Thursday, May 31, 2012

May in Review: Two Big Stories Make the News--Honolulu’s Worst-in-Nation Traffic Congestion and Anti-Rail Candidate’s Refusal to Reveal His BRT Plan; Civil Beat Joins Chorus Asking for Details

With August’s primary election just over two months away, many are asking: “Can Ben Cayetano keep his bus rapid transit ‘plan’ secret until then?”
That seems to be his strategy. Civil Beat posted a 1500-word piece today about Mr. Cayetano’s alleged BRT plan under the headline Bus Rapid Transit: The Devil’s in the Details, But What Are They?
The piece notes the candidate’s refusal to reveal anything that resembles an actual plan with information on construction costs, bus stop locations, routes, anticipated elevated structures, exclusive bus (no-car) lanes, removal of parking spaces, O&M expenses and all the other details that would foster a true understanding of his concept -- and, of course, criticism.
Like the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Sunday editorial -- What exactly is Cayetano’s transit plan?Civil Beat’s piece describes Mr. Cayetano’s stonewalling with an implied criticism one would expect from a media outlet.
Civil Beat has asked Cayetano since March for more information on his bus alterative, even offering him an opportunity to present it in his own words,” CB writes. “But he’s simply pointed to the presentations at his campaign events as supplying details of his plan.”
However, attendees at those campaign events report back that no such details were provided – just the same vague assurances about Mr. Cayetano’s BRT scheme that he wants to implement instead of the Honolulu rail project, which he vows to kill if elected.
Even members of the Cayetano campagn’s “Truth Squad” are avoiding any “truth.” Malcolm Tom “declined to comment on BRT,” Civil Beat writes, “either the (city’s) previous system or Cayetano’s plan.”
Following the Book
Political observers have surmised that Mr. Cayetano is following the political playbook strategy of minimizing a candidate’s vulnerabilities prior to an election.  Cynics might call it the “duck and cover” strategy.
Hawaii Pacific University professor John Hart told Civil Beat he doesn’t see “a lot of impact on the campaign about him not being specific.” Once a specific plan is articulated, he said, rival campaigns and other interested parties, such as pro-rail Pacific Resources Partnership, can tear it apart, bit by bit.
We wonder how much longer Professor Hart’s assessment will be valid. The Cayetano Calling-Out Party is just beginning and will only intensify in the weeks ahead.
PRP’s new radio spot zeroes in on Mr. Cayetano’s refusal to provide BRT details; Civil Beat has downloaded the 60-second spot and posted a clickable link to listen to it. Here’s an excerpt.
“Cayetano says he’s for Bus Rapid Transit, an outdated billion-dollar plan to force people out of their cars and onto buses. Reduce traffic lanes for cars, make them for buses only. And erect more double-decker roads? How will that reduce traffic?”
We’re Number One!
The news that road congestion wastes more time for drivers in Honolulu than in any other city in the country exploded into the mayoral campaign just as the no-BRT plan controversy was heating up.
Mayor Peter Carlisle and former Managing Director Kirk Caldwell leveraged the report from INRIX, Inc. in criticizing Mr. Cayetano for not revealing his BRT plan’s details.
Other rail-related developments in May included former Governor Linda Lingle’s endorsement of at-grade rail, thereby showing no hint of recognition that rail operating on city streets can’t be as fast, frequent, reliable or safe as Honolulu’s future elevated system.
The next 71 days leading up to the August 11th primary will see more demands for transparency among all three mayoral candidates about how they propose to address Oahu’s worsening congestion problem. Mr. Cayetano’s intentions – either to remain in his cone of silence or provide the BRT details others are seeking – may be the deciding factor in this election.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Talk Show Rail Debate Again Reveals Opponents’ Main Motivation – To Reduce Traffic Congestion; Rail’s Option to Daily Grind is Virtually Ignored, and So Is Reality that Congestion Can’t Be ‘Solved’

