Friday, May 28, 2010

One Way To Look at It: Timing of Mayor’s Exit Couldn’t Be Better in Light of Governor’s Stance

We’re not going to spend more than a couple paragraphs on another “puffed up” piece by the Advertiser this morning. This page-one story, like several others by the same writer (and his editors), casts rail in a negative light – this time because the incumbent mayor has announced he’ll resign in July to run for governor.

Another news organization, Civil Beat, had a different conclusion based on the same facts, headlining its story last week as shown here. Even this morning’s piece has enough quotes to question its thesis that rail’s future is clouded by the mayor’s departure.

So back to our own headline: Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that rail’s prospects have never been better (anti-rail Cliff Slater notwithstanding) and will even improve once the governor is out of the picture?

Both the mayor and his primary opponent have supported rail, whereas the governor has floated enough concerns about Honolulu's elevated rail project to suggest she won’t accept the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Without her acceptance, the project can’t proceed.

But she’ll be gone in just over six months, and it's likely one of the Democrats running for her office will succeed her. Just like that, the roadblock she seems determined to throw up will be gone, and one of the new governor's first acts will be to accept the FEIS.

That’s a more plausible scenario than what the Advertiser suggests, but we doubt you’ll see it in its pages – at least, not until the paper’s current leadership also is gone and the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser hits the streets on June 7.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

‘What Doesn’t Kill Us, Makes Us Stronger’

Nietzche’s words are worth recalling while pondering the "Modern Times" cover story in the new edition of Honolulu Weekly on the predicted conflicts between the city’s rail project and buried remains of Hawaiian ancestors.

The piece’s critical tone isn't a killer, of course. It simply highlights the issue and strengthens the resolve to work with all concerned parties and agencies to minimize or completely eliminate the likelihood of disturbing those remains.

This is one of an unknowable number of issues the rail project will confront in the months and years ahead as it works to create a fast and frequent commuting alternative to riding on streets and highways. None appears to be a show stopper, including this one, which boils down to a disagreement among the parties on how to protect ancestral gravesites.

Some believe an archeological study of the entire 20-mile route should be conducted before any work begins. The City contends the studies can be done in phases, with the one for downtown Honolulu and the Kakaako districts (where remains are most likely to be found) accomplished years down the line.

Wayne Yoshioka, the city’s transportation services director, says a phased approach leaves the ground undisturbed until a time that’s more appropriate for detailed archeological investigation.

“To have completed this level of investigation at an early stage would have required excavating much larger areas through downtown because the locations of the (guideway) column foundations requires a level of design that typically takes place after the environmental impact statement and Section 106 of the (federal) National Historic Preservation Act processes conclude,” Yoshioka said.

The city is now waiting on the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Transit Administration.

The Weekly piece lays out a scenario that some believe will involve “controversy, animosity, great sorrow and angst.” It doesn’t have to end that way, of course. Another scenario would have everyone involved grow stronger in the process of resolving these issues.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Been There, Done That: Rail Alternatives Still Being Debated Despite Years-Ago Decision

It’s late May 2010, yet to read some of the discussions at Civil Beat and other websites, you’d think it’s 2006 all over again.

Civil Beat’s subscription news service is attracting attention by offering members the opportunity to engage in dialogue with each other, the site’s reporters and editors on Hawaii’s major issuess – civil unions, energy independence, Honolulu’s rail project and many others.

Our interest is mostly the rail project, of course, and we continue to post a pro-rail point of view that’s clearly identified on our member bio page. Most of the commentary from other members has indeed been civil, with the occasional ad hominem attack the exception.

Catching Up with the Times

Some members continue to support options to rail to address Honolulu’s increasing traffic congestion issues. Just this weekend buses on managed (hot) lanes were suggested by one contributor, prompting our recommendation of a thorough reading of the Alternatives Analysis discussion in the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Indeed, it’s safe to say all alternatives suggested by community residents over the years were fully explored in the Alternatives Analysis process – including waterborne ferry service. (A frequent visitor to a newspaper comment section was fixated for a few weeks on the idea of using barges to float buses across Pearl Harbor.)

