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Ian Lind • Now online daily from Old Kahala

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S-A wrong in cheap shot at Cayetano and rail critics

March 18th, 2012 · 37 Comments

Today’s Star-Advertiser editorial makes the newspaper’s position clear (“Cayetano’s rail tactics a disservice“).

The newspaper has staked out a decidedly pro-rail position, while attacking those critical of rail. Period.

Today’s editorial attacks former governor and current mayoral candidate, Ben Cayetano, for a variety of supposed offenses, including “cherry-picking through old communications” and muddying public understanding of the issues.

From the editorial:

In a 2009 email, Joseph Ossi, an FTA environmental protection specialist, noted that the Environmental Protection Agency had asked why light rail and an improved bus system weren’t among the alternatives considered in the city’s environmental impact statement.

City consultants did weigh these options, however. In the course of examining alternatives in 2006, extensive public “scoping” meetings were held. An enhanced bus system was among the alternatives examined, along with fixed-guideway alternatives that included light rail.

Whether or not all the alternatives that already were rejected also needed to be in the EIS is among the issues in the lawsuit, so officials for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation have declined comment on that point.

But in selectively raising it, Cayetano fell short of presenting adequate context. This certainly left many with the wrong impression that alternatives had not been considered, or the reasons why they were rejected. [emphasis added]

Okay. These is an editorial, so holding it to a news standard may be unfair. But when the editorial calls out Cayetano for supposedly not “informing people responsibly,” turnabout is fair play.

So, Star-Advertiser editorial writers, exactly where in the huge library of reports did the city’s consultants evaluate the light rail alternative?

The S-A is certainly not the first to flatly assert that light rail was studied. But, as far as I can tell, they are wrong.

I’ve written about my search for the missing light rail alternative several times over the past couple of years (“What happened to the light rail alternative to Honolulu’s transit plan?“March 8th, 2010; “Round and round we go in search of the missing light rail alternative“, November 24th, 2011; and “What happened to the light rail alternative (redux)?“, November 21st, 2011).

I’ve heard lots of bluster in response, much of the, “harumph, harumph, of course it was studied, etc, etc.” variety. But, so far, no one has been able to cite page and verse where this alternative was examined and found wanting.

The Star-Advertiser says the “scoping” process did include light rail. To repeat:

An enhanced bus system was among the alternatives examined, along with fixed-guideway alternatives that included light rail.

Talk about cherry picking!

What the S-A doesn’t tell readers is that the scoping studies actually identified light rail as a viable alternative that needed to be studied in the EIS along with other “fixed guideway” options.

And that never happened, despite the scoping study recommendation. Light rail was allowed to just disappear without comment, and without serious study.

If I’m wrong about this, then just send me the volume/page references. I would be most interested in reading why light rail would have been rejected, and to evaluate the evidence. I’ll be glad to apologize and share the updated information with readers here.

If, however, volume/page references can’t be found for any real study of the light rail alternative that resulted in its rejection, will the S-A be willing to recant publicly?

I know how I would bet on that last point.

Tags: Media · Politics

37 responses so far ↓

  • 1 no spam // Mar 18, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I find myself in the uncomfortable position of siding with the Star Sadvertiser, and respectfully disagreeing with you one this one, Ian.

    Alternatives WERE considered, and along with my personal favorite, a leeward traffic mitigation (tunnel across Pearl Harbor Harbor channel between Ewa and HNL/ Hickam area) were discarded. I believe the light rail is low capacity, at grade with higher neighborhood disruption and less safe.

    Anyway, a quick look at the EIS (Chapter 2, page 4, see: http://honolulutransit.org/media/7515/20110701-final-eis-chapter-02.pdf
    indicates light rail WAS considered!

  • 2 Ian Lind // Mar 18, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Thanks for this reference to the final, revised EIS. This apparently is the only attempt at a substantive assessment of light rail.