The morning talk show is taking on a new and refreshing format – actual give-and-take between rail opponents (no change there) and supporters (the new part.)
The show’s anti-rail host long turned his program into an open channel for the likes of anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater, UH Professor Panos Prevedouros and others who've used the air time to campaign against the project.
Fairly recently, however, the host has been inviting supporters to be on the show, and recent appearances by Mayor Peter Carlisle and HART CEO Dan Grabauskas have given the pro-rail side of the argument that had been missing.
Today’s program featured Cindy McMillan of Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP), which is supporting the Honolulu rail project with an array of media messages, and highway proponent Dr. Prevedouros. They covered numerous topics, but the one that jumped out repeatedly was the identification of rail opponents’ primary transportation goal – the elimination of congestion.
It’s not going to happen, of course, as numerous studies have shown. Some reasons are obvious; traffic increases as the population grows, and Oahu’s population is increasing. Others are less obvious, and even building more highways and increasing the number of lanes available to drivers doesn’t reduce congestion.
We posted in April about two of the studies, one of which is titled “The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities.”
From the Show
Today’s radio program once again supplied evidence of what motivates rail opponents and what they really want – free-flowing traffic on our streets and highways. It’s a wish, a hope, a longing for another time, perhaps, but it’s fantasy, as most reputable transportation experts assert.
Here are some exchanges that drive home the point we’re making today:
Host: Well, one thing that always seems to rein large over whichever side of the issue you’re on. We have terrible traffic. I mean, it’s not just anecdotal. It’s by statistics. We just had another release about Honolulu being number one in the country with the worst traffic. Cindy, how will the rail project address what is a burgeoning congestive issue?
McMillan: You’re right, Rick, when you say this is top-of-mind for everybody…. The rail project is actually designed to take cars off the road and give commuters an alternative to driving their car. Specifically, for the people who are coming in from the west side where we have designated growth as the pattern for that area…. They need a way to get (into town) that’s reliable, right? They need to know that they don’t have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning in order to make it into work for their job at 8 o’clock. So rail transit will provide that alternative for them and get them into town, back and forth, without having to waste time and money (in traffic). Time is money….
Host: Specifically, how will rail relieve that congestion, though? How many cars off the road? How many people utilize rail? How will that translate to reduction?
Notice how the host always circles back to congestion reduction while ignoring rail’s actual purpose, as Ms. McMillan has stated it – to be the piece of infrastructure now missing that will give commuters congestion-free transportation. 
Ms. McMillian responded to the host’s question by noting there will be about 40,000 fewer daily vehicle trips in the urban core thanks to rail’s construction by 2030. She compared that reduction to what commuters experience on the roads when schools are out of session.
Dr. Prevedouros disputed the comparison, said the trip reduction when school is out is actually closer to half a million, so rail is a “one-percent solution” to the congestion problem. Ms. McMillan observed that the data means different things to different people.
But even this exchange once again focuses on rail’s impact on reducing congestion – Dr. Prevedouros’ goal – and rail’s true purpose as an alternative to that congestion. The host once again circled back to the opposition’s canard that rail was “sold” as a congestion-relief project.
Host: I was just thinking back to the genesis of the project and also to where we are now. It was a transportation issue. We’re going to alleviate congestion, and that kinda transferred over to actually a jobs creation project. We’re going to stimulate the economy, create new jobs, and we’re hearing increasingly more that now it’s about development. We need to look to the future and ensure that the burgeoning increase in population needs to be addressed for affordable housing. (Transit-oriented development) is the way to go about doing that. Have you witnessed that? Is that the progression we’ve come to now where it’s about the future, it’s about developing in a smart way?
McMillan: I’d say it’s about all of those things. Originally, as you said, it was about the traffic congestion. It still is, because when you’re driving in from ewa you need anther way to get in. You want to know that you have a reliable way to get to work, so it’s still about traffic and transportation alternatives, and it’s still about traffic congestion because we will have a way to opt out of congestion. You might now always want to use it, but you will have a way, so it’s still about traffic congestion. It’s still about jobs. 10,000 jobs a year, 4,000 of them direct, 6,000 of them indirect. That hasn’t changed. And it is about our future in terms of what we can do with development along the rail alignment. But if we don’t develop along the alignment, we need houses here, and if they’re not along the alignment, where are they going to go? You can’t put more housing in the urban core without some sort of traffic mitigation, because we’re at gridlock now. If we put more people along the corridor,
Prevedouros: There’s gonna be some growth. It won’t be particularly fast. This county actually has a big problem. Between 2000 and 2010, (Oahu) had a net out-migration of 50,000 people. We did gain population because of the large numbers of dependents from Asia and Micronesia that came to our county, but if you take the residents that were here in 2000 and follow them in the 2010 Census, we lost 50,000 people to the other counties of Hawaii. That’s an alarming message that’s not anti-rail. It is concerning, and I also have serious doubts about the ability of our (state and county agencies) to do forecasts……
Dr. Prevedouros glided right past the fact that Oahu's population grew by 8.8 percent in that decade, even taking at face value his claim that 50,000 residents counted in 2000 moved off the island by the next Census. He eventually concluded that Oahu’s congestion may not be as severe as forecast if only the Second City could be developed to make it somehow independent of Honolulu’s urban core area.
But for anybody who wants or needs to travel between Kapolei’s Second City and downtown in, say, 2040 (that need presumably won't end for a huge number of residents), there will be no option to driving without rail. The rail option will avoid all congestion, which as Ms. McMillan said will be worse in the future with or without rail. Even Mr. Slater acknowledges that traffic would be even worse without rail than with it.
So despite the new radio format that invites pro-rail voices onto the show, don’t expect to ever hear the host or his fellow opponents talk about rail’s function as an alternative to driving. It wouldn’t support their goal of congestion reduction in the extreme – a goal most thinking residents will realize is an impossibility.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday’s One-Two Punch in Star-Advertiser Was Wakeup Call for Residents: Buying into Unknown Transit Plan Could Stick Them with Huge Costs & No Viable Project To Address Congestion Problem

Oahu residents got a shot of reality in yesterday’s newspaper about perhaps the biggest decision this or any other generation has faced since Statehood.
The issue is whether to build the Honolulu rail project or abandon it on the thinnest of promises that something else would be better.
The Star-Advertiser's page-one story – headlined City has much to lose if rail is halted (subscription) – detailed the “uncharted territory” that lies ahead if rail dies, including possible damage payments to contractors in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the loss of jobs and almost certainly the loss of confidence in Honolulu’s ability to make big decisions and stick with them.
The newspaper called out mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano for his lack of transparency on his alleged transportation plan and urged him to do the right thing – tell Oahu residents exactly what he proposes to implement after he kills rail if he's elected to lead the city.
In asking What exactly is Cayetano’s transit plan?, the editorial was also reminding residents of the obvious: They wouldn’t make a major investment in a home without knowing its age, its location, its cost, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the kitchen's layout, where the nearest schools are, the size of the monthly payments and all other major details. They wouldn’t buy a new car without knowing the make and model, the number of seats and doors, the anticipated gas mileage, its operating expenses and all its features.
Mr. Cayetano has provided virtually no details about his proposed bus rapid transit plan, so in effect, he’s asking residents to buy his “house” and “car” without answering the most basic questions – cost, location, features and all the rest. The newspaper’s editorial was suggesting that residents might well be cautious about Mr. Cayetano's "deal."
Cancellation Costs
According to yesterday’s page-one story, the city has spend $503 million in the past six years on planning, design, property acquisition and some project construction work. It also has awarded $2.18 billion con contracts to build half of the 20-mile line, provide rail cars and operate the system.
“Daniel Grabauskas, executive director of (the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation), said he can’t guess how much it would cost to stop the project and cancel those contracts.
“’I know this much. I know we would pay lawyers a boatload of cash to either try to settle or litigate the claims,’ Grabauskas said. ‘I don’t know what that number is. Honestly, you could come up with a whole range.'”
The Star-Advertiser contacted Martin Robins, director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, for his assessment of what Honolulu faces if rail is terminated.
“’The unraveling of that is going to be very, very costly,’ said Robins…. ‘Companies have mobilized to do all this contracting.’
‘If the mayor comes in (and) pulls the plug on the project, all the work is going to have to stop, and the companies are going to have incurred costs,’ Robins said. ‘They have moved people and did a huge number of things. They organized offices, they have leases, they have all kinds of financial reliance that they played on the process, and that’s another level of contractual liability that the city has.’”
Who’s Responsible?
Mr. Cayetano told the newspaper he doesn’t believe the city has spent more than $500 million on rail – which begs the question: Is he quibbling about $3 million? And this: “Didn’t the city understand this risk when they prematurely awarded contracts and started construction?” he asked.
What seems like a “premature” construction start to Mr. Cayetano was perfectly agreeable to the Federal Transit Administration, which has approved the city’s schedule and provided notices to proceed along the way. 
It’s also perfectly clear where the responsibility lies for any potential delays or cancellations that lie ahead in what the newspaper calls rail’s “uncharted territory.” Mr. Cayetano, anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater and others are plaintiffs in the lawsuit that intends to kill rail.
That lawsuit will be argued in Federal District Court in a hearing scheduled to begin 10 days after the August 11 primary election that either will be an outright win for Mr. Cayetano or one of his opponents or will narrow the field to two candidates.
Consider the Possibilities
There are two basic possible outcomes in that election: (1) One candidate receives 50 percent plus one of the votes cast and thereby is elected mayor in August, or (2) None of the three reaches that threshold, and the top two vote-getters proceed to a runoff election in November.
But within those two scenarios are other possible outcomes:
• Rail could hear a death knell if Mr. Cayetano achieves the 50-plus-one support level.
• Rail could be the outright winner if Mayor Peter Carlisle or former Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, both pro-rail, achieves that level of support.
• Anti-rail Mr. Cayetano would face off in November with one of the pro-rail candidates.
• Pro-rail Messrs. Carlisle and Caldwell would win more votes than Mr. Cayetano but not achieve 50-plus-one and run for outright election in November.
The newspaper wants Oahu residents to think hard about rail and what may or may not be available as an alternative. With less than three months to go before the August primary, that’s not too much to ask when the states are this high.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Star-Advertiser Editorial Page Finally Calls Out the ‘Elephant’ in this Mayoral Campaign, Says Public Needs To Know Details of Cayetano Transit Plan, Plus: ‘Uncharted Territory’ Lies Ahead if Rail Fails

