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Why you should fight to keep rail out of our city

Where we stand today, October 17, 2013:

In our federal case, Honolulutraffic.com et al. versus the City/FTA, Judge Tashima found the City/FTA in violation of the law in three counts, with most of the rulings not in our favor.  

Judge Tashima still has to rule on whether the Beretania Street Tunnel is a viable alternative. The City has made their case in the recently filed Final Supplemntal EIS. This contains our Hawaii Federal Court Judges' highly negative comments together with the City's response.

We requested an expedited hearing from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in order that we could have a decision before the City could begin construction in September. The Federal Transit Administration had already filed an objection to the appeal. The Court found for us and dismissed the FTA's objections all less than two weeks from the filing of our request.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also specified that we would have to file our formal appeal by May 15, 2013, which we did. Our hearing was held on August 15 and we now await a ruling from the three-judge panel, which could come anytime from now up to a couple of months from now.

 

date   February 4, 2014.

New hearing this Thursday in Federal Court:

Judge Tashima will hold a hearing this Thursday on the issue of whether or not the City/HART has given adequate consideration to the Beretania Street tunnel alternative.

The hearing will be in the Honolulu Federal Courthouse on Halekauwila Street at 10:00AM on Thursday, February 6. It is open to the public but we suggest you allow adequate time for the security check in.

 

date   January 9, 2014.

We are still waiting for the Ninth Circuit to rule on our appeal:

Apparently the Ninth Circuit is extremely busy and the government shut down did not help. Hang in there; it should not be long now.

 

New handout: "A cost-disbenefit analysis of the Honolulu rail project":

You read it right, disbenefit. There are no benefits whatsoever to building the rail project. Our new handout explaiins it all. Download it, print it and give it to friends, or attach it to an email and send it to them.

Click on the image to download the handout

 

date   October 17, 2013.

HART finishes the Final Supplemental EIS ordered by the court:

The FSEIS was released on September 30th and we have 30 days to respond to it. Assumedly, thereafter it goes to Judge Tashima for his ruling.

HART's comments on the release were, in part,

    "A Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Section 4(f) Evaluation was produced, which was approved in September by the FTA. The report concluded that the Beretania Tunnel option would be far more expensive, take two years longer to build, and not move any more riders than the current rail route. The Final SEIS also concluded that the project would not create any impermissible use of Mother Waldron Park. In addition, HART completed the final section of the TCP report, and no previously unidentified TCPs were found in the City Center portion of the route."

For our part, we have difficulty with HART's statements that, "... the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative is located in an area with a lower potential to encounter archaeological resources and burials than the [current] Project [route] ..." and that, "HART has modified the design of the Project to avoid all the previously identified human remains in phase 4." Note that it only avoids the "previously identified human remains," not all those of the many it is certain to find.

The quotes above are from pages 60-61 of the Final SEIS. The comments made by concerned citizens, together with the official responses, are in the Appendices under Appendix A.

 

date   October 4, 2013.

HART spent $256 million in the last 12 months with no construction?:

 

Total expenditures just for the 12 months between August 2012 and August 2013 were $256 million. Of that amount $166 million was for professional services and that was likely all for Parsons Brinckerhoff. Below is HART’s data from their website:

August 2012: http://www.honolulutransit.org/media/133328/20120801-rail-update-hart-facts.pdf

August 2013: http://www.honolulutransit.org/media/202389/201308-rail-update-hart-facts.pdf  

For a one-page pdf containing the relevant data, download here.

 

date   August 12, 2013.

Martin Wachs makes a point:

Marty Wachs is a very important voice in the nation's transportation field. He is Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering and City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, and former Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and of the University of California Transportation Center. He is also former Chair of the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently a Senior Research Associate at the RAND Corporation and Visiting Professor at UCLA. He wrote recently that:

    "The planning and political processes seem incapable of accepting the obvious truth: the future cannot be foretold with anything approaching certainty. Events, policies, technologies, and demographics cannot be projected with accuracy beyond a few years. Important choices must be made that will shape California’s future, yet decision making and governance are failing in large part because they are not designed to deal with enormous projects that will be constructed over decades. Decision tools are predicated on finding the right choices using factual information, but for huge and long-term projects, accurate information is in short supply. Society will change dramatically in unknown ways before the first train rolls. Assumptions largely form the base of all forecasts, and these are riskiest for large and longer-term projects.

    "Although forecasts of ridership, patronage, and environmental impacts are certain to be inaccurate, the law and precedent require public officials to behave as though they were accurate. This approach creates endless debate and is unlikely to succeed. The state must learn to make important choices without actually knowing which forecasts history will prove to be right and which to be wrong."  

    The above is a quote from a recent article he wrote in ACCESS, which is well worth the reading.  

     

    Former Mayor's sometimes tell you the truth:

    From today's Wall Street Journal's Notable and Quotable which is taken from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown's column in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 28:

    "News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there's no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in."

    A version of this article appeared August 12, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal.

     

    A Hawaiian Sense of Place Station:

    When HART announces a new rail station looking like this, and then terms it as having "A Hawaiian Sense of Place," it just stuns you. You search for a comeback but you cannot deal with it. Maybe "A Hawaiian Non-sense of Place," will have to do for now.

     

    UC Berkeley defines the walkable distance around stations:

    Thanks to Erick Guerra and Robert Cervero we have a better understanding of the ridership fall off in distances from stations. They reveal this in an article, Is a Half-Mile Circle the Right Standard for TODs?, in the latest edition of ACCESS, the University of California Transportation Center of which Cervero is the Director. You can learn from it that when the station distance from one's destination increases from one quarter- mile to a half-mile, ridership drops off by 25 percent.

     

    date   August 11, 2013.