    The problem here is that these few paragraphs dismiss the alternative all to easily without supporting data. On first reading, it appears they are referencing back to the scoping process, as the Star-Advertiser presumed, since the tables go back to the scoping reports. On closer reading, it is clear this is a late add-on to the EIS which fails to seriously address the most widely used rail technology, light rail, and fails to consider the environmental tradeoffs, the costs vs benefits, which is what you would expect in an EIS. It’s a superficial, c-y-a analysis at best.

  • 3 Andy Parx // Mar 18, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I was as if you were in my head as I read the editorial, Ian. But I also thought that, though I wasn’t at these scoping meetings, the consensus among those who were there is that people were told “just wait- there’ll be plenty of time to talk about alternatives” and as soon as the DEIS came out they were told “it’s too late- you should have said something during the scoping process.”

    It’s as if the city did everything to set up the usual reasons EISs are struck down in court- one, that the alternatives were not properly presented and two, that public input was improperly ignored. The city is in for a rude awakening in court.

  • 4 jonthebru // Mar 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I am not a Oahu resident but I have resided there in the past and I think…
    that steel rail is the wrong way to go. The motivation of the selectors has been excessively financial not completely appropriate in this case. For the expense, there will not be the volume of riders. Steel is very noisy. Very. The integrated at grade system is used successfully all around the world. Yes safety issues can exist but they also can be alleviated. Much of the path would be on its own away from traffic as the steel rail systems would be. The mark on the landscape is a big factor. There will be elevated paths and large developments at the stations. The station developments may not be as intrusive as many feel. The New Jersey Transit stations are often just large parking lots where the trains stop. I personally love the idea of mass transit but in our class based society there are many among us who could care less about the masses and won’t support any mass transit.
    Ben by the way will get a forum for the discussion by running but I don’t feel you folks will elect him mayor.

  • 5 Richard Gozinya // Mar 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I’m still wondering where the newspaper was when the critical emails were first going around. Seems that would have been newsworthy stuff and of value to the public. It may be “old news” now but it seems like it never was just plain “news”.

  • 6 Keith Rollman // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Every conceivable alternative mode of mass transit has been analyzed, discussed and evaluated since the 1980’s…and probably before that.

  • 7 Jane // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

    The problem I have with the release of the FTA emails is that one party to discovery in a civil lawsuit against the City and FTA can use this source of information as part of his personal mayoral campaign when the other candidates cannot. The incumbent may be unethical if he tried to use non-public City discovery in his personal mayoral campaign, and the third candidate has no access to the discovery. So, is the first candidate ‘cherry picking’? – Well, we don’t know what else is there, do we? And we have no way to find out. But somehow I find it hard to believe that in 500,000 pages, there aren’t at least 5 that show the other side.
    Whether or not light rail was adequately studied (which is a different issue than the one I have) or whether or not you support the rail project, I think the conclusion is valid that Cayetano is “cherry-picking through old communications” and is not “informing people responsibly.”

  • 8 Doug Carlson // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Ian, you rushed fast past the editorial’s focus. “Email-Gate” was below the standard we might have expected. The Cliff Slater-inspired anti-rail campaign has a problem at its core, and it’s rotten.

  • 9 Keith Rollman // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Speaking of cheap shots at Cayetano…his camp was uber-fast to put out a press release that the vandalism to his banner was politically motivated. Quote: “This is a direct attempt to stifle our right and the owner’s right of free speech.” Really? All you have are bullet holes of unknown origin…a pretty good case for vandalism, and maybe reckless endangerment, but not infringement of constitutional rights. Shouldn’t we wait for facts or proof before awarding Ben the victim card?

  • 10 Doug Carlson // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I just heard the roar of the every-Sunday caravan of dozens of motorcycles roll by on Kalanianaole Highway. Who knows why those shots were fired.

  • 11 Keith Rollman // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Doug, no journalist in Honolulu has ever pursued the funding mechanism behind the conservative “think tanks” and pseudo-scholars that fuel opposition to public mass transit. For those who are curious the answer is: The Koch Brothers (petroleum) fund ALL of them.

  • 12 no spam // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I don’t know how extensive the analysis – or just assessment – was done, but your “Light rail was allowed to just disappear without comment, and without serious study.” point seems to be at least partially in error.