With less than three months to go before the 2012 primary election, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s editorial page staff has had enough and asks: What exactly is Cayetano’s transit plan?
Former Governor Ben Cayetano announced his candidacy in the mayoral race more than 18 weeks ago and made it clear he was running to end the Honolulu rail project. Since then, he’s said virtually nothing about a transportation plan he’d implement instead of rail.

There have been hints dropped along the way, such as “an express bus or trolley system using dedicated freeway lanes,” a suggestion that buses would run down King Street or Beretania Street taking some parking along the way, and the 20 words Mr. Cayetano used in last Wednesday’s mayoral debate to “describe” his alleged bus rapid transit plan.

Disappointing Debate
But Mr. Cayetano has not released a comprehensive document that summarizes his transportation planning. After such a prolonged information drought, the debate could have been the venue where Mr. Cayetano answered questions about what he’d do to help address Oahu’s growing congestion issues.

It didn’t happen – to the obvious chagrin of the Star-Advertiser:

“All three candidates – Cayetano, Mayor Peter Carlisle and the city’s former managing director, Kirk Caldwell – skirted other issues, including the selection of the next landfill site and the growing homeless problem.
“But on a week when a new study showed Honolulu ranked worst for time spent in traffic, the lack of real discussion on transit, from Cayetano in particular, was the most obvious shortcoming in the debate.
“The voters have the right to expect better in the coming weeks, or having these public presentations will really become a pointless exercise.”

'Uncharted Territory'
Whether this or any other editorial critical of the candidate – such as the Star-Advertiser's “Cayetano’s rail tactics a disservice” editorial in March – will produce the desired response remains to be seem, as editorial writers often observe.

Also unknown is whether local media reporters who cover transportation and the mayoral race will take the hint and start asking all three candidates about their transportation vision, especially would-be rail killer Mr. Cayetano.

One issue the newspaper examines on page one today (all Star-Advertiser links require a paid subscription) is the cost of terminating rail so far along in the project. Writes Kevin Dayton:

“Honolulu will find itself in uncharted territory if former Gov. Ben Cayetano is elected mayor and actually cancels the city’s $5.27 billion rail project.
“There are few, if any, examples of rail projects in the United States that were shut down this late in the development and funding process, and many observers predict a messy, expensive and drawn-out closure process if Honolulu scraps the planned 20-mile train system.”

The issue gives Mr. Cayetano and anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater another opportunity to speculate about the future, of course. Speculation is Mr. Slater’s chief tactic, and he asks, “…is it worth spending another $5 billion, or $6 billion, or $7 billion, of whatever it is, to finish this off?”

Today’s page-one story of more than 1,700 words deserves more attention than we’re giving it today, and Yes2Rail will give it this week.

Digging for Details
Even Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca – who usually says good things about the former governor and who we predicted wouldn’t write a single positive paragraph about rail in 2012, and hasn’t – says the public deserves more information about rail and Mr. Cayetano’s proposed alternative.

“We all need him to explain when and how he would start a bus system, where it would go, what it would look like and how much it would cost,” Mr. Borreca writes in today’s column.

That sounds right, since it echoes our own observations about Mr. Cayetano’s intentions 18 weeks ago after his candidacy announcement:

“So far, we know next to nothing about Mr. Cayetano’s transit plan, and we’re likely to read what he thinks about sewers, water fees and potholes before he chooses to provide those devilish details. If the elephant-in-the-living room description ever applied to anything, Mr. Cayetano’s missing transit plan is the perfect fit.”

This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the 2012 Mayoral Race and Rail heading.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Review: Lingle Backs Rail System that Would Be Hazardous to People & Vehicles, Has Learned Nothing about Safety in Past 2 Years; Plus: We Need > 20 Words on Candidate's BRT

“Maybe the most charitable thing to say about the Governor’s rail-related comments…is that she’s too distracted by other issues to fully understand the project.”
That’s what Yes2Rail posted on April 2, 2010 following Linda Lingle’s appearance in the Insights PBS Hawaii public television show after she supported building some or all of the Honolulu rail project at ground level.

The most charitable thing to say about Ms. Lingle’s views on rail today is that she hasn’t changed them over the past two years. Despite at-grade rail’s significant safety issues, Ms. Lingle’s rail views are locked in concrete.

We’ll direct the same the same question to the former governor as we did in 2010: Don’t the positive attributes of elevated rail – fast, frequent, reliable and safe – matter?