    Thanks to Walt and Arla Harvey for a real effort on the rail issue:

    For many years, until recently, Walt and Arla Harvey, prominent Hawaii Kai realtors, kept a running list of hundreds of various media news items online on their coastal-hawaii.com website. It has been very useful for researchers on the rail issue to have had access to all this information. They are now giving it up and we will host their collection here at honolulutraffic.com (see the tab at left "Media record") although any updates to it will be sporadic (unless we find a volunteer who will do the work).

    When this saga is over, which we hope will be soon, this collection will be valuable to those writing on the issue particularly historians. Walt and Arla, thanks so much for all your efforts.

     

    date   August 6, 2013.

    The real impact of Judge Mollway’s letter:

    As we wrote earlier, Judge Mollway submitted comments to the FTA and the City, on behalf of all the Hawaii Federal District Court Judges, that was highly critical of the current rail Project. Technically these comments were the Judges’ formal joint comments on the Draft Supplemental EIS regarding the three issues still pending in the federal lawsuit, Honolulutraffic.com et al. v. Federal Transit Administration et al.

    It has been confusing for many that the case is both being appealed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and at the same time is also pending in Judge Tashima’s court. This happened when Judge Tashima made part of his ruling appealable, leaving the three items where his ruling favored Honolulutraffic et al. still to be ruled on. (See remaining issues below).

    We asked the Ninth Circuit to allow the Mollway letter to be heard as part of our appeal. We thought it relevant and was worth a try; the Ninth Circuit demurred. However, the main impact of the Judges' letter is to Judge Tashima's consideration of the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative. Here are the main points:

    First, that it was concurred in by all the Hawaii Federal District Court Judges. They reside in the jurisdiction that would be most affected by the rail Project. On the other hand, Judge Tashima has never lived here.

    Second, the Judges made the point that only the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative met the definition of the Locally Preferred Alternative of UH Manoa to Kapolei approved by the City Council.

    Third, the Judges used an exclamation mark to mock the idea of the rail line going to Ala Moana Center rather than UH Manoa. (Traffic congestion is all over by the time the shopping center opens at 9:30 AM). They detail the 20,000 commuters who travel to UH who would be poorly served by the current rail project. (As Professor Roth commented, pay attention whenever a judge uses an exclamation mark.)

    Fourth, the Judges remind the City and the FTA that by going between UH and Kapolei now, the City would be not only saving money for the long term (HART estimates that the full project from Kapolei Transit Center to UH would cost $9 billion), but would be closer to meeting the original intent of the rail Project years before it might otherwise, if at all.

    Fifth, the Judges' say they believe the Final EIS understates the impact on historic buildings and views for the current Project along the waterfront while overstating them for the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative.

    Sixth, they say, "In conclusion, the court urges you to recognize that the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative, which is a more prudent and feasible route for the Project than the route presently proposed, has not been adequately considered in the DSEIS."

    This is the importance of the Judges' letter; it puts the Beretania Street Tunnel in a whole new light. Above is just a brief summary of the Judges' points; it is better to read the whole document. The link is above.

     

    The remaining issues still before Judge Tashima:

    For these issues the Judge ruled that the FTA and the City undertake the following:

      Defendants must fully consider the prudence and feasibility of the Beretania tunnel alternative specifically, and supplement the FEIS and ROD to reflect this reasoned analysis in light of evidence regarding costs, consistency with the Project’s purpose, and other pertinent factors. See Citizens for Smart Growth , 669 F.3d at 1217. Should Defendants determine, upon further examination of the evidence, that their previous decision to exclude the Beretania alternative because it would be imprudent was incorrect, they must withdraw the FEIS and ROD and reconsider the project in light of the feasability of the Beretania tunnel alternative.  

      Before continuing with the Project in any way that may use unidentified [traditional cultural properties] (TCPs), Defendants must complete their identification of above-ground TCPs within the corridor … For any TCPs identified, Defendants must conduct a complete Section 4(f) analysis. The ROD must be supplemented to include any newly identified TCPs. The FEIS must also be supplemented to the extent that this process requires changes that “may result in significant environmental impacts ‘in a manner not previously evaluated and considered.’”

      Before continuing with any part of the Project that may constructively use Mother Waldron Park, Defendants must reconsider their no-use determination, taking full account of evidence that the Project will significantly affect the park. If Defendants conclude that the Project will, in fact, constructively use Mother Waldron Park, they must seek prudent and feasible alternatives to such use, or otherwise mitigate any adverse impact from constructive use of the park… The ROD must be supplemented accordingly. The FEIS must also be supplemented, to the extent that this process affects its analysis or conclusions.

     

    date   July 31, 2013.

    Hawaii court to have live video feed of Ninth Circuit Appeals Court hearing:

    A message from the court re our Ninth Circuit Appeals Court hearing that will last about one hour or less::

    "The U.S. District Court will be receiving a live video feed of the Circuit Court's hearing in Honolulutraffic.com v. FTA. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday August 15, 2013 at 11:00AM Hawaii time and it will be broadcast in Aha Nonoi [Judge Kobayashi's courtroom], 4th floor of the U.S. District Court. The matter will be published on the court's calendar and open to the public."

     

    date   July 24, 2013.

    Our comments on the Draft Supplemental EIS filed:

    On Monday, our attorneys filed comments on the Draft Supplemental EIS (DSEIS) on behalf of the plaintiffs in our lawsuit and Cliff Slater also filed his personal comments on it also.

    The DSEIS was required by Judge Tashima in his ruling against the City and FTA on the three issues of  their needing to a) justify their disqualification of the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative as not being preferable to the current Project, b) justify their conclusion that the rail Project would not have a significant effect on Mother Waldron Park, and c) document the environmental effects on Traditional Cultural Properties. Comments were required to be filed by July 22 as we warned earlier (see below).

     

    date   July 11, 2013.

    Hawaii’s Federal judges assail current rail routing:

    Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway writing, “On behalf of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii,” charged that HART, in its latest Supplemental EIS, “fails to give adequate consideration to the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative.”

