Daily Archives: January 19, 2012

Rail’s little secret: Standing room only

I’m sure lots of people picture themselves riding Honolulu’s rail system, coasting on those elevated tracks above the traffic snarl below, while catching up with reading or getting a little work done on a laptop during the commute into downtown Honolulu from the west side.

Well, a story by Mark Abramson in the current issue of Pacific Business News suggests that scenario isn’t accurate.

According to PBN, Honolulu’s two-car trains are designed to carry up to 350 passengers during peak periods.

Each car will have seating for a maximum of 38 people, apparently meaning there will be seating 76 out of the maximum 350 passengers on the two cars. But the seats are designed so that they can be retracted and folded away.

And here’s the catch–to carry their maximum load during peak commuter hours, many of those seats will have to be taken out of use. That’s right. The more passengers are expected, the less seating will be provided.

“It’s a newer design and different seat configuration,” said HART spokesman Scott Ishikawa. “BART, they are older cars. These Honolulu cars are going to be much newer in design, and because of [fewer] seats there will be a lot more people standing.

I’m perhaps reading between the lines here, but Honolulu’s projected ridership numbers–the numbers that appear to show that enough people will ride the rails to pay for the system–appear to depend on the standing room only strategy.

I wonder if those surveys asking whether people are likely to use rail would get different results if the question included the information that most commuters will have to stand (over 80% will be standing, although the exact numbers weren’t provided in this PBN story) .

Fewer seats and “more people standing” is considered a new and improved design? That’s a line made up by someone who doesn’t make much use of public transportation, I would guess.


Bill would make public employment a zone of secrecy

And away we go!!

The 2012 session of the Hawaii State Legislature started yesterday, and tomorrow morning the first bill that would hammer away at the public’s right to know will have a public hearing before the House Committee on Labor & Public Employment. The hearing is scheduled for 10:05 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in Conference Room 309.

HB 1356 was introduced last year by Rep. Karen Awana but died without a hearing. If passed into law, the bill would mean we would no longer know much of anything about people on the public’s payroll.

The bill is certainly not the first bid to limit information about public workers, but it could be the most ambitious.

Public testimony should urge Committee Chair Karl Rhoads to stop this bill now and support the need for openness and accountability in public employment.

Thanks to Nikki Love of Common Cause Hawaii for calling attention to the bill and the upcoming hearing.

The bill would shield even the most basic information, the names of public employees, from disclosure.

Here’s what else would be rendered state secrets under this bill:

• business address

• business telephone number

• job description

• education and training background

• previous work experience

• dates of employment

• position number

• type of appointment

• occupation

• bargaining unit

• employing agency, department, division, branch, office, section, etc.

• island of employment

The only information deemed “public” would be a job title and associated salary range.

The bill’s introduction says it is in reaction to Civil Beat’s requests for public information about public employees, and subsequent publication of employee rosters and salaries.

Although the bill refers to the possible increased risk of identity theft, none of the published information was of the detailed and personal nature that would contribute to such a risk.

Testimony on HB 1356 can be easily submitted online.