Why Insist on Rail?-Shoots from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii – Feb. 9, 2005

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Many years ago, when I was an aspiring writer, I clipped out an article by Andy Rooney, (the same Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes fame) about his writing 300,000 words in his career. At the time I thought it was a really interesting article but now I understand what he was really writing about. It was just filler because he had written so much he didn’t know what to say.

This is the same pass that I find myself in today. I mean, how many times can you complain about the high tax burden here in Hawaii, beg the mayor and the legislators to not raise our taxes to build a rail boondoggle to assuage the environmentalist interests, or ridicule the ill-thought-out programs such as the bottle-bill before you go crazy? This is the position I am finding myself in today, and I feel a little nuts.


Both daily newspapers, the ”’Honolulu Star-Bulletin”’ and ”’The Honolulu Advertiser,”’ are jumping on the “rail, rail, rail” bandwagon, as is Gov. Lingle and newly elected Mayor Mufi Hannemann, without investigating the facts of such a program. Rail will not, simply cannot, handle more than a tiny fraction of the commuting public. Dollar for dollar, it is a tremendous waste of money. And if you investigate the experience of other cities throughout this nation, it will not perform as advertised. It never has.

Frankly, I cannot understand why some people insist upon applying 19th century solutions to the 21st century. That is what rail is, a 19th century solution. It would be like insisting that people communicate by teletype and Morse code rather than the Internet and blogs. Why are we bound to such arcane solutions simply because it regards transportation? By whom, and when, did the rule get written that transportation solutions must all be solved by government? Why?

Thus my angst on this issue. I am from Portland, Oregon — the poster child for rail. There was never a case where I could have gotten to work and back using the rail system. I have family there, none of them use the rail system either. It only addresses the needs of a very small minority of commuters. At that, it wastes far more time than driving by car and traffic congestion is worse than ever.

This last point isn’t well understood. Rail is supposed to be “rapid transit” but in reality it isn’t. It is very slow. By the time one factors in the time spent waiting in the station for the train to arrive, the time wasted stopping at the intermediate stations, the time walking to a final destination or transferring to a bus to arrive there, rail takes longer than simply riding the bus.

There are those that will dispute this, and this is what drive me crazy. I have nothing to gain here, I represent no company, I simply speak from experience. Rail doesn’t work, it doesn’t perform as advertised. The hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars spent on rail would be better spent elsewhere. This is what all the evidence shows.

On top of that, there is no benefit to the environment. The amount of pollution created to move such a huge monster as a rail car is not less than the equivalent amount of individual autos for the same number of individual commuters, or a bus line to service them. Those who assert otherwise are simply wrong or haven’t investigated the facts.

I don’t know what it is going to take to “derail” Gov. Lingle and Mayor Hannemann from this bandwagon. We don’t need to raise taxes, already among the highest in the nation, to fund an arcane form of transportation. Such rail projects will only drain tremendous finances from the state that could be better spent elsewhere. Once again, I call for the repealing of all laws that maintain the government monopoly on transportation, specifically benefiting TheBus. If these laws were repealed then private enterprise could enter into competition for commuter dollars. The resulting jitney system would not only solve the traffic congestion problem but generate taxes at the same time. Talk about a “win-win” situation.

”’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:”’ mailto:newmand001@hawaii.rr.com

”’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. See the GRIH Web site at:”’ https://www.grassrootinstitute.org/

”’HawaiiReporter.com 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”’ mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com



Daily Policy Digest


Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2005

People are cashing out of high tax, overly regulated metro areas such as New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where real estate prices have gone through the roof, and moving to more affordable locations, writes BusinessWeek’s Michelle Conlin.

The top metro destinations are Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Tampa-St. Petersburg:

The price gap between urban coastal areas and the rest of the country is at a historic high, while at the same time, the information gap is shrinking, allowing more people to form long-distance relationships with employers, working remotely from anywhere.
The moves are also a response to soaring health care and tuition costs, mounting personal debt, battered portfolios and traffic; others just want to semi-retire.
During the second quarter of 2004, about 42 percent of California