    The Hawaii Federal Judges’ move, according to former Hawaii Federal Judge Walter Hen, a plaintiff in our lawsuit, was unprecedented not only in Hawaii but also, it appears, nationally. UH Professor Randall Roth agreed. State Senator Sam Slom characterized the Federal Court’s action as, “An elegantly written judicial smackdown for both HART and the City Council.’

    The judges further criticized the plan because instead of its final destination being UH Manoa, its original intention, it stops at Ala Moana Center (They could have added, what has the Center to do with rush hour traffic congestion? It doesn’t open until 9:30 AM).

    The Federal Court’s letter is worth reading in the original.

    We had a press conference yesterday morning to discuss this matter and had the following coverage in the media

    HawaiiNewsNow KITV KHON Star Advertiser Hawaii Reporter Civil Beat Hawaii Free Press

     

    Reminder to file comments on the Draft Supplemental EIS:

    At the end of May, HART released the Draft Supplemental EIS with Appendices in response to Federal Judge Tashima's order to further develop HART's analysis of Mother Waldron Park and the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative. His order regarding Traditional Cultural Properties (TCPs) is being covered in a separate document. See the links above to two very large files for detailed information.

    HART also released at that time the following statement regarding the filing of comments:

    The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the U.S. Federal Transit Administration have prepared a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Section 4(f) Evaluation for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project as required by a U.S. District Court Judgment.

    The document is limited to Section 4(f) evaluations of the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative and Mother Waldron Neighborhood Park.

    The document can be viewed at the following locations:

  • All Oahu public Libraries
  • The City Municipal Reference Library, 558 South King Street, City Hall Annex, Honolulu, HI 96813
  • Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700, Honolulu, HI 96813
     
  • The public can also view the document online at the project website at www.HonoluluTransit.org. The report can also be requested in CD format by contacting the project hotline at (808) 566-2299.

    Public Hearing A public hearing to provide the community and all interested persons an opportunity to present comments concerning this document will be held on July 9, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. The hearing will take place at the Blaisdell Center Hawaii Suites (777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96813). Interested persons are invited to express their views orally or in writing.

    Comments via U.S. Mail and Online Persons unable to attend the public hearing may submit written comments to Mr. Ted Matley, FTA Region IX, 201 Mission Street, Suite 1650, San Francisco, CA 94105, and Mr. Daniel A. Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, City and County of Honolulu, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700 Honolulu, HI 96813 or online at www.HonoluluTransit.org. Written comments must be received by July 22, 2013 or postmarked by that date. You may also submit your comments online by following this link.  

     

    date   July 11, 2013.

    Hawaii Federal District Court drops a bombshell on rail:

    In a four-page letter sent this Monday to the Federal Transit Administration and HART CEO Grabauskas, Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway  wrote "on behalf of the court" that, "... the court urges you to recognize that the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative, which is a more prudent and feasible route for the Project than the route presently proposed, has not been adequately considered in the [Draft Supplemental EIS]."

    Chief Judge Mollway then details the reasons for the court's opinion. This letter has staggering implications for the rail Project, and when we have thoroughly thought this through we will.

     

    date   July 10, 2013.

    We file our final reply to the FTA:

    On July 8, we filed our final reply to the briefs filed by the FTA. This is an excellent summary of our appeal and why the District Court's decision was in error.

     

    date   July 7, 2013.

    Just a reminder:

    All the major legal documents are found in the Legal Process Docs heading in the Federal Courts tab. For your convenience, the major documents in the current appeal are below:

    Our appeal filed. May 15, 2013.

    National Trust for Historic Preservation amicus brief. 052319.

    FTA reply brief. June 19, 2013.

    City reply brief. June 19, 2013.

    PRP reply brief. June 19, 2013.

     

    date   July 3, 2013.

    Randal O'Toole — BART strike is having little effect on SFO traffic:

    O'Toole reports on the impact of the BART strike in The Antiplanner

    "Many including CNN predicted that the BART strike would “paralyze San Francisco.” “Public transit in San Francisco came to a screeching halt Monday morning as Bay Area Rapid Transit unions went on strike,” says CNN.

    "Not exactly. First, BART accounts for less than a third of the region’s transit commuters. Buses account for more than half, and the buses didn’t go on strike.

    "Second, BART just doesn’t carry enough people to lead to paralysis even if all of them drove instead (and in fact many rode buses). As a state highway patrol officer noted, “If I didn’t know there was a BART strike, I wouldn’t have thought anything was different after looking at the traffic.”

    "This shouldn’t be too surprising. According to census data, about 5 percent of Bay Area commuters take BART to work while 70 percent drive. Even if there were no other vehicles on the road (in fact, even during rush hour, most vehicle trips are not commuter trips), that would add less than 7 percent more cars to the road. The addition of 7 percent more cars might be noticeable to some, but it would not create paralysis.

    "In fact, report indicate that the biggest problems were caused by “rookie drivers being unaccustomed to lane merges and lacking FasTrak transponders that would allow them to avoid the clogged cash lanes.” At the same time, other people adjusted their travel plans so that the number of cars crossing the Bay Bridge during morning rush hour was actually 1,000 fewer than the previous week.

    "A BART strike certainly inconvenienced people who usually took BART to work. But transit supporters and reporters have an exaggerated sense of the role transit plays in most cities. Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has the second-highest share of transit commuting of any American urban area, transit is relatively unimportant, carrying little more than 4 percent of passenger miles of travel, and only about a third of that is by BART."

     

    date   June 24, 2013.

    More City Visions: "Communities Designed to Reduce Automobile Use":

    When politicians get into "visions" doesn't it remind you of the line in the Christmas ditty, "While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads"?  The following two paragraphs from the Ewa Development Plan give you an idea of the nonsense in this Plan. It is difficult to know whether they are deliberately lying or whether they are just stupid, or both. Just read it;

      "'Ewa will be developed with a transportation system which reduces congestion by providing connectivity, both within and between subdivisions, provides easy access to transit, uses traffic calming design, and encourages people to walk and bike, reducing the need for use of the automobile.