The DEIS addresses all the major alternatives, including the busses-on-managed-lanes suggestion, and since it keeps coming up, it’s worth quoting why the analysis dismissed it. From Chapter 2, Section 2.1.2:

"While this alternative would have slightly reduced congestion on paralllel highways, systemwide traffic congestion would have been similar to the No Build Alternative as a result of increased traffic on arterials trying to access the facility. Total islandwide (Vehicle Hours of Delay) would have increased with the Managed Lane Reversible Option as compared to the No Build Alternative, indicating an increase in systemwide congestion (Table 2-1). Transit reliability would not have been improved except for express bus service operating in the managed lanes. The Managed Lane Alternative would not have supported planned concentrated future population and employment growth because it would not provide concentrations of transit service that would serve as a nucleus for transit-oriented development. The Managed Lane Alternative would have provided very little transit benefit at a high cost. The cost-per-hour of transit-user benefits for the Managed Lane Alternative would have been two to three times higher than that for the Fixed Guideway Alternative (Table 2-1). Similar to the (Traffic System Management) Alternative, the Managed Lane Alternative would not have substantially improved service or access to transit for transit-dependent communities."

The Final EIS that soon will be issued will reiterate all the alternatives that were deemed worthy of serious and detailed analysis. At this late date, it seems appropriate for residents to shift from continuing their own alternatives analysis to instead focus on what’s immediately ahead.

The FEIS will address mitigation of Honolulu rail’s impacts on the community. An elevated rail system is what’s on the table – not an ongoing rehash of the issues that reasonably should have been put to rest four years ago

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Editorial: Community Still Supports Honolulu Rail; Civil Beat Conducts Project Fact-Finding Mission

Yesterday’s criticism of the Honolulu Advertiser’s rail coverage still stands, but today’s editorial goes a long way in restoring our faith in the paper as a valued journalistic voice. Editorials in the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin have never wavered in supporting Honolulu rail, and today’s editorial adds much-needed perspective on what is shaping up as a City-State confrontation.

Governor Lingle insists on doing a financial review of the project, but as Mayor Hannemann’s press release on GET revenues noted yesterday, the Federal Transit Administration has contracted with independent overseers that have given thumbs up to the City’s financial plan. From the editorial:

“Even someone who gives her credit for doing her due diligence before signing off on the project has got to wonder about this move…. So there’s really no purpose for Lingle’s planned set of public hearings, is there?”

The paper’s answer to that question boils down to one word: politics. “More hearings would provide a forum for critics of rail to hammer the project, as well as its champion, just as Hannemann is campaigning.” The editorial ends: “From the results of the 2008 election, and from every credible poll we’ve seen, the community still supports rail.”

‘This is not Mufi’s train.’

That’s the headline above this morning’s take-out piece by Civll Beat editor John Temple. He and CB’s Honolulu reporter Treena Shapiro visited City Hall two days ago on a rail project fact-finding mission, and Temple’s Internet-length piece tells what they heard. It’s good reading for anyone curious about rail’s status.

Temple’s piece runs nearly 1500 words and has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it that newspaper stories rarely approach. In its first four weeks, Civil Beat’s coverage has looked to us like a stand-in for what the average citizen, if given a chance, might ask newsmakers about the major issues in our state.

The City’s dispute with the governor is discussed, as well it might be since it’s shaping up as the key go-no go issue as the planning process winds down. From Temple’s article:

“’(Governor Lingle) is the accepting authority,’ (Managing Director Kirk) Caldwell says. ‘There’s no requirement that she accept or that she must accept.’ But he then goes on to question why she thinks she needs her own financial analysis, when the state isn’t on the hook for the project and financial analysis is not part of the EIS process.”

