Shoots from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii – Jan. 23, 2004-Rail is Intended to Change the Way We Live, Not Alleviate Traffic

article top

Once again the truth emerges where one least expects it. In the Mike Liedemann article on Tuesday, January 20, 2004 in ”’The Honolulu Advertiser”’ about the so-called light rail project planned for Oahu, he reveals that, in fact, it isn’t intended to relieve traffic congestion but, “to change the way we live.

When did it become the government’s business to change the way we live? When did it become it’s function to take my tax dollars to fund something to change the way other people live? Does this strike anyone else as arrogant as it does me?


According to Liedemann, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and author Jim Motavalli stated this outright, saying in effect, “the real benefits of rail “the ones the public will have to be sold on if the plan is to succeed — have to do with redefining the type of life our suburban residents want to live.” They literally want to change the way you “want to live,” like it or not.

Further Blumenauer said, “rapidly growing places like Kapolei and Mililani need to develop more housing choices, such as four-story townhouse complexes, to gain the kind of density in which light-rail projects succeed best.” In other words, Honolulu doesn’t have the density to make rail work, so we must build highly unpopular, dense, unlivable neighborhoods to make rail feasible.

This has been tried in Portland, and it simply doesn’t work. A majority of residents in these high density complexes use cars anyway and all this does is increase traffic congestion more than, more reasonable, less dense housing would have. Further, people have moved out of Portland into less dense suburban areas to such an extent that falling school enrollment is becoming a problem.

The Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon think-tank that studies policy issues reports, “Oregon’s growth management policies have had negative consequences including rising housing costs, increased traffic congestion and restricted choices for commuters, property owners and citizens.” These are the same policies now being advocated here. So, not content with devaluing the quality of life in Portland, Congressman Blumenauer wants to export the same failures here. Hawaii should say, “No thank you.”

This is another case of ideology taking precedence over facts. The fact is that no rail project has ever been shown to reduce traffic congestion. Increasing density in communities increases crime. The cost of government rail projects consistently runs 50 percent over budget so Hawaii can expect this project to cost $3.9 billion instead of the $2.6 billion as advertised. And everyone will expect the other guy to get out of his car, so traffic congestion will remain the same or get worse.

Further, the moniker, “Light rail” is not correct in this case. By definition, a grade level, meaning not street level, third rail powered rail line is heavy rail. Calling it light rail is misleading and disingenuous. It is an attempt to disguise just how immense a project this truly is.

The people of Hawaii are being mislead. The rail project isn’t designed to reduce traffic congestion at all. “Light rail is just one part of the strategy for decreasing car dependence,” Motavalli says. Thus the real reason is the utopian dream of these planners that they say again and again, ” . . . to create the type of community lifestyle that gets people out of their cars.” Who appointed these people to “get people out of their cars?” That isn’t why I voted for any single person I voted for. Not one.

Finally, Blumenauer is quoted as saying, “People will always tell you the faults of a rail system first, and then their resistance to raising local taxes to pay for it. But when one is finally put in place it has the potential to revolutionize the way people live and work and then they wonder how they ever lived without it.”

Well, I lived in Portland for a decade. In all that time I never once rode on the rail line there. It never went where I needed to go and is the ugliest thing you can imagine. Since it has been implemented traffic congestion has become among the worst in the nation and the costs of maintenance is one of the reasons why Oregon is in such poor fiscal shape right now. And I figured out how to live without it just fine, I moved here.

”’Don Newman, senior policy analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Hawaii’s first and only free market public policy institute focused on individual freedom and liberty, can be reached at:”’ ”’See the GRIH Web site at:”’

”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.”’

”’ reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to:”’