Ms. Lingle still believes at-grade rail is superior to the city’s current elevated plan. After filing paperwork on Thursday to run for the United State Senate, she told KHON2:

“I wish I could support (rail) but I can’t support it the way it’s configured now…. I wouldn’t be any different in wanting to get (federal funds for rail) to Hawaii. I’d just want to get them for a reconfigured project, one that took into account how it comes into the Honolulu area.”

That’s code for “I support at-grade rail.” Another translation: “I want to kill rail, because once the plan deviates from what the Federal Transit Administration already has approved, rail will be dead.”

Ignoring the Evidence
The only explanation that makes sense to us when politicians prefer at-grade rail in Honolulu is that they’re politically motivated – an unsurprising assessment. The evidence that at-grade rail advocates ignore is the potential lethal hazard at-grade rail would be in dense and congested downtown Honolulu.

The evidence is displayed every day here at Yes2Rail in our right-hand column – evidence that at-grade rail transit trains demolish, hurt and kill. It happens in Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Houston, Denver, Sacramento and in every other city that builds a rail transit system at ground level. It would happen here, too.

What She Supports
Ms. Lingle has allied herself with the American Institute of Architects, Honolulu Chapter in promoting at-grade rail. She sponsored a forum in the State Capitol in 2010 at which several AIA members professed their support for rail transit – not just the city’s elevated version.

They urged that a dual-mode transit system be built here – elevated perhaps west of downtown but at-grade through the heart of downtown Honolulu. The above graphic is on AIA Honolulu’s Rail Issue page at the chapter’s website.

Yes2Rail took issue with this graphic the same month as Ms. Lingle’s AIA forum, but let’s review those observations, as we listed them on January 15, 2010:
• The first point is obvious; the train is at ground level, as would be cars and trucks crossing its path heading makai at this intersection of Maunakea and Hotel streets. Car-train interaction in Phoenix, AZ has produced an average of one accident per week for the city’s at-grade trains in their first year of operation.
The train is just feet from Hotel Street pedestrians, suggesting a significant safety hazard.
At-grade trains must travel slowly through crowded urban neighborhoods like this one, unlike overhead trains that are completely unaffected by surface congestion and hazards.
The train shares Hotel Street with TheBus, resulting inevitably in schedule conflicts and delays.
Unlike automated elevated systems, at-grade trains require drivers. Humans at the controls means greater accident risk, and time between trains must be at least twice as long as between elevated trains. (Today’s additional comment: Operations costs increase when drivers are at the controls.)
You have to look closely, but this is a short two-car train – much shorter than elevated trains. At-grade vehicles in Honolulu couldn't extend beyond the ends of Chinatown's short city blocks. This requirement significantly lowers the number of commuters transported on each train and therefore by the entire system.
Unless the architects think their trains will be powered from beneath street level somehow, trains will require overhead wires to supply electricity. Those lines are absent from this depiction.
And finally:
The artist has airbrushed out the pedestrian crosswalk across Hotel Street at this intersection; the existing crosswalk is easily seen in a photo taken from Google Maps (below). Pedestrians don’t just walk along Hotel Street but across it, too. Honolulu already has too many pedestrian accidents and deaths; adding trains every few minutes to congested neighborhoods would increase pedestrians' risk – especially among the elderly.

It Bears Repeating
Any politician who supports at-grade rail transit through Honolulu’s dense downtown neighborhoods, including Chinatown, has rejected safety as an issue rail in favor of political expediency.

Each time Ms. Lingle and other at-grade advocates provide a soothing description of what they want built here, think about the hazard at-grade rail would pose to Chinatown’s elderly population, to children, to inattentive drivers and anyone else who might find themselves unexpectedly in a train’s path.

It surely would happen here, just as it does elsewhere, but it would be impossible for any of those scenarios to occur with elevated rail – the only way to provide fast, frequent, reliable and SAFE rail transit through our city.

20 Words or Less
It’s worth repeating this, too: Ben Cayetano provided exactly 20 words of “detail” about his proposed bus rapid transit plan during Wednesday night’s mayoral debate.  He has steadfastly refused to disclose his BRT plan, which he told Civil Beat in March he’d release by mid-April.

It’s obvious that Mr. Cayetano is following the dictates in the Political Candidate’s Bible: “When you’re ahead in a race (or think you are), don’t give the opposition anything with which to tear you down.”

Civil Beat reported yesterday that Mr. Cayetano is skipping a previously scheduled debate among the three mayoral candidates this coming Tuesday, and if that’s true, we’re unlikely to learn anything else about his BRT plan in the days ahead.

Mr. Cayetano vows to kill rail if elected, so the electorate deserves to know what his alternative is. Stringing a couple hundred 20-word sound bites together to describe his BRT plan won’t cut it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mayoral Debate Probed Hard for Answer to This: ‘Mr. Cayetano, You Intend To Kill Rail, so What Are the Details of Your Bus Rapid Transit Plan?’ Candidate Gave Us All of 20 Words on His ‘Plan’

A close approximation of that question was indeed asked during last night’s televised mayoral debate – not by Tim “Rail PR Nightmare” Sakahara or Richard “Ben’s My Guy” Borreca, but by Hawaii News Now’s Keoki Kerr, who’s not even regularly assigned to cover rail. He should be.
Rail IS the issue, and that makes Ben Cayetano’s bus rapid transit plan that he wants to implement in rail’s place an issue, too. But we didn’t learn much at all about Mr. Cayetano’s BRT plan in the debate – no details, no time estimates, no descriptions, no lane changes or elevated section locations, no hard costs, nothing.

Yes2Rail, a pro-rail non-political blog, supports construction of the project as now planned and believes Mr. Cayetano essentially is asking Honolulu residents to buy his pig in a poke BRT scheme based on a 10-year-old study and a lot of worst-case fear mongering.

Here’s what Mr. Kerr asked Mr. Cayetano; we’ve highlighted the “specifics” of the candidate’s BRT plan in red a total of 20 words!