Temple writes that Caldwell cites the three separate financial studies already required by the FTA.

“’All three came back and said we were in the ballpark,’ he says. What Lingle should be doing is determining whether the city followed the law and looked at the impacts of the project and addressed them, Caldwell says. Impacts are the issue, not the financial plan. Finances, he says, are not a valid reason for her to reject the project.”

Temple’s piece covers other major issues, including Native Hawaiian concerns for remains that might be encountered in the project’s construction. Near the end, he quotes Caldwell again:

“’This is not Mufi’s train.’ From this discussion, that’s obvious. The people in the room have dedicated countless hours to studying the rail project, to explaining it, to pitching it and to listening to concerns about it. It’s theirs. They own it.
“At the end of our conversation, I can’t say that their plan is the perfect solution. But there’s no doubt as I head out into the now quiet Honolulu Hale that they’re ready to take more slings and arrows, if only they can get construction underway and prove their critics wrong. That, they seem sure, will be certain.”

Again, here’s the link to the Civil Beat piece.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2 pm Update: Mayor Hannemann Issues Response

The Hannemann Administration issued the following press release this afternoon in response to the Honolulu Advertiser stories linked in the post below:

Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced today the Honolulu Rail Transit Project has received 99.6 percent of its expected revenue from the General Excise and Use Tax (GET) surcharge for rail transit.
As of April, the City had received $499.3 million in surcharge revenue. The Project’s August 2009 financial plan anticipates $501.5 million in revenue during the same period.
“This is excellent news that bodes well for the future of the rail project,” said Mayor Hannemann. “GET revenues are on track despite the state of the economy, and we have saved $90 million in construction costs for the first rail contract. We could realize additional savings on three major rail contracts that will be awarded later this year.”
Hannemann noted that net GET surcharge (revenues) to the City in March totaled $16.3 million. “That is an encouraging sign for the rail project and is an early indication that Honolulu’s economy is getting stronger.”
The rail project’s GET projections and financial plan have been scrutinized and validated by the Federal Transit Administration, the agency’s independent oversight contractors as well as leaders with the Hawaii Business Roundtable. The Roundtable called the rail project’s financial plan conservatively prepared.
Authorized by the Hawaii Legislature and the Honolulu City Council, the one-half percent GET surcharge began in 2007 and ends in 2022. It is expected to generate about $3.5 billion for the rail project. The surcharge can only be used for rail construction and operations.

Which Is it, Advertiser – Flat or Better Times?

As the Honolulu Advertiser counts down the final days of its existence before becoming the Star-Advertiser in early June, the paper’s not going down without more “view with alarm” stories on the Honolulu rail project.

Today’s paper features not one but two Sean Hao stories above the fold on page one, and both are examples of the paper’s ongoing VWA approach to covering rail.

We’ll leave it to you to decide whether today’s stories deserve their double-splash on the front page. As you do, consider these excerpts from a story in the paper two days ago:

“It’s good to have some good news to report,” (Governor) Lingle said at a news conference at the state Capitol….. “The revenues are improving,” Lingle said. “I’m happy to be able to report this, and I wanted to thank the people all across the state for the patience that they’ve shown during this time as we tried to meet our obligations to have a balanced budget, to be conservative in how we budget, but also try to get their (tax) refunds out as quickly as we could….” “I think it’s a good sign,” (State Rep. Marcus) Oshiro said of Lingle’s decision to release tax refunds. “It’s a positive sign that the economy is turning around.”