      "Where allowed by terrain, communities will be designed with multiple street/walkway connections to adjacent communities and collector roads at approximate 1 /4 mile intervals, thereby facilitating and encouraging convenient auto, pedestrian and bikeway access to parks, schools, neighborhood shopping and transit corridors. These connections will also reduce congestion on major regional roads by offering multiple alternative routes and facilitate improved neighborhood access for emergency and utility vehicles."

    From the above you can see that we are back into "walk and bike, thus reducing the need of the automobile" even though there is no sign that it would work in reducing the coming increase in traffic congestion, or ever has, anywhere. As for the second paragraph we must remember George Orwell's line about, "Words covering the facts like soft snow."

    The fact of the matter is despite all this planner jargon, not one iota of serious analytical thought has gone into it. This is simply planning by public relations professionals.

    You can read the proposed 'Ewa Development Plan and City Bill 065 CD1 for yourself.

     

    Panos offers insight on the Kaka'ako  development situation:

    Professor Panos Prevedouros of the UH Civil Engineering Department recently wrote the following:

    In the field of transportation planning and engineering we rely on the Trip Generation Manual produced by the Institute of Transportation Engineers headquartered in Washington, D.C. I have the 8th edition issued in 2008.

    It says that High Rise Apartments (land use 222) generate 0.30 trips per unit during the peak hour between 7 and 9 AM. The peak period in Kaka'ako is roughly the same. Of these trips, 75% are outbound (leaving the building) and 25% are inbound. Also since the location is central, quite a few of these trips will be on boot, bike or bus. So instead of assuming that 90%-95% of the trips will be by auto, let's assume that 80% of the trips will be by auto.

    If 5,000 new units were occupied in Kaka'ako "tomorrow", then there would be: 5,000 x 0.30 x 0.75 x 0.80 = 900 new vehicle trips during the morning peak hour. If you stack all of them on Kapiolani Blvd., this estimate means that an exclusive new lane would be needed just to maintain similar congestion conditions as now. But there is no room for lane additions so the traffic impact will be immense.

    This is similar to the situation prevailing today: Because of sewer work, contraflow on Kapiolani was not in effect until past McCully (town-bound from Kaimuki) so it took me three cycles to go past the Kapiolani/Date traffic light. Over five minutes to traverse one major intersection!

    As I have frequently mentioned, Honolulu is the most lane deficient city of about one million people in the US (per capita, it is worse than LA, Chicago, etc.) Adding more density will cause the central road network to seize. (It already does when there is rain or a couple of lane closures.)

    The establishment supported and thrived with the quick profiteering from the Second City. Second City profit making has subsided due to the lack of road capacity and it will collapse with the mess of 10+ years of rail construction (lane closures.) After destroying the Ewa Plains, and causing major infrastructure liabilities, now it is time for the Establishment to come back and densify Kaka'ako and Kalihi.

    This should have been the original plan instead of the Second City. More high rises along with underpasses, underground metro (Waikiki to Airport and perhaps to Aloha Stadium) and new utility lines installed in secondary streets such as Waimanu. If you recall, since 1995 Kapiolani Blvd has been a continuous construction zone. As long as main utilities are under it, this will never stop. Now with the Second City, The Rail and HCDA we are creating a trifecta of (predictable) failures at a time when we can least afford to make mistakes and start new big liabilities.

     

    Town Hall Meeting on the ‘Ewa Development Plan:

    The 'Ewa Development Plan used to contain a proviso requiring government officials affirm that the region's road network was sufficient to handle any new development. That has been long ignored. We understand that our political regime is attempting to rescind this proviso.

    Dr. Kioni Dudley's group sent us the following message in that regard:

    "Find out what your government is planning while you are at work. Come hear experts talk of the Plan’s tremendous impacts on you — on traffic, on less farm-fresh food, and on desalinated water. Take a stand while there is still time.

    7:00 – 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 at Kapolei High School Cafeteria (Kapolei Parkway at Ft. Barrette Rd.)

    Come in person or watch it at home! Televised live on ‘Olelo VIEWS Channel 54 or record on DRV

    Sponsored by League of Women Voters, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Save O’ahu Farmlands, Friends of Makakilo, Makawalu and Others

    Please forward this to all of your friends in the Leeward area "

     

    date   June 21, 2013.

    Appeal hearing reset for Thursday, August 15 in San Francisco:

    Please not the change of date for our appeals court hearing in San Francisco as Thursday, August 15. All other details are as spelled out below.

     

    date   June 16, 2013.

    Appeal hearing set for Thursday, August 12 in San Francisco:

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 12, 2013 as the date for oral arguments in our appeal of Judge A. Wallace Tashima's rulings in our federal case against the City and the Federal Transit Administration. While the time is set for 9:30 AM, there are five other cases being heard ahead of ours. Three of these have maximum argument times of 10 minutes per side, and the other three have limits of 15 minutes per side, and that includes our case. To put these times in perspective, of the 32 appeals being heard during that week only 3 have maximum argument times of 30 minutes per side. Most cases are limited to 10 minutes each side.

    The Court does not release the identity of the Judges hearing our appeal until no more than a week before the hearing date. We will post their names as soon as we hear from the Court.

     

    date   June 14, 2013.

    Reason: "Bogus 'Chinatown Bus' Study Exposed":

    Alert readers of this publication will remember that we have often discussed governments' (City, State, & Federal) wars against privately- provided public transportation (public in this sense used to mean publicly-provided until they had their chance in the 1970s and socialized virtually all of it). The latest war is that against the profitable Inter-City buses, which pose a threat to High-Speed Rail.