“Mr. Cayetano, please offer specifics on your plan for a bus rapid transit system and how it will be better far into the future when the population of Oahu has grown significantly.”
Mr. Cayetano’s response:
“Well, first, Keoki, let me say that the latest state population survey indicates that by 2030 the population will grow by one hundred thousand, so we’ll have just over a million. In 2003, Parsons Brinckerhoff produced an EIS that rated bus rapid transit superior to rail. We the taxpayers paid Parsons Brinckerhoff more than ten million dollars to do this study. A year later, the mayor changes. Mayor Hannemann comes in and says ‘I want steel on steel.’ If you want to look at my plan, it’s based basically on bus rapid transit. Attend our forums. We have it laid out. We propose things like better traffic synchronization, more express buses, and then we’ll get to in our second phase the bus rapid transit system on dedicated lanes.”
Mr. Kerr: “Can you tell the voters any specifics? How much will this cost? Where would that money come from? Are you gonna use exclusive lanes on the freeway and surface roads, sir?”
Mr. Cayetano: “Yes, the study by Parsons in 2003 indicated it would cost about a billion dollars. I don’t envision it costing that much. We’ll use existing lanes, yes. That’s part of the strategy of bus rapid transit. Will it have dedicated lanes, yes. There’s no city our size in this nation that has either built or plans to build steel on steel. They’re all moving to bus rapid transit.”

The other candidates were given time to comment on Mr. Cayetano’s answer.
Mayor Peter Carlisle: “You know, I think the critical point that’s been asked again and again is essentially, what are the specifics? We’re not getting specifics. What roads are going to be taken down? What different lanes are going to be separated (indistinct)? Are we taking the shoulder roads? I’ve heard something like that. Anybody who’s been a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney like you and me knows the concept of a forgiving roadway. If you don’t have that, you increase accidents. If something is stalled on one side or the bus stalls on the other side, what happens to that? What happens to the stuff that’s coming behind? Those are the details, and if those aren’t satisfied….(interrupted by moderator).”
Former Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell: “Keoki, you’re asking all the right questions. Others are asking the same of Ben. They haven’t got an answer yet. He’s referring to a study that’s now ten years old. We don’t know how it’s gonna be paid for. We don’t know where it’s exactly gonna go. We’ve heard it’ll be elevated, with massive off-ramps and on-ramps coming into our town. But we do know this: 58 hours a year now sitting in traffic for our island, the most congested city in the entire country, and Ben wants to dump hundreds of more buses onto these roads adding to that congestion. That’s not a plan. That’s a disaster.”

Other Rail Exchanges
Mr. Caldwell: “Ben, do you understand that the cost of constructing Honolulu’s rail system is paid for in full when the project is completed? There is no debt. There is no 30-year mortgage – paid for in full.”
Mr. Cayetano: “I surely understand that, but that assumes that everything will be perfect, that the revenue will come in as predicted, that there will be no cost overruns. The trouble with that is that there are three studies, one by the state, two by the FTA actually which predict that the cost will be seven billion and not five point two seven billion. Now, if you want (rail) to go to Manoa as you wanted, add another one point eight billion to that amount. How is that gonna be covered?”
Mr. Caldwell: “Ben, so you admitted it is fully paid for, and you understand there’s no debt, even though you tell people that we’re gonna have to use real property taxes to pay for this system. In fact, money that we’re collecting right now, we have a healthy eight hundred million dollar contingency to cover cost overruns, and therefore, it is not something you need to scare the people of this city and county with.”
Mr. Cayetano: “I’m not scaring anyone. I’m giving them the facts. Look, there’ve been ninety-three changes orders so far on this contract, OK? The studies as I pointed out (say) there’s gonna be cost overruns. The FTA’s own studies indicate that these projects average a forty-percent cost overrun. We’re talkin’ about a seven billion dollar project. Now, how’s that gonna be paid?”
Mr. Caldwell: “You keep referring to this study. The study I think you’re talkin’ about is one that Linda Lingle had done when she sat on the FEIS for almost a year and hired someone who’s anti-rail to do this study and come up with this trumped-up figure. But here are the facts. We have the U.S. Department of Transportation and FTA both saying the project at five point two billion is appropriate, and they hired a third party to come in and do a study and say the number is correct. So you keep referring to a fact that’s not correct, and we have many facts from federal authorities and third parties that verify that five point two billion is what the project is gonna cost.”

Not About Rail?
In his closing remarks, Mr. Cayetano said, “This election is not about rail. It’s about leadership.” If it’s not about rail, Mr. Cayetano's leadership has fooled us all with his Rail Truth Squad, his chili-and-rice get-togethers to discuss rail, his rail-focused pressconferences and his campaign website, which had five rail-related items on its home page last night.

If anything, the debate showed Honolulu’s handful of reporters who cover Honolulu rail and the election that it's OK to ask Mr. Cayetano questions about his transportation agenda. The former governor may talk tough and affect an air of intimidation, but once you get beyond his  aggressive stance and fear-mongering about what could go wrong with rail, Mr. Cayetano doesn’t have much to offer about his buses, and he avoids completely any discussion of BRT’s presumed impact on relieving congestion, which one of his opponents termed "a disaster."

Mr. Cayetano had an opportunity to shut down his critics by providing those elusive BRT details that Mr. Kerr and others are seeking. He didn’t do that, and we suspect it’s because he now realizes only elevated rail will give commuters in the H-1 corridor relief from the congestion they’ve come to loath. More buses wouldn't.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Media Continue News Blackout on Cayetano BRT Plan, Including Caldwell’s ‘Fantasy’ Criticism

We’re not much into conspiracy theories (except for the blackout in Hawaii of nearly all West Coast MLB teams' games), but the way the media treated Kirk Caldwell’s criticism of Ben Cayetano’s bus rapid transit plan makes you wonder.
Former Acting Mayor Caldwell, Cayetano and current Mayor Peter Carlisle are running for a four-year term as mayor. The primary election is August 11, and unless one of them receives 50 percent plus one of the votes cast, the top two vote-getters will face a runoff in November.

Pro-rail Caldwell’s press release yesterday called for adjustments in the current rail plan. The word on the street is that he’s trailing the other two candidates and faces elimination unless he gets a boost before August, so tweaking a plan that he supports in principle seems to be part of his strategy. (Ironically, the release wasn't posted on Mr. Caldwell's campaign website the last time we checked, so we went to an anti-rail site for a link.)

Another part is attacking presumed front-runner Mr. Cayetano. Although Yes2Rail is not a political blog, we do devote considerable space to what the candidates say about rail and what they don’t say, since the future of the rail project is riding on this election.

Mr. Cayetano said in March that he’d have that plan’s details available for the public to scrutinize by mid-April, but that didn’t happen. Knowing what he’d try to implement after he kills rail, which is his pledge, would seem to be essential information, or so it seems to us.