Taking the Economy’s Pulse

Here are a few headlines from the Honolulu Advertiser’s Business section in the past several days (plus some updates since this posting), and a few more from Pacific Business News:

• 5/21: Hawaii's jobless rate falls slightly
• 5/20: Advertiser columnist Dave Shapiro: "I'm starting to get the same feeling about the local economy, that it may finally be starting to turn after the deepest recession in most of our lifetimes."
• 5/19: State raises outlook for tourism this year
• 5/19: HMSA lands back in black for 1st quarter
• 5/18: Castle Group returns to profit
• 5/18: More Isle residents pay bills on time
• 5/15: Isle-based Barnwell posts profit of $1.5M
• 5/15: Government data shows solid recovery, but concerns remain
• 5/14: Pacifica Honolulu gets back on track
• 5/13: Whole Foods’ income up in 2nd quarter
• PBN, 5/21: Shopping center vacancy rate drops to lowest level since '06
• PBN, 5/14: Hawaii jobless claims drop sharply
• PBN, 5/13: Maui sees big jump in hotel occupancy
* PBN, 5/11: Hawaii hotels show signs of recovery

These stories and more add up to evidence that Hawaii’s economy is steadily rebounding from the depths of 2008-09, so it’s legitimate to question the paper’s decision to sensationalize its stories on the rail project’s revenues by giving them top position on page one. Given the same facts about rail and the economy’s improvement, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin obviously has concluded there’s nothing to sensationalize.

Readers are left to weigh the same facts and then decide which newspaper seems to have the more reasonable perspective. We’ll put our money on the Bulletin, which will be the successor to the Advertiser when the newspaers' merger is complete on June 7.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Civil Beat: ‘Transit Plan Out of City Hands’

The new subscription online news service makes an excellent point in its lead story on transit today – and does it so succinctly that we stole its headline for our own. Editor John Temple’s Twitter posts today included a link to the story, so we feel comfortable quoting from it and linking to it here as well.

Reporter Treena Shapiro starts off by noting: “When construction begins on Honolulu’s rail line is now up to the governor and federal government.”

It’s like raising a child. You spend years preparing, planning, informing and selecting, and in the end, the City has to stand back and see what happens with this major project. Shapiro continues:

“The City this month submitted its final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed $5.3 billion rail project to the Federal Transit Administration. For construction to begin, the FTA and Gov. Linda Lingle need to sign off on the plans.”

The requirement to obtain those two final sign-offs has been known for years, so that’s not “news” news. But Shapiro’s observation serves to sharpen the focus of everyone concerned with rail. First the FTA, then the Governor must give rail a thumbs up.

FTA’s Endorsement

The former doesn’t seem in doubt. FTA officials in February gave the project a ringing endorsement and as good as pledged $1.55 billion in federal funds to Honolulu rail. So the real question is whether the Governor will formally accept the FEIS and allow rail to be built.

We’ve noted here that the Governor has shown a partiality to at-grade trains, even though at-grade transit requires more ground-level disruption and trenching, more neighborhood impacts, more incursion into existing traffic lanes, is accident-prone and therefore less reliable, is slower, can carry fewer passengers, and so on.

Shapiro’s piece is informative reading and we encourage Yes2Rail’s visitors to do so, but we’ll also add some of Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s thoughts as expressed in a February 2 press conference. He reflected on the FTA’s supportive comments and the necessity for Governor Lingle to sign off on rail for it to become a reality after all these decades of planning and anticipation. Mayor Hannemann:

“We would really hope that she would start sending some positive messages and signals,” Hannemann said. “Whatever it is that’s holding her back, cast it aside for the good of the people. This is a train that will bring economic benefits for people for years and decades and generations to come.
"I’m very pleased that Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood has proclaimed this morning great confidence in Honolulu city rail transit initiative… Today’s show of financial support validates the financial analysis, the evaluations that have been put forward for many years, and certainly it could not come at a better time, especially when the chief executive of this state is expressing strong concerns and reservations about going forward.
“For the federal government to also say today that we are committing to one point five billion dollars towards that full funding agreement that we will sign by 2011 is the ultimate. It’s wonderful news. This is going to be one of the highest amounts or awards ever given to a city in America….
“The other news that I want to put out today again is that in the new criteria going forward for transportation projects under new starts funding, there’s going to be an emphasis on livable communities. There’s going to be a collaborative effort between (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) and (the Environmental Protection Administration) to identify those projects that will bring about green communities, livable communities and sustainability. And Honolulu will rank again very high, mark my words. Why? Waipahu, Pearl City, Aiea, Kalihi, Chinatown, eventually McCully, Moiliili will all be the recipients and beneficiaries of a transit-oriented development concept.
"They know this is an excellent project. If they didn’t believe that was so or if they believed that it was shaky, they would not have approved what they have approved and have announced today. So, good news for Honolulu, even better news for the state of Hawaii, because this is going to benefit all of us in the state…."
When asked how soon he would like the Governor to approve the FEIS, Hannemann answered: “It’s not on her desk yet, and we knew that, but the fact of the matter is, and Peter Rogoff reiterated it this morning, that 13 state agencies have already opined, have already given their comments and suggestions. We’re working very closely with them. We’ve been collaborating very closely with the Office of Environmental Quality Control, so the fact of the matter is there has been a lot of consultation going on. We believe it’s 99 percent done. We really would hope that she would start sending some positive messages and signals.
“You know how many states would love to hear what we heard today? This is unbelievable, that we got the good news even before the EIS was released from Washington, so that validates the fact that they know that we’re doing a good job and we brought it to this point that they’re willing to go out and say one point five billion. So I really believe the Governor, whatever it is that’s holding her back, cast it aside for the good of the people. This is not Mufi’s train. This is the train that will bring about economic benefits for the people for years and decades and generations to come….”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Time to Revisit Issue of At-Grade Rail Safety

One of the more dramatic at-grade train crashes in recent months occurred in Houston, TX in February. Since some Honolulu residents still say at-grade transit would be a better alternative than Honolulu’s future grade-separated rail line, we invite them to visit our February 9th post on that crash and then tell us again in the comments section below why at-grade is what Honolulu needs. Be sure to remember that bus-train collisions like this one in Houston will be impossible with an elevated train.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Public Urged To Attend Tonight's Rail Workshop

The third and final public workshop for the Pearl Highlands rail station will be held from 6:30 to 9 o’clock this evening at Highlands Intermediate School, 1480 Ho`olaulea Street.

The focus will be on final sketches and design renderings based on the public’s input at two previous workshops. Project specialists will be on-site to answer questions on the Pearl Highlands station and the project.

The workshop is free and open to the public. If possible, attendees are asked to RSVP by calling the project information line, 566-2299, or emailing

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

1st District Survey Shows Majority Favor Rail; Support Likely Higher if 2nd District Included

Civil Beat, the new subscription online news and opinion website, published the results of a public opinion poll today showing a majority of respondents (51.6%) either strongly approve of the Honolulu rail project (27.7%) or somewhat approve of it (23.9%). So far, so good, but it gets better:

The poll was conducted only in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District (shaded at left) and did not sample residents in some of the neighborhoods at the west end of the rail line in the 2nd District. As Civil Beat editor John Temple wrote, “Those areas would be expected to show greater support, because people there would experience a direct benefit from the project.

Brand-new Civil Beat is still shaking out some of the start-up problems that most new enterprises experience. Temple wrote in the second paragraph of the poll article that in 2008 “…Oahu voters decided 53-47 (%) to add a 0.5-percent surcharge to the General Excise Tax to pay for the project.”

That’s not what was on the ballot, of course; voters approved the steel-on-steel technology in 2008. The State Legislature in 2005 authorized the counties to increase the GET for mass transit projects, and the Honolulu City Council did so.

Unfounded Speculation

As a paid subscriber, we can read more of the Civil Beat site than the casual visitor and found something deeper in the article that seems completely unsupportable.

Matt Fitch, executive director of the polling company that conducted the automated telephone survey, said this about the rail project’s slim majority support:

Their project is in jeopardy and they have to make a better case for it. They don’t necessarily have the strongest supporter of the project heading to Congress in May,” apparently feeling comfortable in calling the special Congressional election 11 days early in favor of Charles Djou, who represents an east Oahu City Council district (#4).