    Also there’s no evidence to support your “It’s a superficial, c-y-a analysis at best.” For that matter, how much depth and breath or kind of analysis – or simple assessment – or perfunctory call or judgment – that is undertaken – or even mandated – well, that is unknown to yours truly.

    Wasn’t the Final EIS approved, accepted – or at least not contested – by the required approvals (Governor, FTA, etc.?). If so – and I’m quite sure this is the case, why all the bellyaching or delaying tactics – won’t this just serve to drive up construction delays and costs?

    Not that it should matter, but I personally haven’t, nor will likely never enjoy the benefits of mass transit here; even if I’m still alive when it’s completed; but I see the merits in it. I don’t any personal financial interest in it.

  • 13 Richard Gozinya // Mar 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I’d be interested in seeing some proof of links between the Honolulu anti-rail folks and the Koch Brothers. Something specific would be nice.

  • 14 interesting // Mar 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    “Speaking of cheap shots at Cayetano…his camp was uber-fast to put out a press release that the vandalism to his banner was politically motivated. ”
    I too noticed his camp’s uber-fast response. It also seemed strangely uber-well-prepared for allegations that appear to tie the strange shootings to Cayetano’s political campaign. At best, this whole thing is just getting weirder.

    NOTE: THIS IS NOT ANY ALLEGATION ABOUT THE IDENTITY OF THE SHOOTERS! (although some will probably take it that way.)

    It is just increasingly interesting how things are becoming amid Honolulu’s battle over rail. Mass transit can spur so much emotion, like abortion and gay marriage.

  • 15 Keith Rollman // Mar 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Google Cliff Slater and Reason Foundation; or Cliff Slater and Heritage Foundation; or Cliff Slater and Cato Institute….then Koch Charitable Trust and any of those organizations. Try Atlas Economic Research Foundation (the “Johnny Appleseed of conservative think tanks) and Grassroot Institute (of which Panos and Cliff are members). Then Atlas funding sources….you get Koch Brothers Charitable Trust again. This is really easy stuff…c’mon guys.

  • 16 Richard Gozinya // Mar 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    In the interest of a fair and balanced investigation, I googled all those connections but only found the obviously conspiratorial ramblings of a deranged, paranoid mind. But it was certainly entertaining and imaginative and better than what the Star Advertiser coughs up.

  • 17 Keith Rollman // Mar 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    If you were expecting a canceled check I’m afraid your expectations were too high.

  • 18 Michael in Waikiki // Mar 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm


    Enough said. . .

    Amazing how this innocuous blog elicits such rapid-fire responses by rail supporters (in it’s current form being pushed on the people). What causes some people to go over the edge when anything anti-rail is mentioned publicly?

    Loss of income perhaps?

    Why does the mere mention of 80-year-old Cliff Slater’s name cause anxiety attacks?

    Heavy PR tactics won’t cut it anymore. Nor will trying to equate Slater with the face of the opposition. Those days are over.

    Senior citizens being shouted down at City Hall meetings by union members. Go Rail Go! banging on drums shouting and screaming while Ben Cayetano is giving an interview. Political payoffs, cronyism, pseudo activists groups–it’s all staged and residents are having second-thoughts for all the reasons above and more.

    (Yeah, those bullet holes in Cycle City had nothing to do with Cayetano’s campaign.)

    Cayetano isn’t gaining momentum because of his youth and good looks. The opposition appears to be getting support from different parts of the entire political spectrum. People want substance–not spin.

    Still waiting for SOMEONE to provide Ian with “volume/page references” as it relates to a “real study of light-rail alternatives”.

    The silence is golden.

  • 19 Taxpayers // Mar 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    The Star Advertiser is the Honolulu Rail Transit’s star advertiser.

    This allegedly “newspaper” has sold it’s soul to the highest bidders on Oahu.

  • 20 Taxpayers // Mar 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    They are doing 24/7 damage control for the Honolulu Rail Transit.

