” – going dormant for the past week or so while we enjoy some California fog. But for fog-free thinking, we again commend the essay by Kanu Hawaii on the transit issue, finishing up with a visit to our post that focuses on the essay’s missing ingredient, “mobility.”

Maybe we should go away more often. The news about Honolulu’s rail project has been almost entirely positive since we left, with public opinion surveys showing exceptionally strong support for the project among Oahu clear-thinking citizens.  Motor on.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Real Estate, the Word Is ‘Location;’ for Rail, the Word that Must Be Mentioned Is ‘Mobility’

For the most thoughtful and dispassionate examination of the rail issue we’ve yet seen anywhere, visit Part I and Part II of a long essay by Kanu Hawaii’s principals. We like just about everything they’ve written, especially about respecting the traditions of Aloha in these islands rather than go tooth and nail at one another over this project.

That said, we must call attention to a key ingredient of this and every similar mass transit project that is missing in the essay, which begins:

“What is at stake in Oahu’s rail controversy? If the proponents of the City’s plan to build a rail system are correct, this is our last chance to build a critical transportation element that will ease traffic congestion, clean the environment, and spark positive economic development.”

What’s missing throughout the essay is the word “mobility.” You won’t find it or any discussion about what rail at its core is intended to do – increase mobility in our community.

Easing traffic congestion (some would say “solving traffic”) is not the core mission of this project. Even the City says congestion will be only 11 percent less in 2030 that it would be without rail, and opponents continually attack the project on this point while missing the bigger point.

Highlighting the Inarguable

It cannot be denied that rail will achieve mobility in the urban corridor for commuters who have little or no unimpeded movement today. Rail will allow those who choose to ride to move 20 miles back and forth through the heart of our city, day in and day out, on time, every time, no matter the congestion on streets and highways. THAT is what this project will accomplish. It won’t and doesn’t pretend to “solve” Oahu’s traffic problem.

Despite not directly addressing the mobility issue, Kanu Hawaii’s essay is must reading for everyone who cares about the rail issue – for, against and still waiting to decide. They’re to be congratulated for making the effort.  We'll add some posts down the line on other topics addressed in the essay, particularly concerning the environment.  Kanu Hawaii's expectation that Oahu will be only 20 percent reliant on renewable energy by 2030 may be far too conservative in light of the energy crisis Hawaii faces today because of our dependence on oil. (See a commentary in today's Advertiser and our Hawaii Energy Options blog.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Abercrombie or Dijou? It’s Not Even a Contest

There was more than enough content on rail in Honolulu’s newspapers today, so we refrained from jumping in (until this evening) with the observation that Rep. Abercrombie’s piece trumps Councilman Dijou’s so massively they’re not in the same league.

It’s a shame the two pieces weren’t side by side in the same paper so Abercrombie’s pro-rail commentary could be contrasted nicely with Dijou’s Johnny-one-note complaint. We can’t wait until the two men are on the same stage sometime, somewhere to debate this issue.

Here’s a suggested debate topic – the fact that Honolulu’s train one day will be powered by renewable energy. Dijou’s alternative to the train – whatever it is; he doesn’t actually offer an alternative, just an up-or-down vote on rail – would likely be some form of Lexus Lanes and therefore would still rely on the internal combustion engine.

That debate can’t come soon enough.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Time Out for a Few Words on Credibility

This blog’s description (top of left column) has been amended to note my consultancy with the City. Rail critics who aren’t satisfied with several mentions of that fact since June 30th in this blog think this revelation will destroy my credibility.

They’re welcome to that view; others will see it differently. But this mini-controversy does pose an interesting question: Does credibility end the moment you're paid to state your views – the same views you've publicized for years without compensation or personal attacks?

Here’s one of those expressions, a letter published on January 8, 2004 in the Honolulu Advertiser:

Find your niche on transportation

A prediction for 2004 that surely will come true is that The Advertiser's letters page will carry dozens of contributions on how to "solve" Honolulu's traffic problem.