But as editor Temple noted, the majority support for rail was likely understated in the survey since it didn’t include neighborhoods on the ewa plain in the 2nd Congressional District. Beyond that, the City-sponsored QMark opinion survey of residents throughout the island last fall found majority support for rail in all Council districts (at right), including Djou’s!

Confirming the Trend

Opinion surveys are big targets in political life, of course, and Civil Beat’s is no exception. Saying a project that enjoys majority support is “in jeopardy” certainly seems odd, but what the poll does confirm is continuing public support for rail. Pro-rail majorities were recorded in the November 2008 vote, the QMark survey and in this latest poll by Civil Beat.

It’s time to move on and complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement, submit it to the governor and have it accepted so the project can break ground. The sooner all that happens, the sooner travel mobility will be restored in the urban corridor, giving commuters a travel option that completely avoids traffic congestion.
2:45 pm Update: Civil Beat editor John Temple and I had a cordial exchange in the paid-only section of his website that's worth mentioning here. He questioned why I would write that Matt Fitch's comment that rail "is in jeopardy" is "completely unsupportable." I answered that Mr. Fitch's assertion makes no sense; rail enjoys majority support, and the opposition managed to total only 43.8% in Mr. Fitch's poll. I ended my latest post at Civil Beat: "Mr. Fitch might well have concluded that despite ongoing and strenuous efforts to derail the project over several years, the opposition has failed to crack the majority's support. I nominate that fact as the poll's major finding."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Purchase Allegations Called ‘Baseless Rubbish’

The latest salvo in the firefight launched by former Governor Ben Cayetano around rail procurement procedures is in the Advertiser’s letters column today.

Rix Maurer III, the City’s chief procurement officer, called Cayetano’s allegations “baseless, politically motivated rubbish and a waste of the taxpayers’ time and money.”

"His claims regarding the process we used to hire firms working on rail are spurious. The City and County of Honolulu has been prudently, if not meticulously, complying with all federal, state, and county procurement laws and regulations for the rail project. That's been confirmed by federal reviews of the financial plan, an analysis by the Hawaii Business Roundtable, and an audit by the city auditor."
The rail project is the largest project in the history of the state and is subject to unprecedented scrutiny and oversight, so it's inconceivable project managers would cut corners in shepherding it through to completion. We're left to conclude, as Mr. Maurer has, that the charges of impropriety are motivated by issues other than the facts.

Friday, May 7, 2010

City Responds, Says Politics Drives Complaint

Yesterday’s procurement “news” is disputed by the city in today’s story (actually refuted, it would seem), and the beat goes on. Once again, one newspaper reports a story that’s ignored by the other daily paper. (Unlike the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which allows free access to stories back to 1996, the Advertiser doesn't archive all its stories beyond a few months. If you're reading this in the summer of 2010 or later, you may have to purchase these articles.)

Civil Beat, the online subscription news service that’s been up and running for a couple weeks, is evolving as a news operation that lets readers communicate easily with its journalists about local issues. Here’s our post on the site today:

“Since Civil Beat is a different kind of journalism, maybe CB will examine the ‘journalism’ of rail coverage. This procurement story is one of many in which one newspaper flays the heck out of an issue on page one and the other prints not a word about it. The Advertiser does the flaying on rail and the Star-Bulletin does the ignoring. What's that about -- terrific reporting or gotcha journalism that editors elsewhere dismiss as non-news?”

“You’re All Puffed Up!”

We think it’s the latter – Star-Bulletin editors watching carefully what the competition reports and deciding it’s not up to their standards. We call it Puffy Shirt Journalism – stories that are less than what they seem, like Jerry’s “all puffed up” look despised by Elaine in a particularly funny Seinfeld episode.