  • 21 Richard Gozinya // Mar 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Lest anyone misunderstand, I am one of Keith’s 4 regular readers of Atomic Monkey and thus feel entitled to harass him unmercifully, and vice versa. It’s all in fun.

  • 22 zzzzzz // Mar 18, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I assume you meant, “I don’t (have) any personal financial interest in it.”

    That would mean you don’t spend any money on O’ahu, as all of us that do have a personal financial interest in rail.

  • 23 Michael in Waikiki // Mar 19, 2012 at 5:34 am

    I like Keith, but like so many other good people in town, he drank too much of the rail kool-aid and can’t see straight.

    Thankfully most residents are coming back to their senses, one vote at a time.

  • 24 Keith Rollman // Mar 19, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Thanks, Dick. Can I call you Dick?

  • 25 skeptical once again // Mar 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I think that there might be two or three issues that are being conflated in the question of whether or not the City really looked at different transportation options.

    Whether or not the City seriously looked at different options has been debated over and over for the past several years. But it’s interesting to parse the politicians’ exact response to particular transportation options. In particular, there is the charge that maglev was never considered. The City council members and other insiders have been quite specific that they did look at maglev, but after considering the state’s experience with Aloha stadium, they wanted to shy away from a cutting-edge technology that might fail. That’s a fairly honest and plausible explanation, I think.

    Now, if one looks at the public testimony during the discussion phase of choosing a technology (which I followed on TV) and in public documents such as the EIS (which I looked at) and in the comments of critics, one will notice that the actual reasons given for rejecting maglev (e.g., wariness of futuristic technology, resulting from past experience of failed high tech) are not mentioned.

    This suggests to me that maglev was considered, but prior to the public discussions. So various transportation options were probably discussed — but prior to the authorized period of time when there was supposed to be such an official discussion of options, a period that would include public input. This seems to go against the regulations.

    The other issue or problem is that these unofficial, backdoor, ‘private’ discussions among the decision-making elite that were prior to the official discussion period seem to have been cursory and kind of amateurish. They seemed to have quickly eyeballed the maglev option and said to themselves “reminds me of Aloha stadium”. End of discussion. So not only was the discussion of options (illegally) private, but also brief.

    This raises the issue of the pros and cons of democracy. The United States is not and was not meant to be a ‘democracy’ strictly speaking. It’s a republic. We do not directly vote on laws as was done in ancient Athens; we elect people who make those decisions for us. In the case of the Electoral College, we vote for a candidate and then a mysterious body of electors merely uses our popular vote as a suggestion for how they will vote. This reflects a real distrust of the voter. As Winston Churchill once said, talking with the average voter for five minutes is the greatest argument against democracy. So instead we vote to select trustees and pray that they are wise and just.

    The problem with that in Hawaii is that we consistently vote for people like Rod Tam.

    This raises a third issue: the competence of the elite.

    Ben Franklin was once asked whether or not he believe in property restrictions on voting in order to weed out the ignorant and incompetent. His humorous response was, No, I think the rich and powerful should be allowed to vote.

    Likewise, what we have in Hawaii is an elite that is inept, and not much of an educated middle class. It’s been said that in Hawaii, there are a few doctors and lawyers sending their kids to Punahou on one side, and the rest of us on the other side. But even the local doctors and lawyers ain’t all that. You better take your vitamins because the last place you want to end up is in one of Hawaii’s hospitals.

  • 26 Richard Gozinya // Mar 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

    No problem if you preface it with my formal title “Impressively large” rather than the more commonly used “Such a.”

  • 27 no spam // Mar 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Regarding maglev, I know personally it was discussed… and even at nauseam, I believe. At one meeting I attended someone even brought up concerns regarding interference with heart pacemakers and defibullators, but this potential issue was dismissed in a trite, obnoxious, unserious manner.

    Far as hospitals here go, i doubt that they’re any worse than elsewhere, on average, but it makes sense to go to the specialists and those that focus on particular maladies than just go any place for unique sickness, disease or illness. Yet I don’t have data to support this or dispute your assertion.