    Here's the first two paragraphs of what Reason's Robert Poole wrote on the bogus study together with a link to the article he refers to:

    "Regular readers know I've been very impressed by the rapid growth of curbside intercity bus companies. The phenomenon started in the late 1990s as entrepreneurs began offering very inexpensive bus service from curbside locations in Chinatown in New York to destinations such as Philadelphia and Washington. Major bus companies responded to these upstarts by creating well-funded competitors such as Megabus (Coach USA) and BoltBus (Greyhound and Peter Pan). Overall, these companies have grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, becoming the fastest-growing segment of intercity passenger travel.

    "But then came a 2011 study by the National Transportation Safety Board that claimed to find that curbside buses were unsafe. The headline number featured in dozens of news stories was that curbside bus companies were "seven times more likely" to be involved in a fatal accident than conventional bus operators. But that study has now been exposed as bogus by Jim Epstein, a producer at Reason.TV (a division of Reason Foundation)."

    "NTSB stonewalled Epstein's request for the data on which its conclusion had been based. But after a fruitless six-month wait for the data via a Freedom of Information request, he managed to re-create the data from other sources (including a federal contractor whose accident database included a list of the 37 fatal crashes in the NTSB report). He received assistance in data analysis from Aaron Brown, a quantitative analyst at a hedge fund and also from a statistics professor at Wharton.

    "Epstein also obtained a list of the 71 bus companies NTSB classified as curbside and another 51 it classified as conventional. NTSB counted as "curbside" both Greyhound and Peter Pan, as well as several Trailways affiliates—all as conventional as they could be. Its conventional list included a large public transit provider, New Jersey Transit. Of the 37 fatal accidents allegedly occurring on curbside carriers, 24 were actually on conventional Greyhound. Overall, Epstein verified that 30 of the 37 accidents had actually occurred on buses operated by conventional carriers.

    "But it gets even worse. When the NTSB analysts calculated accident rates, instead of adding up all the fatal accidents in each category of bus provider and dividing by some kind of normalization factor such as bus miles, NTSB calculated a fatal accident rate for each company—large or small—and then averaged those rates! So not only were the buses mis-categorized, as noted above, but the rate calculations would have been meaningless even had the categories been correct. I have always had high respect for NTSB as a scientifically literate accident investigator. So this bizarre "study" must have some kind of explanation. Epstein speculates that political pressure led NTSB to come up with findings damning the curbside bus industry. He cites a long-running verbal campaign against curbside buses by Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY), culminating in a letter that he and Rep Nydia Velazquez (D, NY) sent to NTSB demanding a safety study, alleging that it is "an industry that, in many cases, is operating outside the bounds of city, state, and federal transportation guidelines." Needless to say, when the agency's report was released in October 2011, Schumer immediately publicized the bogus "seven times" statistic. It's a sad d ay for transportation when even a well-regarded safety agency can be pushed into supporting a politician's agenda."

    You can read a lot more of the gory details in Epstein's account at www.reason.com/archives/2013/05/07/government-assault-on-Chinatown-bus-indu

     

    "The Great Streetcar Scandal that Wasn't":

    Reason Foundation wrote the following in their current newsletter

    "Despite repeated debunkings, the myth persists that U.S. streetcar systems were dismantled by a conspiracy of auto and oil companies that bought up streetcar companies and replaced the rail vehicles with buses after World War II. In fact, ever since World War I, buses were less costly to operate, and far more flexible, than streetcars, and transit companies were replacing streetcars with buses all during the Depression years. Eric Jaffe does a good job of debunking the myth, drawing extensively on a first-rate article by Cliff Slater in Transportation Quarterly in 1997. You can read Jaffe's excellent overview in The Atlantic Cities, June 3, 2013.

     

    date   June 12, 2013.

    Washington Post slams DC Metrorail as riders abandon it:

    Finally, the Washington Post editorial on Friday describes the DC Metro as "a slow-rolling embarrassment." Here's two paragraphs and a link to the entire editorial:

    "Metrorail is a slow-rolling embarrassment whose creeping obsolescence is so pervasive, and so corrosive, that Washingtonians are increasingly abandoning it. Even as ridership climbs on MARC and VRE commuter trains, and holds steady on Metro buses, passengers are deserting Metrorail in droves.

    "Over the nine months ending in March,ridership slumped by almost 5 percent, or about 8,000 trips, compared with the same period a year ago. Officially, Metro blames the effects of sequestration. But in a region whose population continues to grow, the exasperations of using Metrorail are undoubtedly a factor prompting passengers to flee — in some cases to bike shares."

    The complete Washington Post editorial

     

    date   June 1, 2013.

    HART releases Supplemental EIS in response to court order:

    On Friday the City released a new Draft Supplemental EIS with Appendices in response to the Federal District Court's December order to justify the City's cost estimate of the Beretania Street Tunnel alternative, use of the Mother Waldron Park, and insufficient documentation of the Traditional Cultural Properties. See the links above to very large files for detailed information; we will comment on these documents after a more thorough review.

    HART released the following statement at the same time:

    The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the U.S. Federal Transit Administration have prepared a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Section 4(f) Evaluation for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project as required by a U.S. District Court Judgment.

    The document is limited to Section 4(f) evaluations of the Beretania Street Tunnel Alternative and Mother Waldron Neighborhood Park.

    The document can be viewed at the following locations:

  • All Oahu public Libraries
  • The City Municipal Reference Library, 558 South King Street, City Hall Annex, Honolulu, HI 96813
  • Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700, Honolulu, HI 96813
     
  • The public can also view the document online at the project website at www.HonoluluTransit.org. The report can also be requested in CD format by contacting the project hotline at (808) 566-2299.

    Public Hearing A public hearing to provide the community and all interested persons an opportunity to present comments concerning this document will be held on July 9, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. The hearing will take place at the Blaisdell Center Hawaii Suites (777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96813). Interested persons are invited to express their views orally or in writing.