The Advertiser’s examples over the years are numerous – repeated (misplaced and overwrought) concern over alleged under-performing GET revenues, the paper’s page-one splash of an at-grade rail proposal, the Runway Protection Zone story that quickly evaporated and now the alleged procurement violations story, which also is going away.

There’s a pattern here, and it’s going to be instructive to see which style of journalism survives in the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the Star-Bulletin completes the acquisition of its rival.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

‘It's not a rail thing; it's a procurement thing.’

Once again, the Advertiser buries another essential fact in a story that involves the Honolulu rail project.

The paper's last example of a grossly buried lead required reading 650 words to find it. Today, the number is 970 before the nine words headlined above show up in the story's last paragraph.

Page one view-with-alarm stories may feel like muckraking for some staffers inside the newspaper, but they really amount to “Puffy Shirt Journalism.” The most recent example involved several days of puffed-up stories, editorials and columns in the paper about the Runway Protection Zone issue at Honolulu International Airport – an issue that was quickly resolved.

Stay tuned for a similar resolution of this one.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

FAA Concurs with Rail’s Airport RPZ ‘Avoidance’

The storm around the Runway Protection Zone issue turned out to be just a passing squall, not a hurricane – more like a “puffy shirt,” less like a Hugo Boss.

The City has received assurances from the Federal Aviation Administration that the agency “has concurred with the City’s Runway Protection Zone (RPZ) avoidance measure for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.” The City’s press release continues:

“The RPZ avoidance will relocate a portion of the project’s guideway several hundred feet, from Aolele Street to Ualena Street, beginning approximately 2,000 feet west of Lagoon Drive, and will relocate the Lagoon Drive rail station to the corner of Ualena Street and Lagoon Drive. The alignment through the airport area will still be primarily along Aolele Street.”

And that’s that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

'round the World in 2 Clicks–How Other Cities Use Grade-Separated Rail To Avoid Traffic Congestion

One of the head-shakers (left-right-left, as in “no, no, no”) who rushed past the Honolulu rail project’s booth at the Food and New Products Show a couple weekends ago insisted rail will never work in Honolulu.

“But it works all over the world!” said Booth Guy to the naysayer.

Rushing-Away Guy, over his shoulder: “It won’t work here! Honolulu’s different!”

You hear that a lot. Honolulu truly does have unique qualities, but when the number of cars, trucks and buses exceeds our road network’s ability to absorb them, the result in Honolulu and everywhere else is congestion, delay, frustration and prolonged commutes.

What is different is that unlike cities that have built grade-separated transit as an alternative to sitting in traffic congestion, Honolulu isn’t there yet.

Fortunately, that’s soon to change. Once the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement is completed, the federal Department of Transportation submits it to the governor, she accepts it and the feds issue a Record of Decision, Honolulu’s work force will start building our rail system.

And before you know it, Honolulu residents will be commuting while completely avoiding traffic, just like residents of these cities:

San Francisco
New York
Yes, Honolulu is different -- and vive la différence! But we're not THAT different when it comes to wanting to avoid traffic jams. These cities have given their citizens an option to do that, and Honolulu will, too -- with elevated rail:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

لا يحدث الكثير باستثناء زيارة من السعودية = Not Much Happening Except a Visit from Arabia

Every now and then we’re reminded that the Internet truly is a World Wide Web. This blog’s SiteMeter recorded a visit on Friday from someone whose continent, country and Lat/Long were all “unknown,” but we know at least this much: Yes2Rail showed up on their browser in Arabic (as the above screen capture shows).

The page visited was our February 22, 2010 entry that reported on the "PBS Hawaii" TV show’s panel discussion a few evenings earlier on rail transit that involved an AIA architect, a City Council member and the City Managing Director.

That wouldn’t seem to be of interest to anyone out there whose browser is configured to display in Arabic. Was it the headline that attracted them?

“The ROTC Drill Sergeant Had It Right: ‘You Can’t March Your Platoon Faster than the Slowest Man'"

Drill Sergeant….March….Platoon….