    Far as the new spring (Punahou) goes, it seems to me like you’re a couple of days premature – and a whole lot negative on the rest of our formalized child education. Punahou ain’t that great, and the rest ain’t that bad. Better to be in a good group of students, than a druggie one at Punahou.

  • 28 Undecided // Mar 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I haven’t been a backer of either heavy or light rail and haven’t been following that aspect of the rail debate. But from what I’ve somewhat inadvertently read here and there, I have come to think it’s a shame more information isn’t available about why elevated heavy rail is supposedly a better fit for Oahu than at-grade light rail. I don’t know whether the city’s decision to exclude light rail and other options from the Alternatives Analysis will be upheld by the courts or not, but in return for failing to provide the public with a detailed explanation of how well light rail does when directly compared with the heavy elevated rail that was chosen, the rail syndicate has paid a price in terms of support from the public.

    Why should the public want details? All leaders are not alike. Some are better, some are worse, and some are more honest and some are less honest. With that thought in mind, let’s play a short game of “what if?” What if elevated heavy rail really was the best transit alternative for Oahu? It seems that, with the system for selecting a mass transit system we have in place now, if a bad, dishonest mayor (with the assistance of city councilmembers of similar character) set out to build a mass transit system, and was quickly informed by experts that elevated rail was probably best for Oahu, but was soon after approached by people from the auto industry or whoever Moofy used to say was behind opposition to rail, and these anti-rail auto industry types offered the bad dishonest and perhaps hungry mayor a lifetime supply of twinkies or whatever the bad dishonest mayor has an appetite for in exchange for building any type of mass transit system but an elevated rail system, if such a situation were to occur, the current process we use to select transportation projects would not be capable of preventing that bad mayor from eliminating elevated rail from consideration. Furthermore, under our current way of doing things, the bad dishonest mayor would not need to provide the public with much justification for his actions. An extremely thin explanation would suffice, unless a court eventually determines otherwise anyway.

    In much the same way that light rail and other alternatives have been dismissed, heavy rail could also have been thrown out for being too expensive, or for the harm to view planes heavy rail would cause. It all depends on how priorities are weighted. The way things stand now, virtually any transportation alternative can be eliminated from competition early on. The only alternative that could not be eliminated early on by bad leaders would necessarily be one that did not possess a single “con,” because possession of a single negative trait that the *favored* system does not also possess could be used as grounds for elimination. Worse yet, even a perfect transportation system that excels in every measurement could be eliminated by a bad dishonest mayor who is not required to provide evidence to support mayoral accusations that a negative exists.

    From time to time the prospect of building a tunnel beneath Pearl Harbor is raised. This may be a good or bad idea, but even if it was a good one it would be subject to the whims of bad leadership. “An undersea tunnel?” a crooked mayor might say. “Forget about it. It would cost much too much.” “How much is too much” someone might ask in reply. “The city’s experts said it costs too much, and that’s all you need to know!” are the words a bad, dishonest mayor might use to prevent the study of a potentially superior transit alternative.

    As for FTA approval, keep in mind that we were not that long ago traveling down the road to a bus rapid transit system, and we were traveling down that road under the watchful eye of the FTA, whom I don’t remember giving the slightest indication that they thought we were making a big mistake, or that the system we clearly should have been pursuing was elevated heavy rail. If it indeed was the case that Honolulu was on its way to spending a large sum of money on a bus rapid transit system that did not fit its needs, the FTA was their willing accomplice. The FTA has their own ever-changing criteria for accepting proposed transit systems for federal funding, and it seems they will support any proposal that meets their own criteria, whether its the best option for a given city or not. Whether its steel on steel rail, or bus rapid transit, it all looks good enough to the folks at the FTA. Well, to the politicians at the top anyway.

    The bottomline: Under the selection process we have in place now, concerned taxpayers will never know for sure that the best choice was selected because they aren’t allowed to know the details of exactly how competing transportation “solutions” measured up against each other, and for some odd reason, that’s the way some people like it.