    Comments via U.S. Mail and Online Persons unable to attend the public hearing may submit written comments to Mr. Ted Matley, FTA Region IX, 201 Mission Street, Suite 1650, San Francisco, CA 94105, and Mr. Daniel A. Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, City and County of Honolulu, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700 Honolulu, HI 96813 or online at www.HonoluluTransit.org. Written comments must be received by July 22, 2013 or postmarked by that date. You may also submit your comments online by following this link.  

     

    date May 23, 2013.

    So you don't think our appeal has a chance?

    Here’s what you need to know about our appeal:

    First, in 2003, the Federal Transit Administration approved a Final EIS for the BRT plan prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff, the City and the FTA, which “reaffirms selecting the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Alternative as the Locally Preferred Alternative.”

    They also wrote, “Public input received in hundreds of Vision Team and Oahu Trans 2K meetings and workshops … [showed that] the predominant sentiment among thousands of participants was that a grade-separated [elevated rail] transit system would be unacceptably: (1) intrusive on the visual environment; (2) divisive of communities; and (3) too expensive.”

    Second, federal environmental law requires that Honolulu had to, “Rigorously explore all reasonable alternatives,” to determine which would be the preferable alternative.

    Third, when Mayor Hannemann took office in January 2005, he immediately wrote of his, “political decision … not to proceed further with any phase of the BRT project.” Note that this was a “political” decision, not one made on the merits as part of a formal environmental process.

    Fourth, during the Alternatives Analysis phase of what became the rail project, the City and FTA failed to consider BRT a “reasonable alternative” despite only two years previously having declared it the “Locally Preferred Alternative.” Further testifying to its reasonableness, the 2003 BRT EIS had forecast more ridership for BRT than the City and FTA currently forecasts for rail — and at a tiny fraction of the cost of rail.

    Fifth, Judge A. Wallace Tashima, the Federal Court District Court Judge presiding over this matter declared at the outset that he was unfamiliar with the most relevant statute concerning this issue, Section 4(f).

    In short, the City and FTA failed to "rigorously explore all reasonable alternatives," of which some variant of the 2003 BRT plan should have been explored.

    The BRT issue is just one of the many contested ones detailed in our appeal, but for this issue, we clearly have the law on our side.

    Here are the relevant links: The appeal, the 2003 Final BRT EIS (page 2 & page 2-57), the Hannemann letter.   

     

    date  May 16, 2013.

    Our appeal filed with the Ninth Circuit:

    An appeal in the case of Honolulutraffic et al. vs. Federal Transit Administration et al. was filed last night with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    At its core, the appeal focuses on the improper alternatives analysis undertaken by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in the Final EIS in violation of Section 4(f), which Congress wrote to protect historic properties and resources.

    The FTA was required to, “rigorously explore all reasonable alternatives,” but ignored the Managed Lanes Alternative, street level Light Rail, and Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT). The EIS only explored three minor variants of the elevated heavy rail alternative.

    In 2003, the FTA and the City had found that BRT was preferable to elevated rail. It wrote that from, “Public input received in hundreds of Vision Team and Oahu Trans 2K meetings and workshops … 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.”

    What we are asking the court: “Appellants seek relief requiring that the FTA’s approval of the Project be vacated and set aside, that the City and FTA be ordered to comply with NEPA and Section 4(f), and that all further work on the Project be enjoined pending that compliance.”

    We firmly believe that a new and honestly conducted alternatives analysis would never result in the selection of elevated heavy rail as the preferable alternative.

     

    date  May 3, 2013.

    Ninth Circuit approves our request for an expedited hearing:

    In the case of Honolulutraffic.com et al. vs. Federal Transit Administration et al., note below that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the City's motion to dismiss our appeal and granted our motion for an expedited hearing. This is good news. We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit will likely make a final decision soon after an August 12th hearing in San Francisco.  Following is the verbatim text from the court order:

      "Filed order (Appellate Commissioner): Appellees’ motion to dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction is denied without prejudice to renewing the arguments in the answering brief. See Nat’l Indus. v. Republic Nat’l Life Ins. Co., 677 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1982) (stating that merits panel may consider appellate jurisdiction despite earlier denial of motion to dismiss). Appellees’ motion to strike is denied. Appellants’ motion to expedite the briefing and hearing of this appeal is granted. Any request for an extension of time to file a brief is disfavored; any such relief must be requested under Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2(b). The opening brief and excerpts of record are due May 15, 2013; the answering brief is due June 12, 2013; and the optional reply brief is due within 14 days after service of the answering brief. The Clerk shall calendar this case during the week of August 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (MOATT) [8614801] (KD)"

    Bear in mind that in a war the only battle you have to win is the last one.

     

    date  April 20, 2013.

    Our attorneys yesterday filed for an expedited hearing of our appeal:

    Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case of Honolulutraffic.com et al. vs. Federal Transit Administration et al., today filed a request for an expedited hearing of their appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The filing is attached here.

    The request details that in the Final EIS of 2003, the City and FTA found that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was preferable to rail, and the public concurred. Yet two years later BRT was not considered even a reasonable alternative to be studied in the then proposed EIS despite the statutory requirement to “rigorously explore all reasonable alternatives.“

    The District Court ruling that the City and FTA were not in error in this, and other matters, was clearly wrong and thus resulted in our current appeal. The request calls for hearing by August this year in time for a Ninth Circuit decision prior to any restart of rail construction. .

     

    date  January 9, 2013.

    Check out transportation outside of Hawai'i — we can learn something:

    Reason Foundation's Robert Poole ("For 17 years, Mr. Poole has been the chief theorist for private solutions to gridlock. His ideas are now embraced by officials from Sacramento to Washington." The New York Times) always has great stuff in his monthly newsletter. Here are a few excerpts from Issue #111.