As a public service, I offer the following method to evaluate the letters. The method relies on the past as a predictor of the future and places the suggestions in three major categories.

Category 1 is called the 20th Century Solution. In essence, it honors the private automobile as the technology king of the 20th century and includes ways to continue the car's reign far into the future. New reversible highways, toll roads and double-decking schemes can be placed here.

The most visible proponent of the 20th Century Solution is Cliff Slater, The Advertiser's frequent Second Opinion columnist. I predict Mr. Slater will produce exactly 7.5 columns in 2004 in which continued reliance on the private automobile will be the essential factor.

Humorist Garrison Keillor inspired Category 2, the Lake Woebegone Solution, named for the idyllic place where "all the men are handsome, all the women are strong and all the children are above average."

In Lake Woebegone, nearly all the men and women cooperate in carpools, walk or ride bicycles to work. Some use water-borne transit involving sailboats, motorboats and water skis to move commuters from one side of the lake to the other.

This is where readers can pigeonhole the "feel good" transit suggestions in these pages, such as reliance on carpools and ferries to move commuters into downtown Honolulu from the leeward end of the island. They work well in Lake Woebegone, but as solutions for a modern, world-class city, they're quaint. (Note: Subsequent events have shown that some of these options do have merit.)

Category 3 is where you'll find the forward-thinking, visionary suggestions for Honolulu's 21st-century transportation system. The Light Rail Solution is the category that supports the proposed light-rail transit system as the only big-impact alternative to the private automobile, the zipper-laned buses and carpools and all other forms of transportation that rely on streets and highways.

Those who draft letters to The Advertiser in 2004 would do well to ask themselves which category their letter will enter — the old car-oriented solution, the feel-good but unrealistic Lake Woebegone solution or the light-rail solution, the only one that will move large numbers of commuters to and from work in a timely manner.

Doug Carlson

I could have written that yesterday, not four years ago. Acceptable then, but not now?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another “No Opinion” on Rail, Aiona this Time

According to a Honolulu Advertiser report today, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona says he doesn’t know what to think about rail transit – nope, doesn’t have an opinion one way or the other, not even after all these years of discussion, public hearings, media coverage and debate.

To be charitable, Aiona is following the lead of his boss, who also has no opinion and is still assessing public opinion. No doubt both will have revised and extended their remarks by the time the final election results are in if the rail question ever gets on the ballot.

The Real Issue

Aiona said today that litigation over whether the rail issue will qualify for a vote “will distract from what the real issue is.”

What do you suppose the lieutenant governor thinks that issue is? Anyone paying attention to rail should know by now that rail will restore mobility along the east-west corridor between town and Kapolei by giving commuters an alternative to sitting in traffic. That’s why you build it....and he doesn't have an opinion on it?

Protests to the contrary, the State’s top two elected leaders obviously do have opinions – or one opinion – about rail. They just don’t want to go public in case they find themselves out of step with the majority view.

Making Our Case

We noted yesterday that the thread connecting many rail opponents is that they’ll never use the train and therefore are against it. Here’s a comment below today’s online Aiona story in the Advertiser:

"EVERY tax payer in Honolulu has a right to voice an opinion on this issue. I am paying for the design, planning, construction, and operation of a rail system that I am 98% sure I will never use. If you think only those who live on the Leeward Coast should be able to speak out on rail, then perhaps they should be the only ones paying for it. I'm open to transit, but don't appreciate rail shoved down my pocketbook." 

In other words, you’ll ride it, not me, and I’m not going to pay for it!  (Stomp foot now.)

It’s self-interest vs community interest played out daily in the papers’ Comments section. What ever happened to “everybody’s in the boat together”?