  • 29 Jane // Mar 19, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    In the paper this morning…”This is not the first time the windows at Cycle City have been shot at. Ryan (Cycle City Mgr.) says bullet holes damaged their windows, even before Cayetano’s banners were put up. He says the signs will not be put back up anytime soon.” And, “Ryan said the store’s windows have been shot at two other times since he began working there last June.” Another article said a bullet hole was found at ground level where there are no campaign signs.

    Seems this may be another “disservice” Cayatano’s camp is perpetrating on the voters.

  • 30 outreach // Mar 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    HART has a fifty million dollar budget for outreach with three million this year alone. Looks like it’s working on gullible editors.

  • 31 Keith Rollman // Mar 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I approach this issue (an all others) with the premise that we all want what’s best for Hawaii….we just don’t agree on all the details. The rail debate is not good vs evil…it’s urban planning.

  • 32 t // Mar 20, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Hawaii faces this premise in way too many important issues.
    When something vital actually gets done, it’s almost stunning! (as well as obsolete, such as the state’s plans to improve its dinosaur-age computer system)

  • 33 stevelaudig // Mar 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Let’s assume that “rail fails”. Say it is as successful as another large public works project… the Alawai. Who pays for the failure? I am coming to the opinion that the project [and the inevitable incompetence and corruption that trail it] is just large enough to bankrupt the state. In the U.S. the canals did it in the 1820s, 30s and 40s.

  • 34 Undecided // Mar 20, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Although I am against *this* rail, I think that, for most people, both for and against this rail, a future without some type of improved transportation system on Oahu is unimaginable.

    But here’s a person who thought differently back in 2008. He believed it preferable to go without a new transit system, if it wasn’t one particular type of transit system. Guided by a different vision, I suppose.


    HONOLULU — Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said Thursday that he would pull the plug on the proposed transit system in Oahu if it is not steel-on-steel technology.

    “I’ll be the first one to say we are not doing rail. I’ll come right out and say ‘Cease and desist,'” Hannemann said. “I will not put this city in a position of financial disaster, and I will pull the plug if it’s not steel-on-steel. I’ll pull the plug.”

  • 35 Undecided // Mar 22, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I see that Governor Ben Cayetano has issued a press release responding to criticism leveled in the recent S-A editorial referenced on the main post. It escaped my notice for a few days and may have escaped the attention of some other readers as well who have thus far only been exposed to the editorial.



    By Governor Ben Cayetano

    Since when is telling the public the truth a disservice? The Star-Advertiser editors’ complaint that I “cherry-picked” five emails from roughly 500,000 documents to “turn public opinion against the (rail) project – and simply to boost my candidacy for mayor” – is absurd.

    First, the public needs no spin from me or anyone else to turn against rail. They have already turned, according to the Star-Advertiser’s own poll (“Rail Support Falls” February 12, 2012). Another major poll shows even greater opposition.

    Second, your editorial ignores the difference between the candid utterances of career FTA officials believing that they are writing privately to each other, and the fawning grandstanding of their boss Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. In testifying before Senator Dan Inouye’s Appropriations Committee, LaHood revealed how little he knows about the City’s rail project when he said that it “will deliver people all over the island” – an astonishing statement that even Inouye should know is not true.

    Third, criticizing me for “cherry-picking is like faulting a gold miner for not showing others the tons of gravel he had to sort through to find a few nuggets of gold. And make no mistake, these emails are nuggets in the eyes of anyone who wants to know what FTA staffers, not their politically appointed bosses, think of the City’s rail project, including the City’s “lousy practices of public manipulation.”

    Fourth, you have the 500,000 page Administrative Record which we delivered to your office. Perhaps if you ever get around to reviewing it, you will “cherry pick” your own nuggets and whether they are pro-rail or anti-rail we hope you will reveal them to the public.

    Fifth, I find it ironic that your editors would complain about my efforts to turn public opinion against rail. The editorial in question is just the latest of many editorials in which the Star-Advertiser defended or sang the praise of the City’s proposed elevated, heavy rail project. I thought it was a “disservice” when the Star-Advertiser quoted Secretary LaHood’s off the cuff statement that rail would improve traffic without mentioning that the FTA and the City’s own experts have acknowledged that rail – even if it worked as planned – would not reduce the current level of traffic congestion.