    Rail Transit Under Fire in Los Angeles and San Jose. In the last several weeks hard-hitting critiques of rail transit projects in California's two largest metro areas have crossed my screen. What I found unusual about them is not so much their content as the identity of their authors. One is Mike Rosemberg, a long-time transportation reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. The other is Robert Garcia, a respected civil rights advocate and head of The City Project in Los Angeles, whose credo is "equal justice, democracy, and livability for all."

    Rosenberg's article is a background news story on the 25th anniversary of the light rail system in San Jose. Its headline reads "25 Years Later, VTA Light Rail Among the Nation's Worst." Rather than the typical newspaper puff piece, Rosenberg's article sticks to hard facts about what the VTA light rail system has cost, what it has accomplished, and how it stacks up compared to comparable systems elsewhere. I've read similar critiques by independent researchers, but was surprised to see Silicon Valley's main newspaper tell it like it is about one of the most disappointing U.S. experiences with light rail. (www.mercurynews.com/traffic/ci_22264605/25-years-later-vta-light-rail-among-nations)

    Garcia's piece, which was sent out by The City Project, is titled "Just Transportation: Is Los Angeles Making Progress on Transit for All?" It makes a detailed factual comparison of bus and rail in Los Angeles over the past 30 years. Drawing on expertise from transportation consultants, it finds that the L.A. County MTA "spends almost twice as much on rail to carry about one-fourth as many passengers" as its buses do. (www.cityprojectca.org/blog/archives/17561) The piece is a powerful corrective to several recent national stories, such as "How Los Angeles—Yes, Los Angeles—Is Becoming America's Next Great Mass-Transit City," by Matthew Yglesias, last Sep. 17 at Slate.com. They make quite a contrast.

    Beltway Express Lanes as Virtual Exclusive Busways. Fairfax County, VA's Fairfax Connector bus service will begin operating the first of four express routes on the new Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway, I-495 in mid-January. The initial route will go from Burke Center to Tysons Corner at a planned average speed of 55 mph, previously impossible on the congested Beltway during peak periods. The other routes will be introduced this spring.

    Abertis Now World's Largest Toll Road Provider. Thanks to two recent acquisitions, Spain-based Abertis has become the world's leading toll road provider, with 7,312 km. (4,541 miles) of toll roads in its portfolio. In December the company acquired 3,226 km. of Brazilian toll roads from another Spanish operator, OHL, and followed that transaction with the purchase of OHL's 343 km. of toll roads in Chile. Abertis's core holdings in Europe are in Spain and France. Its initial U.S. toll operations comprise toll roadss and a major toll bridge in Puerto Rico.  

     

    date  December 28, 2012.

    Tashima's final ruling — now the case is eligible for appeal:

    Judge Tashima issued his final ruling yesterday and that allows us to at last appeal both this ruling and the others that he has made over the 19 months that this case has taken.

    Today's Star Advertiser headline is not only misleading, it is totally and completely wrong. No rail work is being "resumed" whatsoever. Construction has been halted for some time because of the State Supreme Court's unanimous decision in the Kaleikini case and will continue to be halted for at least another six months, according to the City. Far from "resuming," yesterday's ruling says the City and FTA, "are hereby restrained and enjoined from conducting any construction activities and real estate acquisition activities in Phase 4 of the Project."

    Rail proponents, including Mayor Carlisle, are now saying that any further efforts on our part is obstructionism. Our case is that the amount that appealing the court ruling will cost is miniscule relative to what rail will cost in local taxpayer dollars to build and maintain this worthless rail line.

    Consider spending $5.3 billion (and counting), nearly $4 billion of which will come from local taxpayers, to build a rail line that will cost an additional $100 million annually in operating subsidies, will not have a noticeable effect on the future greatly increased traffic congestion, and in 40 years will have to be renewed and refurbished at a cost close to what it costs to build.

    Think Aloha Stadium and the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on it recently to keep it alive and remember that its original cost was only $37 million; that's the kind of financial craziness that goes with a heavy rail line. The 2009 FTA study of the refurbishing and maintenance backlog for the nation's seven largest rail transit agencies showed that it was over $50 billion — it has grown since then.

    Fighting this rail monstrosity is essential to our fiscal health.

     

    date  December 10, 2012.

    Final federal court hearing this Wednesday:

    Our federal lawsuit will have what is most probably its final hearing before Judge A. Wallace Tashima this coming Wednesday, December 12, at 10:00AM in the Federal Courthouse. Final papers were filed by us, the City, and the FTA ten days ago as noted below. Ours are available here.

    The hearing is to discuss injunctions and the remedies for the City and FTA's transgressions.

    The Federal court building is at the corner of Halekauwila and Punchbowl Streets and the entrance is on Punchbowl Street. It is easy to mistake the regular Federal Building entrance for the Courthouse entrance; make sure you are going into the right one.

    There is special court parking at Restaurant Row, $9:00 for the day. Tell them when you go in. If you are lucky, or early enough , there may be street parking and there is also a parking lot on Pohukaina.

    Court is due to start at 10:00 am, and will most likely not be longer than a couple of hours. Our lead attorneys, Nick Yost and Matt Adams will both be here.

    We are not expecting Judge Tashima to announce a ruling at the hearing; it will most likely come early in the year.

    As we have been saying since the beginning of this case, after Judge Tashima rules, either we, or the City/FTA, will appeal the result to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We hope that the matter will be finally settled during the first half of next year.

     

    date  December 2, 2012.

    Honolulutraffic et al. & City/FTA file court papers over an injunction:

    Late Friday, both the Plaintiffs and Defendants filed papers with the Federal District Court in their dispute over the Honolulu Rail Project. Our fililngs may be downloaded here.

     

    date  November 19, 2012.

    HART and FTA go to Congress for the $1.55 billion

    Today HART, the City, and the entire Congressional delegation announced they are sending the Full Funding Grant Agreement to Congress for the 30-day review required. If Congressional approval is received the City will get the first $200 million of the $1.55 billion for the rail line.

