Honolulu rail transit cartoon
Dark cloud of growing public doubts cast shadow on Honolulu rail.
Honolulu rail transit cartoon
Dark cloud of growing public doubts cast shadow on Honolulu rail.

BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – Jade Moon used her MidWeek column, plenty of emotion and wrong information to paint a favorable picture for Honolulu’s proposed elevated rail which she wants and supports. (Read it here.)

Jade issued a call to action because the pro-railers are not being heard. “I think it’s time for rail supporters to come back out and make a little noise. Make yourselves heard again.”

At the same time, the City shamelessly uses tax monies to produce, print and mail hundreds of thousands of gloss fliers to households monthly, it produces TV programs including a regular spot on O’lelo, it gives rail propaganda shows with food and music at high schools and colleges, and Inouye, mayor or HART have at least one press release or pro-rail event every week.

Moreover, the Star-Advertiser routinely rejects anti-rail letters and MidWeek has refused my multiple offers to print my articles.

Councilman Tom Berg is being shadowed by Go-Rail-Go every time he arranges a townhall meeting with rail on the agenda.

Pro-rail unions flooded the Land Use Commission hearings on Ho’opili recently. But none of this is enough for Jade. She wants to make sure that anti-rail voices are swamped.

“Our future demands that we protect our environment, that we have viable transportation choices. Clean mass transit must be one of the options on the menu” she claims.

The energy required just to build the foundations, columns, structures and trains involved is enough to give an energy consumption and pollution stroke to anyone willing to quantify it. National statistics clearly show that hybrid cars are less energy demanding and polluting than heavy rail, and 4-cylinder cars are not far behind the hybrids. That’s by mainland standards which include substantial nuclear and hydro (clean) power and less than 3% oil. In contrast, over 90% of Oahu’s electricity comes from oil with little end in sight. It is the dirtiest electricity in the U.S.

Remember that a parked car does not pollute. A train runs less than half full most the time. Plus station lights, elevators, escalators, ticket machines, controllers, air-conditioners are on all the time. What a waste of resources!

Here is a green transportation alternative for Jade: Telecommuting. Since the turn of the millennium, more Americans telecommute than take trains. Also two years before the 2008 “rail referendum” on Oahu there was another one about bikeways and a whopping 72% were in favor. What did Mufi I (Hannemann) and Mufi II (Carlisle) do about bikeways? Where is Jade’s outrage for this green mode? Perhaps bikes are ignored because they aren’t HECO customers (she is the spokesperson for HECO, Oahu’s monopoly energy company).

“It would revitalize the construction industry…” No, it’ll keep some of them busy for a few years. Then what? Megaprojects are not sustainable. All they do is create “bubbles” of temporary growth. This point is too myopic to discuss any further.

“…stimulate business and economic development and provide opportunities for employment.” Maybe, but correctly spent, six billion dollars can go way further for Oahu. Here is a suggestion: A $6 Billion Plan for Hawaii’s Long-term Prosperity.

“Listen to the voices of the people who are tired of traffic hell.” I’d agree that by local standards the Kapolei to town commute is what Jade calls “traffic hell.” But Oahu’s congestion ranking is between 49 and 52 worse in the US according to the Texas Transportation Institute congestion index estimations:  Mobility Data for Honolulu (2004 to 2009.)

“My biggest fear for rail is that it will somehow stumble into a legal no man’s land.” Jade got this right. Even if the Cayetano, et al. suit fails, even if the Bombardier complaints fail, there will be dozens of eminent domain and other suits.

Big projects typically get stuck. One heiau in Halawa did it for H-3 Freeway. How’s several football field sized stations in Waipahu, Kalihi, Kakaako 40 ft. up in the air?

Rail for Oahu has been, is and will be a losing proposition. Manini traffic relief, huge visual and environmental impact, colossal cost to implement, and ridiculous traffic and court tie-ups once real construction begins.

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