Blindered Media
But the media obviously don’t agree, since reporters for the major mass media in town (the Star-Advertiser and the three TV stations) don’t bother to ask about it. (See our “open letters” to reporters covering rail for those outlets here, here and here.)

And here’s the kicker: The major media ignored Mr. Caldwell’s criticism of the Cayetano BRT plan even as they reported his “tweaks” of the rail plan. Here comes the conspiracy theory speculation:

It’s almost as if the media refuse to investigate the so-far non-existent BRT plan for fear doing so might knock Mr. Cayetano so far down in the public’s esteem that he comes in third. A run-off between two pro-rail candidates wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining to the media as a Cayetano standoff against either Messrs. Carlisle or Caldwell.

High professional journalistic standards don’t explain the media’s refusal to even ask Mr. Cayetano to release a fully detailed BRT plan, so what does? The explanation we’re leaning toward is a deep-set anti-rail media bias among reporters and editors alike. Hawaii News Now’s use of the graphic at right in introducing a rail story last week was a clear indication of that bias. If someone has a better explanation, leave a comment below.

BRT's ‘Absolute Fantasy’
Since the media didn’t report on the bottom fourth of Mr. Caldwell’s release, we’ll reprint it in full:

Rail critics – including Ben Cayetano – have been fast and loose with the facts. Let’s set the record straight on just some of them.
  The current $5.2 billion budget includes a very large contingency and adequate reserves for short-term financing. Reports that it will cost $7 billion or more are only scare tactics unsupported by anyone except Tea Party-style rail critics.
25% of the construction budget has already been collected and 100% of costs will be collected by the time the system is completed. There will be no “mortgage” to pay in 2022 when the GET surcharge for the rail project ends.
  Costs to operate rail transit will cost MUCH lower than a comparable bus system. In the long run, rail transit will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars compared to buses.
  Despite what Ben keeps saying, other cities like Honolulu ARE building modern steel-wheel rail transit systems. Dallas, Seattle and Vancouver are just three recent examples. Those systems were completed on-time and on-budget, continue to expand, and are enjoying high ridership.
  Bus Rapid Transit – BRT – is an absolute fantasy as an alternative to rail, especially in the way that Ben Cayetano seems to be proposing. Ben’s BRT would double-deck major lengths of highways or city streets ­– or both – and just consider what that will mean with years of lane closures during construction. Consider the massive off-ramps we would have to build in town, and all of the disruption and traffic snarls that would cause. Imagine current congested traffic lanes being reduced and dedicated only to buses. Finally, consider this: it will take hundreds of additional buses to provide the carrying capacity of rail during peak hours. That’s hundreds of additional buses an hour on our freeways, highways and city streets. Ben’s BRT will add MORE congestion in town, not reduce it. It will cost a fortune to operate. And by they way, there’s no funding whatsoever in place to pay for BRT.

Mr. Caldwell’s release continues with additional supporting comments for the concept of building a grade-separated rail transit system, some of which you can read in the Star-Advertiser’s coverage of the release (subscription). But as of this writing, you won’t read his criticism of Ben Cayetano’s BRT plan anywhere else.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Latest Traffic Report Puts Honolulu in ‘Top’ Spot Ahead of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York; We Waste an Average of 58 Hours Annually, but Train Riders Will Avoid ALL Highway Congestion!

 Familiar experience for motorists on Honolulu's H-1 freeway
Wait for it: Honolulu rail opponents will turn the new INRIX traffic congestion scorecard into another reason to fight the project.
The latest report from INRIX, Inc. finds Honolulu is No. 1 in the number of hours drivers wasted in traffic congestion last year – 58 on average, 2 hours more than Los Angeles drivers.

INRIX also reports on how much longer a trip takes because of congestion compared to a period of no congestion. Honolulu ranks first in that category, too – 24 percent longer.

Even so, the lost-time and index results were lower in 2011 than the year earlier due to higher gas prices and a still-soft “stop n’ go” economy, INRIX says. But there can be no mistaking the data: Traffic in "paradise" (the San Francisco Chronicle's description of Honolulu) takes a greater toll on the average driver here than anywhere else in the country.

Twisting Rail’s Contribution
Since Honolulu’s traffic congestion problem is in the east-west corridor between west Oahu and downtown, rail project supporters argue legitimately that rail will give traffic-plagued drivers a workable alternative. Rail’s 20-mile line will parallel the main east-west thoroughfares.

But rail opponents will use this same data to argue against building the system. One of their main talking points is that “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than it is today.” Google that phrase and you find it used repeatedly by Cliff Slater and Ben Cayetano as they frame that statement as an “admission” by the city. It’s not an admission; it’s a statement of fact!

Eliminating congestion is the opponents’ goal hanging it out there like a star they can wish upon. It’s totally unrealistic, of course, since congestion is a fact of life as the INRIX report shows year after year.

Congestion will continue to grow on space-short Oahu as our population grows, and there’s nothing the opponents can propose that will make congestion go away.

But that doesn’t stop them from attacking rail – blaming it for failing to do the impossible. How ‘bout that for a strategy?

So stand by for Mr. Slater’s inevitable analysis that shows reducing the number of daily vehicle trips by 40,000 in the urban corridor in 2030 thanks to rail won’t eliminate Oahu’s congestion problem.

The one thing he won’t discuss is rail’s function as a travel alternative that will enable drivers to become riders and avoid all highway congestion on their commute. It’s an immutable truth.

This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the Oahu's Traffic Problem heading.

Monday, May 21, 2012

While We Wait for Ben Cayetano’s BRT Details, It’s Worth Reviewing At-Grade Rail’s Safety Record, Just In Case He Tries To Slip It In, plus LTE Forum: Quieter Trains Are the Norm Now

 Dow's inventive TV spot delivers a quiet-but-effective message.
Maybe this will be the week when (1) the media step up their requests for details of mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano's bus rapid transit plan; (2) he’ll release the plan on his own, 18 weeks after his official announcement, or (3) we won’t learn anything new.
While we wait, it’s useful to remember that in addition to his enthusiasm for buses, Mr. Cayetano has gone on record with a belief that at-grade rail transit would be preferable to the elevated system Honolulu intends to build.

