Honolulu Transportation News Round Up – July 30, 2012

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City's rail rendering


Star Advertiser poll show 59 to 39 percent preference for enhanced bus over rail:


Sunday’s Star Advertiser poll results show Mayoral Candidate Ben Cayetano’s preference for buses over rail is popular with registered voters. This is a very good sign that our efforts are paying off.

The poll also showed that 54 percent do not believe that the positive effects on jobs and our economy will make the project worthwhile while 43 percent believe it will.

Presumably the latter group are the same 44 percent who believe the rail will make “a noticeable reduction in traffic” while 54 percent do not.

The paper noted our comment that “support for rail erodes as people realize that traffic congestion will increase even after the city spends billions of dollars on it.”

And that we, “faulted Honolulu’s major media outlets for failing to make it clear to the public that Oahu’s roads inevitably will become more congested as the city grows.”

The paper noted that “City officials acknowledge traffic congestion will increase in the years ahead even with a rail system, but contend traffic would be even worse without rail.”

Yesterday’s paper showed that the same poll had Cayetano still in the lead in the mayoral race with 44 percent. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle has 27 percent and former City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell has 25 percent.


A frank admission from PRP’s head, John White:

In filing for the Intervenors, John White provided a written Declaration to the Court. Here is an excerpt from it:

“PRP has done extensive work to support the implementation of the Rail Project. Some of the highlights of this work included significant support of the 2008 Rail Initiative ballot effort (in which voters affirmatively voted that the City should establish a steel wheel on steel rail transit system) and the 2010 HART ballot measure (in which voters affirmatively voted for a semi-autonomous, public transit board to oversee the planning, construction, operation and extension of the rail system). This support included the expenditure of funds for paid television, radio, and mail advertisements in support of these transit ballot measures. PRP has made major investments in ongoing studies designed to chart the development of growth scenarios and their impacts. PRP has also worked extensively with a coalition of interested parties to further understanding of rail transport and its effects on the development of communities, including how TOD can help meet the needs of Honolulu’s changing demographics. In October 2011, PRP partly funded a trip which allowed City officials and private sector leaders to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend Rail-Volution, the preeminent transportation-oriented development conference which brings together experts from across the nation.” (underlines added).

Essentially this is a frank admission from the head of PRP that having bought the 2008 rail referendum, the 2010 HART ballot measure, and some city officials, PRP now wants to buy the lawsuit.


An interesting element of the Draft Full Funding Grant Agreement:

While HART keeps telling us that the federal funding is in the bag, maybe they were not so confident when they sent theirDraft FFGA to the FTA recently; they did not enter any dollar amounts:



Washington Times: de Gracia interviews O’Toole:

In the Washington Times, Hawai‘i’s own Daniel de Gracia interviews the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole. Read the whole piece but here’s just one answer that O’Toole gives in response to one of de Gracia’s questions:

O’Toole: “As I show in a Cato paper titled, Does Rail Transit Save Energy or Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?” there is little truth to claims that rail is good for the environment. The environmental claims are often based on comparisons of full trains with autos at average or below-average occupancies.

“The average car has five seats, so even if only 1 person is in it, it is 20 percent full. By comparison, the average light-rail, heavy-rail, or streetcar operates only about 15 percent full, which means it has even lower occupancy rates than cars. While steel wheels are a little more efficient than rubber tires, railcars are so heavy that the weight per rider is much higher than for cars, offsetting the advantages of steel wheels. In addition, the energy and pollution from constructing rail is far greater, per passenger mile, than highway construction because urban highways tend to be much more heavily used than rail lines. The result is that, with rare exceptions, rail uses more energy and emits more pollution per passenger mile than cars.

“My Cato paper titled, “The Great Streetcar Conspiracy” addresses the jobs issue by showing that new transportation technologies increase mobility when those technologies are faster, more convenient, and less expensive than the technologies they replace. That increased mobility leads to more jobs, economic development, and so forth. But rails are slower, less convenient, and far more expensive than cars, so they cannot possibly increase mobility or produce long-run jobs. All they do is substitute one form of travel for another.


Where the Rail Project stands today:

We are now down to the wire. We, the Plaintiffs, have filed our final motion, and the City, the FTA, and the Intervenors have filed their responses, and now the attorneys will prepare for the final hearing this August 21, at 10:00 AM in Federal Courthouse PJKK, Honolulu.

Prior to that date there is a possibility that Governor Cayetano could take the Mayoral election on August 11 should he get 50 percent of the votes plus one. Otherwise, the two candidates with the largest number of votes will face each other in the General Election in November. Recently Governor Abercrombie tipped his hand in allowing that for him this race will be a referendum on the future of rail. That means that if Ben wins, both the Mayor and Governor would be opposed to the rail project.FTA has always said they need to have strong local political support if they are to fund rail. Without the support of the Mayor and Governor, rail is dead.

Congress must still approve the $1.5 billion in federal funding for the project. The U.S. House has cut back the initial $250 million to $100 million. Now we have to await the outcome of House and Senate Conference Committees. The FTA and the City must also agree on a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) that will, for the first time, spell out what federal funds will be available to the City.

Any one of these outcomes could decide the fate of the rail project. Do what you can do to support Ben Cayetano for Mayor.


If every child, woman and man on earth gave $1 dollar ….

... it would be just enough to build the Honolulu rail project if the cost overruns were within reason.

The world’s population is currently 7.1 billion. That’s about what we think it will cost with overruns.