PS:  Don't miss my FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT by scrolling down here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Democracy’s One Thing, but Informed Vote on Honolulu Rail System May Be Too Much to Ask

Getting through to KHVH and Council member Charles Dijou on Tuesday requires calling early in the hour. We learned that lesson last week and implemented it today. Here’s what Dijou’s argument comes down to:

The democratic way to “put this controversy behind us” is to have a vote by the electorate on whether rail should or shouldn’t be a part of Oahu’s transportation future. The paradoxical counter-argument is that this issue may be too important to leave up to what amounts to an uninformed electorate that seems motivated primarily by self-interest rather than what’s best for the community. The common theme among many who oppose rail is, “I’ll never ride it, so why should I support it?”

If that attitude prevails among a majority of voters, the rail system won’t be built. Turning back the initiative will depend on voters not likely to be riders but who nevertheless think outside their own circumstances and consider what’s best for the community and their traffic-bedeviled neighbors who fight the daily H-1 commute.

When Self-Interest Prevails

Communities across the mainland know about the downside of self-interest when school bonding issues are put on the ballot. Time and again, those issues are voted down by a majority in the community with no school-age kids. The result is stagnation and no progress.

Everybody loves a democracy, and that’s why the City Council’s months of deliberation and resulting 7-2 vote to build Honolulu’s transit system was and is valid. This issue requires a community-interest orientation, and that’s what the Council gave it. The electorate as a whole seems unlikely to do the same based on prevailing anti-rail sentiments.

As one of two votes on the losing side in December 2006, Councilman Dijou now finds it convenient to set aside the Council’s vote. Had he prevailed and positions were reversed today, we’re pretty sure he’d be defending the vote of the democratically elected Council and fighting a pro-rail initiative.

Moving on, check out Corky’s cartoon in today's Star-Bulletin on the Governor’s “neither for nor against rail” position. And not to be forgotten is my FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT in the July 11 post to this blog. Some people seem fixated on it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Governor Could Have Told Citizens about The Rail Project Instead of Signing the Petition

Governor Linda Lingle’s signature is now on a petition whose sole purpose is to prevent the construction of Honolulu’s proposed rail transit system. Since signing a petition implicitly supports its intent, her insistence that she’s not advocating for or against rail rings hollow. Distractions within the Governor’s office may have produced this muddle-up. Had her advisors been focused on rail, they might have written a speech for the Governor to help clarify the issues for Oahu voters. The address might have gone like this:

Good evening, fellow citizens. I’ve asked Oahu’s television stations to grant me these few minutes of airtime so I may give you my views on Honolulu’s proposed rail transit system and the controversy that’s growing around it.

The rail system would be the largest construction project ever undertaken in Hawaii. As the state’s chief executive officer, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to ensure that the process of building this project is as productive and free of distractions as possible.

My position on transit has been consistent over the years. I believe a modern mass transit system can be an important transportation alternative for Honolulu’s growing population. That's why I joined with City, State and Federal officials in 2003 to propose an elevated light-rail system and other measures to give commuters options to sitting in traffic congestion in their daily trips between West Oahu and downtown Honolulu.

The Mobility Issue

Honolulu is a vibrant and growing city, but it lacks a quality that all world-class population centers have in common – mobility for its citizens. Without alternative modes of travel that allow citizens to avoid traffic congestion, mobility is impossible, and stagnation is the likely result.

As you know, there is a spirited debate now under way between supporters of the City’s proposed rail system, led by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and opponents who don’t want the system built for a variety of well-publicized reasons.

The Stop Rail Now movement has asked me to sign their petition. While I believe citizens are the ultimate source of power in a democratic society,
I am not going to sign, and I’m pleased to have an opportunity this evening to tell you why.

I have two responses to rail’s opponents who say projects as large as this one should be subject to a referendum so voters will have their say:

First, the people’s elected representatives already have voted to build this transit project. The December 2006 vote by the City Council in favor of a grade-separated fixed guideway was held after an extended period of study and debate. The Council’s vote was 7-2 in favor of the project, a solid endorsement by any measure.

Rail’s opponents today ignore that outcome as they pursue their petition drive, when in fact, that vote was the result of exhaustive debate and analysis – all conducted by duly elected representatives of the people on their behalf. We don’t add an extra quarter to football games when the losing team in regulation time asks for it, and we shouldn’t now revisit the decision already made by the City Council.