Mr. Cayetano was one five speakers nearly a year ago at a Hawaii Venture Capital Association luncheon with a theme of “Big Projects – Why Are They Stuck?” The former governor talked about Honolulu rail, held up photographs, expressed dismay that traffic will be worse with rail than it is today – all standard Cliff Slater talking points – and made a passing reference to at-grade rail transit as preferable to elevated rail.

Since Mr. Cayetano’s “transportation plan” isn’t transparent, anything could be in there, including the kind of at-grade systems that have been built on the mainland, including Phoenix.

Scores of Accidents
Phoenix built a 20-mile at-grade rail system that opened in December 2008. It experienced 52 accidents in its first year – one a week – and the hit parade has continued.

Phoenix TV station KPHO, which has focused on the train-crash story since the service began, reported earlier this month on the system's 118 crashes since 2009, mostly in downtown Phoenix and Tempe.

A Valley Metro Light Rail spokeswoman said the escalating number of accidents can be blamed on drivers and pedestrians who just don’t pay enough attention to their surroundings.  “When you are sharing the road with a very large vehicle and it takes it a very long time to stop, you have to be so much more mindful of the signals and being very aware,” she said.

Can you imagine how an at-grade train and Honolulu’s aging population would interact along Hotel Street (above), which the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects proposed as an at-grade thoroughfare? The chapter produced the graphic to support its plan, but as we noted two years ago, the hazard to pedestrians in Chinatown can’t be airbrushed away, which is what happened to the existing crosswalk at this Maunakea and Hotel streets intersection.

According to Health Trends in Hawaii, the number of elderly aged 75 and older increased 115 percent in the state between 1990 and 2009, compared to 75 percent nationally. At-grade’s potential hazard to pedestrians is obvious and can’t be overemphasized, and neither can the relatively poor driving habits of Oahu drivers (how many red-light runners did you see today?).

We’re hopeful Mr. Cayetano’s BRT plan will be detailed soon, and when it is, we’ll be watching for any reference to an at-grade rail “supplement.”

A letter to the editor from a Kailua resident in today’s Star-Advertiser (subscription) is a direct response to rail opponents who say Honolulu’s rail system will be noisy:

• Modern rail systems not noisy like before (S-A, 5/21/12)
“Some people have expressed concern about the noise level of the rail system. The clickety-clack sound of rail cars passing over rail joints is from days past. Modern systems arc weld the rail joints, then they are ground to a micro-finish. Rail cars rolls quietly over the gleaming, smooth rails.
“There is no locomotive in a modern urban rail system. Each passenger car is powered by new technology electric motors that produce a lower noise level than a diesel bus.”

The letter gave us a good reason to link to one of the more inventive (and we predict) award-winning commercials airing these days. Have a look, and as you watch, notice how elevated rail a common configuration in cities around the world is depicted as just another urban convenience.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Review: Rail Project’s Concrete Pours, BRT Plan Leaks, the Lawsuit Shrinks and Rail’s Opposition Shows Signs of Coming Unhinged

Let’s begin with the unhinging, which is what the leadership of the Honolulu rail project’s opposition appears to be undergoing.
Cliff Slater, who has fought every mass transit project proposed in this city for decades, is intensifying his accusations that city officials are just a bunch of liars about rail. He called the anti-rail morning talk show host yesterday and said “the city lied through its teeth” about rail’s effect on future traffic congestion in the lead-up to the 2008 “steel-on-steel” election.  He also posted on his website yesterday that City Director of Transportation Services Wayne Yoshioka has been spreading “outright lies.”

Accusing others of lying is a time-tested way to divert attention from one’s own dubious statements, so it’s a logical tactic for the Obfuscator in Chief to adopt. We’ve posted links to many of Mr. Slater’s more outrageous statements over the years at our “aggregation site.”

Stopping Short
Mr. Yoshioka and all other credible rail supporters truthfully say rail will reduce future road congestion as many commuters and others who now drive through the urban core will take the train instead. The city estimates there will be 40,000 fewer vehicle trips through the core each day in 2030 than there’d be if rail were not built.

Mr. Slater acknowledged the truth of that assessment when he testified before the City Council on July 14, 2010 and said: “We don’t disagree at all that rail will have an effect on reducing traffic congestion from what it might be if we did nothing at all….”

But that doesn’t stop Mr. Slater from calling Mr. Yoshioka a liar. Why? Because Mr. Slater believes city officials like Mr. Yoshioka aren’t telling the rest of the story when they say rail will have a positive effect on future congestion.

The rest of the story – which is obvious to anyone without an anti-rail agenda – is that congestion will continue to increase long after rail is built no matter what happens on the island. It will be worse in 2030 (and 2040 and 2050) than it is today. Congestion grows when the population and number of vehicles grow, and there’s nothing remarkable about that fact.

A True Believer
But Mr. Slater is a highwayman at heart and believes rail isn’t worth building if it doesn’t reduce road congestion. It’s this mindset that leads Mr. Slater to come close to lying in his gross misrepresentations about the project:

By implying in his speeches (to the Rotary Club of Honolulu and many other venues) that rail should reduce congestion, he avoids telling his audiences about one of rail’s biggest future deliverables – a way to travel that’s avoids traffic congestion altogether.

Rail isn’t the “solution” to traffic that Mr. Slater says it should be. Nothing will "solve" traffic – not even his beloved high-occupancy toll lanes. Abundant evidence exists that congestion is a natural consequence when the public is on the move. It happens.

Mr. Slater believes it’s a lie to say rail will have the positive effect of slowing congestion’s growth. The City is indisputably truthful in saying that, but since he wants congestion to actually decrease, the statement is a lie in Mr. Slater’s world.

Such is the nature and motivation of the anti-rail lobby that rail supporters must counteract with their communications efforts.

Project Developments
The anti-rail lawsuit that will be heard in Federal District Court in August was narrowed somewhat this week when the judge hearing the case removed some of the plaintiff’s challenges from the case.

Judge A. Wallace Tashima said Mr. Slater and his fellow plaintiffs, including former Governor Ben Cayetano who’s running for mayor with an intent to kill rail, had no standing to challenge environmental valuations of certain historic sites along rail’s 20-mile line.

Also this week, construction workers began pouring the concrete foundations for the columns that will hold up the overhead guideway. The work on the line is beginning on the west end and will proceed over the next months toward town.

The Federal Transit Administration gave its approval this week for the city to begin construction of a pre-cast yard in Campbell Industrial Park. That’s where the overhead structures will be cast and cured before being trucked to the construction site for placement atop the columns, as detailed in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story (subscription).