    Finally, the Star-Advertiser is accurate when it implies that my mayoral campaign has been helped by these “smoking gun” emails. This is because the public understands what it means when FTA staffers talk about the City’s “lousy practices of public manipulation” and predict that the City will find itself in “a pickle” by rushing to start construction before it can be ready and has secured federal funding.

    As the state’s only major daily newspaper, the Star-Advertiser has at least a moral obligation to investigate and give the public both the pros and cons of the rail project. Although news stories about the number of seats in a train are interesting – they pale when compared to the big unanswered questions about the project. How does HART justify awarding multi-million dollar rail contracts when no Full Funding Agreement has been reached and approved by Congress? What will the City do if none or only part of the federal funds is approved by Congress? What will the City do if it loses the lawsuit now pending in federal court? What will the City do if funding runs out and the project is only partly completed?

    The City, HART, the Mayor, the City Council and Senator Inouye have all been asked but still remain silent on these major questions. The Star-Advertiser itself has done nothing to get answers. Rather then complain about “cherry picking” the Star-Advertiser should press its reporters to get answers to the questions. The public deserves answers.

  • 36 Undecided // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Ian Lind wrote:

    What the S-A doesn’t tell readers is that the scoping studies actually identified light rail as a viable alternative that needed to be studied in the EIS along with other “fixed guideway” options.

    And that never happened, despite the scoping study recommendation. Light rail was allowed to just disappear without comment, and without serious study.

    I’m not sure how well known this is, but — according to a page on Ben Cayetano’s campaign website that quotes a 2000 transit DEIS — when the city was searching for traffic solutions a little over 10 years ago, i.e., the Harris led attempt to create a bus rapid transit system in Honolulu, heavy elevated rail was eliminated early in the planning process for having unacceptable “shortcomings.” It would seem that elevated rail went from among the worst to first in the space of fewer than 10 years. What caused the dramatic turnabout? It is difficult to say for sure, but I’m leaning toward the use of a vetting process that is vulnerable to manipulation and protected from public review by its own inadequacies.


    “The concerns that led to the rejection of the most recently proposed elevated rapid transit system were primarily two: (1) its high cost and (2) its physical and visual impacts.” Draft EIS for the BRT Project, FTA and City, August 2000. P 2-41.

    “Public input received in hundreds of Vision Team and O‘ahu Trans 2K meetings and workshops attended by thousands of O‘ahu residents revealed widespread agreement that while an elevated transit system might serve goals of improving in-town mobility and strengthening connections between communities, such a system would not foster livable communities.

    The predominant sentiment among thousands of participants was that a grade-separated transit system would be unacceptably: (1) intrusive on the visual environment; (2) divisive of communities; and (3) too expensive. These shortcomings were judged by public participants to outweigh the recognized benefits of a grade-separated system, i.e. high speed and capacity, increased reliability and reduced negative impact on the surface road system.” Draft EIS for the BRT Project, FTA and City, August 2000

    What is the point of holding public meetings and workshops if the end result will inevitably be the selection of the current mayoral seat holder’s personal choice? Or did community sentiment actually shift to favor heavy elevated rail in the span of time between the two city administrations? If the latter is the case, what caused the shift, and what has, according to recent polls, turned people against elevated rail, yet again?

    Would the election of a mayor who once in office came to favor magnetic-levitation or managed lanes or at-grade light rail somehow result in the respective advantages of each of these alternatives becoming the predominant criteria for participants in the scoping/early evaluation process?

    Perhaps it is time to begin holding at least some public meetings and workshops online over the course of several days or weeks in order to encourage participation and so that the opinions of all participants, and what is said by meeting organizers to those participants, can be preserved in a forum, not unlike this one, that can be accessed by all of the public at their convenience. The way things are now, all we’ve got to go on when attempting to examine some facets of how we got from there to here amounts to not much more than “meetings were held and decisions were made.”

    Public outreach for rail should be a dialogue, not a broadcast.

  • 37 Michael in Waikiki // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:41 am


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