Community vs. Self-Interest

The second reason is the most important in my view. It’s clear from following the rancorous debate over rail played out in the media that self-interest rather than community interest is the primary motivation among most parties.

West Oahu and urban Honolulu residents appreciate that rail would shorten their travel times along the H-1 corridor and therefore markedly improve their quality of life. The unifying attitude among many rail opponents is that they’ll never ride the train and therefore see no reason to support it.

All viewpoints deserve recognition, and I honor them. Nevertheless, I believe this project is too important to put to a vote that might well come down to a split between potential riders on one side and a larger number of Oahu residents who say they’ll never ride the train on the other.

This is a community interest issue, and as the elected leader of our entire state community, I must put that consideration above the narrower self-interest assessment of many rail opponents.

I urge Oahu residents to not sign the anti-rail petition. Putting this issue to a vote driven by self-interest considerations would not be in our community’s best interests.

My final thoughts this evening address the ever-present traffic congestion in urban Honolulu. While the rail system project would not “solve” traffic, no single effort can do that.

Billions of dollars in transportation improvements are already planned in the decades ahead. The City continues to expand its excellent bus system, and the State is studying and implementing new highway improvements with the support of the Federal government that will help reduce congestion and improve travel times.

Thank you for watching this evening. I welcome your views on this issue and encourage you to contact my office as we continue to build a better community for all Hawaii citizens. Good night, and Aloha.

This speech or a better version of it would have demonstrated what the Honolulu Advertiser called for in a recent editorial.

(Read the post immediately below for our Full Disclosure Alert.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tortured Explanation of Governor’s Pro-Petition Stance Ignores What It Means to Sign the Thing

The Governor recently told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that she “will likely” sign the a petition that reads:

“Honolulu mass transit shall not include trains or rail transit.”

So today her communications adviser writes in an Advertiser commentary:

“It's unfortunate that The Advertiser and others have jumped to conclusions on many fronts regarding Gov. Linda Lingle's recent statements on the proposed O'ahu rail-transit system. In their zeal to try to read into the governor's comments, pro- and anti-rail supporters, pundits, reporters, politicians and bloggers have lost sight of the governor's message that highlights the public's need to have adequate, objective information on all aspects of the proposed rail system.” 

What’s not to understand, Lenny Klompus? People sign petitions to support the intent of the petition, which in this case is an unambiguous attempt to kill Honolulu’s rail project now and forever, once and for all time. Her signature – if it’s actually been affixed – sends a clear message, no matter what his 800-word explanation says.

Just about all the information Mr. Klompus needs about the project is found at its website, including this simple 10-word fact – the same count as the petition’s declaration:

Grade separated transit is the only option to traffic congestion.

That’s clean, clear and requires no explanation. If the Governor understands that, there’s no way she can sign a petition sponsored by people who don’t.


If Larry Geller says it, it must be true:  I'm a communicator who sometimes can get information across clearly and persuasively.  Now comes more of the Sideshow (see my post on Big Tent vs. Sideshow) that attempts to dismiss my views on transit because I'm paid to make them.  (If we applied that "logic" across the board, we'd have nothing to believe in, would we?) If anyone is having trouble finding my disclosure on my affiliations, you can go to my very first post at this blog on June 30th to read it.  I'll make a point of linking to it regularly from now on -- to satisfy the inquisitive souls down at the Sideshow.

Now, if you want to take issue with the grown-up Big Tent arguments on this blog, please do so by leaving a comment.  Honolulu's rail transit system is too important to this island's and our children's future to spend time with the distractions.  I'm for rail and have been throughout the '90s and into this decade; until last October, all of those pro-transit letters and commentaries in the local papers were written without a client.  Check it out for yourself by using Google to find those items.  Nothing's changed -- unless the fact that I'm compensated today vs last year throws credibility out the window.  Like I said, let's be grown-ups here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Moving On – Quickly – to Another Topic before Caller Can Talk Rail & Democracy with Dijou

Maybe it was just coincidence that soon after KHVH’s call screener heard we had pro-rail views, the show’s host moved on to another topic this morning. Maybe a City Council member’s opinions on presidential politics are somehow relevant (?).