That Elusive BRT Plan
The week ended without the release of Mr. Cayetano’s bus rapid transit plan that he said in March would be released by mid-April. It’s a remarkable situation we’re in – approaching an election that might mean the death of rail without knowing what the rail killer would launch instead.

We did learn on Wednesday that turning highway shoulders into bus lanes apparently is part of that still-secret plan. Anti-rail Panos Prevedouros was a guest on that same morning radio show and said the plan will include BOS – bus on shoulder. It sounds crazy to us for obvious reasons – including safety, slowness and being inadequate to meet Oahu's transportation needs.

But that’s just our thinking here in Yes2Rail, a “biased blog,” according to a TV reporter who gets all worked up about rail’s public relations efforts (to combat Mr. Slater's misinformation) but ignores the biggest rail-related story – Mr. Cayetano’s BRT plan, whatever it is.

Stay tuned for more healthy bias next week.

This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Conversation with TV Stations' Rail Journalist: Tim Sakahara Calls to Inquire about the Rail PR ‘Sideshow’ but Ignores Elephant in the ‘Big Top’

Hawaii News Now's Sakahara begins report on "PR Nightmare."
Yesterday’s email and phone call were from Tim Sakahara of Hawaii News Now. That itself was unusual, since our work on the Honolulu rail project doesn’t include media relations.
Mr. Sakahara wanted to talk about the project’s public relations activities, since he’d been put onto that story by at least one office holder who has asked about alleged PR “redundancies.” We told him we know nothing about HART’s PR issues, if any exist.

He then asked about our own connections to the project as a “paid consultant,” a fact displayed prominently at the top of this blog. We explained our subcontractor relationship with PB Americas, the city’s principal rail contractor, then shared a few thoughts (paraphrased as follows) with this highly visible TV journalist who covers Honolulu rail for three Honolulu stations. (Mainland readers might be astounded to learn that.)

“Tim, if I may, all this interest in the rail project’s so-called public relations effort is hard to understand. Communications outreach is necessary in every major transportation project funded by the FTA, so having personnel doing that work is neither surprising nor particularly noteworthy. It seems to me you’re so consumed by the PR Sideshow that you’re missing the elephant of a news story in the Big Top – Ben Cayetano’s still-secret bus rapid transit plan.”

Mr. Sakahara’s response was non-committal at best. He didn’t evidence any agreement with our assessment, but we thought we detected a glimmer of recognition that such a story may indeed be inside the Big Top.

‘Rail’s PR Nightmare’
We waited for the 6 o’clock news last night with more anticipation than usual. Mr. Sakahara introduced his report with a remarkable graphic displayed next to him, as seen in the photo at the top of today’s post.

“PR Nightmare”? Is that Mr. Sakahara’s opinion? Is it the newscast producer’s assessment or the news director’s? Who at HNN will claim ownership of this obvious editorial comment in the middle of a newscast? The news story itself hadn’t even begun, and already PR is being trashed as a “nightmare.”

Mr. Sakahara’s piece began: “At prior rail events, there have been more public relations people than reporters.”

What is Mr. Sakahara’s point 13 words into the story – that too many staff people work at these events where the public is informed about rail?  Does he know those public relations people are there to answer the public’s questions about rail – answers they apparently can’t get in media coverage?  What’s surprising to us at these meetings is how few reporters bother to attend.

Mr. Sakahara counted up the number of communications people working for HART, key HART consultant InfraConsult and building contractor Kiewit Pacific. Then there are subcontractors,” Mr. Sakahara continued, “like the Yes2Rail blog written by Doug Carlson. He is a communications specialist paid (emphasis in the reporter’s voice-over) by Parsons Brinckerhoff to write the biased blog to advance rail.”

“Biased blog.” We’d choose any number of other words to describe this space, but that one is loaded and may say more about Mr.Sakahara’s approach to covering rail than anything we can write here.

‘Channel’ Journalism
Mr. Sakahara has shown a tendency to run with certain office holders’ criticism of the rail project and its staff, including last night’s report of the project’s communications efforts. 

Last July, less than two weeks after HART’s official stand-up, he reported on concerns in some City Hall offices that HART staff was leasing office space in downtown Honolulu. The fact that those same personnel had been in that same space for four years as employees of the City’s Rapid Transit Division was downplayed and virtually overlooked.

There’s nothing new in newsmakers seeking out friendly reporters who turn criticisms into prominent stories. The practice is as old as journalism itself, but what’s missing in Honolulu media coverage of rail is a sense of balance.

Inside the ‘Big Top’
The biggest rail-related story pregnant with potential today is what mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano would try to implement if he wins the election and kills rail. Yet that’s the story most local journalists are not reporting. They are not asking for Mr. Cayetao's bus rapid transit plan and don’t  report Mr. Cayetano’s refusal to release it.

Civil Beat’s rail reporter says he’s been asking Mr. Cayetano for the plan’s details, and the candidate is not returning his calls – perhaps a lingering hangover from February when Mr. Cayetano banished that reporter.

This “biased” Yes2Rail blog is apolitical and posts commentary on Mr. Cayetano and his anti-rail, pro-BRT efforts because they threaten a project that was planned over several years and endorsed one way or another in numerous elections by Oahu residents. That all happened before Mr. Cayetano and his Gang of Four launched their own anti-rail public relations campaign last August with their 1500-word manifesto in the Star-Advertiser – a piece Civil Beat’s Fact Check feature took apart.

Rail project communicators are charged with educating the public, and that often includes highlighting the misinformation and inaccuracies of rail opponents. Mr. Sakahara calls this blog and presumably other communications efforts “biased,” but would he use this same loaded word to describe the opinions of prominent rail opponents and critics?

We don’t think he would, since the thrust of his own rail focus parallels their attitudes. So consider today’s Yes2Rail post an Open Letter to Mr. Sakahara urging him to broaden that focus. We’ve already posted similar epistles to the Star-Advertiser’s B.J. Reyes and Pacific Business News’ Mark Abramson urging them to enter the Big Top and start describing the elephant in there.

Failing that, they risk wearing the “biased” tag themselves.

Elsewhere in rail-related news, the project generated these headlines in today’s Star-Advertiser (subscription):
Most claims over railproject’s impact on sites are dismissed

The beat goes on.