Whatever, Rick Hamada’s session with Councilman Charles Dijou was once again completely anti-rail and included no calls from the public to take issue with anti-rail Dijou and his Sideshow arguments (see earlier post for a discussion on the Sideshow). We would have talked about:

Democracy – Dijou said again today he believes in democracy (he’d better) and therefore backs a vote on the rail project. We would have asked him what the December 22, 2006 City Council vote was all about. That’s when representatives elected by the public voted 7-2 to adopt the fixed-guideway transit alternative over the four others that had been studied (to death). Dijou was one of the two, so naturally, that expression of democracy at work doesn’t satisfy him.

Fact vs Propaganda – Dijou’s opening shot was to once again label the City’s information effort “propaganda” instead of what it truly is – factual information to counter the anti-rail inaccurate Sideshow arguments and focus public attention on rail as a commuting alternative to sitting in traffic. A publicly funded information campaign is mandated for projects that receive federal funding, and this one will attract $900 million from Washington.

“Stick to the Message” – That’s Dijou’s advice, but he himself avoids the fundamental issues about this project by constantly focusing on the Sideshow. His alternatives to rail don’t do the one thing that’s required – increase mobility for the individual commuter by providing a way around traffic congestion. Dedicated toll lanes won’t do it because unless the plan is to build individual off ramps to each parking location in town, vehicles on those lanes will eventually be stuck in traffic.

More from the Sideshow

We talked yesterday with a friend who has signed the anti-rail petition and asked what his big objection to rail is, and it came down to Honolulu’s alleged inability to maintain a rail system due to our climate, rust, etc. So I pointed out that dozens of elevators and other key equipment in town are maintained with no apparent problem and that train systems apparently are maintained well around the world in caustic conditions. He had no response, because the “maintenance issue” is another Sideshow act that attracts attention but has no substance.

We’ll keep up our attempts to talk with Councilman Dijou and will call his propaganda-driven KHVH show earlier next Tuesday.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Anti-Rail Effort Is Selling Tickets to a Sideshow

After reading hundreds of letters to the editor and comments in the newspapers about rail, it seems to me they fall into one of two groups – the Big Tent or the Sideshow.

The Big Tent’s center ring features the primary reason to build this system, which is traffic avoidance. Commuters who can’t tolerate the lost time and immense frustration caused by traffic congestion or for whom reliance on their own car is too costly are attracted by this reason to ride the train. They want back their mobility, which they’ve lost. That’s the reason to build this system.

The anti-rail crowd pretty much avoids the Big Tent altogether. For whatever reason, they can’t or won’t even look at the traffic-avoidance issue and instead hang out in the Sideshow where everything but the main issue is on stage.

The Sideshow’s leading “barkers” are well known, and some have been shouting about what’s behind their tents’ curtains since the last time this circus was in town. You’ve heard it all – how HOT Lanes will be the cheap and easy solution to traffic; why a vote on this issue would be the democratic way, etc.

Behind the Green Door

As just about everybody who’s paid 5 bucks to go behind the curtain knows, rarely does reality match the barker’s hype. You soon realize HOT Lanes eventually would dump a bus or car right back into traffic they allegedly would help you avoid.

Once inside the Democracy tent you’re immediately pushed toward the exit and given a handout with all the pro-rail votes taken by duly elected representatives of the people. Next door are the fire-breathers who specialize in flaming people going to and from the Big Tent. Try writing comments or blogs without a pseudonym and you soon are introduced to the flamers -- up close and personal.

And so it goes – Big Tent or Sideshow. You decide where to hang out.

Editorial Blasts Lingle

The Honolulu Advertiser pulled no punches in its only editorial today, calling Governor Lingle’s apparent intention to sign the Stop Rail Now petition “an irresponsible lack of leadership, plain and simple.”

The paper details the several key moments in the past five years when the Governor could have signaled her ambivalence or opposition to the project, but didn’t. It concludes:

"But jumping into the petition fracas now, after so much has been invested, merely adds to the upheaval. Better now that she make her exit from the ballot issue – gracefully, or otherwise.”

Elsewhere, the paper features the over-the-top success of the Charlotte, NC light rail project, which survived an attempt to kill it last year.

Friday, July 4, 2008

GO RAIL GO! Westsiders Rally with a Solid Message: 'You Got Yours; Now It’s Our Turn!'

Hundreds of rail supporters rallied at City Hall with Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday (above) and heard a resounding call to arms from speakers who said it’s time to turn back the anti-rail minority and bring Honolulu into the 21st century by building a modern rail transit system.  (BTW, the photo above and this blog is more than you'll find in today's Advertiser. What's up with that?!)

Maeda Timson, a 37-year Makakilo resident and long-time community activist, may have said it best with a bullet-proof argument:

“We sat back and paid our taxes when the H-3 was built to benefit the Windward Side. We willingly paid our taxes when Kalanianaole Highway was widened in East Honolulu to benefit Hawaii Kai. But now it’s our turn! Now it’s time for the island to get behind a project that will benefit the residents of Kapolei, Makakilo and Ewa!”

Rail opponents probably already have a response, but whatever it is, it can’t stand up to Timson’s heartfelt and completely logical position. No matter how bad Kahekili, Kalanianaole and Pali traffic backups were in their day, they couldn’t compare to the traffic congestion westsiders now endure. It’s time to do the right thing for our Second City neighbors.

The Week in Review

We end the week with a look back on Yes2Rail’s first posts. If you missed any of them, have a look:
• June 30: Only rail lets you accurately predict your arrival time.
• July 1: Cayetano airs old grudges, misses the point.
• July 2: Preverdouros’s bio shows no transit expertise.
• July 3: Strange but true: Lingle has no opinion on rail.
• July 4: Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Got Pro-Rail Views? Join Others Today @ 3 pm; Plus, the Governor’s Curious Stand on Rail

The anti-rail groups trotted out their candidate for mayor at Honolulu Hale earlier this week, and now it’s time for pro-rail residents to wave the flag at the same location.

Support Rail Transit is the organizer and invites Oahu residents who back the Honolulu fixed-guideway project to rally from 3 to 5 today. The group’s website has details.

The timing couldn’t be better – Independence Day eve. We’ll let you think on that and freedom, independence, traffic and transit. Happy July 4th.

NOW She Wants the Public?

Governor Lingle’s declaration that she’d “likely sign” the anti-rail petition comes with a curious declaration in today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin: “I’m not for or against rail. I’m pro-people. Let the people decide, that’s my mantra.”

She has no opinion on rail, after all this time and turmoil? That has to be one of the strangest things to come out of the Governor’s office. Let public opinion rule, she says.

It was just two weeks ago that her office signed off on a lease of a 12-mpg luxury sport Infiniti SUV, ignoring the overwhelming negative reaction in public opinion that she missed an opportunity to set a positive example to conserve.

And when she created the Comprehensive Communications Review Committee to investigate why the public was so poorly served by her emergency communicators after the October 2006 earthquakes, she didn’t appoint any members to represent the public and refused to do so for the panel’s lengthy existence.

In other words, being “pro-people” is a sometimes thing. Curious.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Checking References: Prevedouros’s UH Bio Lists Research Background, but Where's Transit?

Panos D. Prevedouros, newly declared candidate for Mayor of Honolulu, is the favorite of the anti-rail crowd because of his numerous denunciations of the City’s rail project. Now that he has stepped into the political arena, his background should be subject to as much attention as any would-be governmental leader.

What’s been puzzling about the Professor’s views on transit is the absence of anything in his background to suggest he has any transit expertise. Check out his bio on a University of Hawaii web page.

Anything But Transit

Prevedouros has researched highways, traffic detectors, crossing lights, off-ramps, airports and even helicopter noise, but there’s nothing in the list of his eight research projects about transit.

Maybe there’s something in his Selected Publications. There are 17 publications on the list covering freeway tunnels, traffic counts, freeway simulations, signalized intersections, underpasses, “oversaturated isolated intersections,” accident risk, satellite telemetry, railroads in Greece, automobile ownership in Asian countries, helicopter noise, etc.

Again, there’s nothing about transit in the list. What about his Professional Activities? The list includes work involving freeway and tollway operations; airport terminals and ground access; airfield and airspace capacity and delay; traffic records and accident analysis, and so on.

Searching for the T Word

Again, there are no activities suggesting involvement with transit projects in any way. In fact, you can search the Professor’s UH page for the word “transit” and you won’t find it.

Professor Prevedouros seems decent and likeable enough, but he’s running for mayor of a city with a multi-billion-dollar budget with exceptionally shaky credentials. Judging from a bio that Preverdouros undoubtedly created and posted himself, there’s no reason to believe his high-visibility fight against transit is backed up by expertise in the field.

Back by Popular Demand

Some of the "anonymous" contributors (see Comments) want the world to know that I have a financial interest in supporting this rail project, and I want the world to know, too. Here's the paragraph from the first post back on June 30th:

Full Disclosure: I'm part of the City's public outreach effort; as a communications consultant, I'm hired by clients who want my help in telling their story and influencing public opinion. In this case, I've been hired to share my views with Honolulu residents on why building the City's transit project will be good for our island community based on my long-held convictions. I went on the team last October, but I've been writing without a client and without compensation about the importance of building a transit line here since the early 1990s. Google my name and "Honolulu transit" to find some of those uncompensated columns and letters. (In future posts, I'll link to those items, because the pro-rail arguments I made in the 1990s hold up today.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Former Governor’s Blast Against Rail Avoids the Issues, Including Rail’s Ability to Avoid Traffic

We like former Governor Ben Cayetano and have agreed with him on many occasions, but his commentary in today’s Honolulu Advertiser is more of the same politics-based argument on rail that he says he condemns.

Maybe that’s the litmus test that should be applied to arguments about Honolulu’s rail system. If the statements seem based mostly on politics, old him-vs-him grudges and speculation, be wary.

Unfortunately, that appears to be the substance of Governor Cayetano’s arguments today. The 651-word column alleges conflicts of interest, hypocrisy and unnecessary expenditures to “sell” the rail system. It mentions his contact with university-based rail critics and in the end summarizes one man's opinion without offering a viable alternative.

As we should have mentioned yesterday but didn’t in this blog’s first post, I have no political motive in writing it. (It still feels weird to use the first person in this blog, unlike my other ones; click “View my complete profile” at the bottom of the left column to see them.) I simply want to see this project built to benefit our island in ways that seem obvious to many many people and residents who also have studied the issue.

Creating an Alternative

Without grade-separated transit, there is no alternative to traffic jams. Building more highways is not a solution; experience shows that new lanes simply fill up as soon as they’re opened unless – and here’s the kicker – tolls are raised so high that only the well-to-do can afford to drive on those lanes.

The rail line will give residents a choice – ride the system and avoid traffic or don’t. Without rail, sitting in traffic will be a fact of life. With it, the quality of riders’ lives will be enhanced. It will be a choice.

About those PR Efforts

Governor Cayetano decried “high-powered public relations efforts” and ends his column: “If the project is going to be explained to us objectively, rather than simply sold to us, then such expenditures should not be necessary.”

The anti-rail effort is doing everything it can to obfuscate the issues with its own brand of PR, so it’s understandable why communications is a component of the rail project. Federal regulations even require it.

But let’s stick with the main issues – traffic and traffic avoidance. For more information, go to the project’s website and read up on all the issues, including the planned expenditures that will improve driving conditions on our roads and highways even as the rail project is being built. This is not an either-or proposition.