    However, the two lawsuits, one Federal and one State, still stand in the way of construction continuing. The state lawsuit will at least hold up construction for several months. The federal lawsuit is to be heard in Federal Court on December 12 and following that either the City or the Plaintiffs, Honolulutraffic et al., will undoubtedly appeal the rulings in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Senator Inouye's press release congratulated everyone involved in helping "build a system that will alleviate traffic congestion, lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels." The only problem with those two elements of the statement is that neither one of them is true. The rail project would do little to relieve traffic congestion and rail will use twice as much energy per passenger mile than TheBus. As the City itself has written, "traffic congestion in the future with rail will be worse than it is today."

     

    date  November 8, 2012.

    Hawaii's entire political establishment succeeds against Ben Cayetano: 

    Kirk Caldwell was elected Mayor of Honolulu on Tuesday through the efforts of our entire political establishment. The effort was headed by Sen. Inouye, supported by Hawaii's major corporations under the banner of Move Oahu Forward, and the unionized large construction companies and their construction union partners operating as the Pacific Resource Partnership.

    It is estimated that their various supporters together with anonymous PACs may have spent $7 million in succeeding to destroy the reputation of a fine man in the minds of too many of our voters. It was enough to make the difference in the election.

    When our so-called community "leaders" descend to such depths over money and power, it should not give us any confidence for our economic and environmental future.

     

    date  November 2, 2012.

    We win in lawsuit: FTA/City guilty on three counts, not guilty on 20: 

    Judge Wallace Tashima yesterday issued his ruling in the federal lawsuit, Honolulutraffic.com et al. vs. Federal Transit Administration and the City of Honolulu.

    In his conclusion, he granted our “Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to: (1) their Section 4(f) claims that Defendants [City/FTA] arbitrarily and capriciously failed to complete reasonable efforts to identify above-ground TCPs [Traditional Cultural Properties] prior to issuing the ROD [Record of Decision]; (2) Defendants’ failure adequately to consider the Beretania Street Tunnel alternative prior to eliminating it as imprudent; and (3) Defendants’ failure adequately to consider whether the Project will constructively use Mother Waldron Park. The Court grants Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to all other claims raised in said motion.”

    The City is claiming victory with a win of 20 claims to our 3. However, this is not a football game, nor an election. A better analogy is that of someone charged with 23 counts of murder and found guilty of three of them. The murderer could claim that he won in court 20-3 but that would avail him little when he mounts the gallows.

    The three issues on which we won require the City/FTA to do their homework on several issues and then amend the FEIS and the Record of Decision and on one count may possibly have to redo them in their entirety.

    At the least, there will be further months of delay. We will have a clearer view of the future when Judge Tashima considers a Permanent Injunction against the Project in a hearing on December 12.

     

    date  October 28, 2012.

    Today's Star Advertiser/Ward Research poll highly doubtful:

    Take the rail questions that were asked:

    • A majority of those polled, 87/10, agree that, “the rail project will end up costing a lot more than is currently estimated.
    • A majority, 50/47, disagree that the “jobs created will boost the economy so much that the cost of the project will be worth it.”
    • A majority, 48/47 disagree with the statement that, “the rail system will result in a noticeable reduction in traffic.”
    • A majority, 50/45, agree that, “something needs to be done about traffic, but an enhanced bus system is a better choice than rail.”

    How then does the following make sense:

    • A majority agree, 50/45, that, “work should proceed on O‘ahu’s rail system.”

    Either the voters are nuts, or the poll is wrong in some way.

    Now, let's look at two Star Advertiser stories, one from July 30 last, and the other, 15 days later, from August 13.

    On July 30, the Star Advertiser wrote, “Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann holds a 43 percent-to-33 percent lead over City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House 2nd District seat, the latest [Ward Research] Poll shows.”

    Only 15 days later, the Star Advertiser wrote, “Gabbard, the 31-year-old war veteran, had about 55 percent of the vote. Hannemann trailed with about 34 percent of the vote with nearly all the votes counted.”

    From being 10 percent behind in the poll, Tulsi won the race 15 days later by 21 percent.

    The Star Advertiser management should realize that poll results favoring the projects, policies and candidates that the Star Advertiser favors, but which don't get validated in elections, has a tendency to make us, as readers and customers, a trifle cynical.

     

    date  October 17, 2012.

    Shapiro's Volcanic Ash blasts PRP and Caldwell today:

    Today's Shapiro column takes on the hypocrisy of Caldwell in the Mayor's race. Here are the last three paragraphs:

    "Cayetano's opponent, Kirk Caldwell, has gladly reaped the benefits of the sleazy attacks while tiptoeing around the tactics."

    "He told the Star-Advertiser, "I'm not going to condone it. I'm not going to criticize it. It's just part of the political process in our country."

    "That's like saying he won't criticize breaking the quarterback's leg for a bounty because it's part of football."

    Read his entire column from the link above.

     

    Caldwell keeps spouting his nonsense:

    Kirk Caldwell has been filling the media with complaints that Ben does not give full details of his FAST proposal and there are “no engineering drawings.”

    Let’s cut to the quick.

    First, the FAST plan has as its basis Parsons Brinckerhoff’s 2003 BRT plan and then improves it. The Regional segment, Mililani and Kapolei areas to Downtown, is virtually the same, but adds the use of freeway shoulder lanes for BRT buses during the rush hours.

    PB’s 2003 BRT plan forecast ten percent greater ridership for BRT than they are currently forecasting for the rail project, and at a fraction of the cost. PB wrote at the time,

      "The predominant sentiment among thousands of [public hearing] 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." (2003 FEIS, p. 2-57)

    PB’s 2003 plan Regional segment offered the greatest rush hour timesavings, 25 minutes, while the In-town segment, Downtown to Waikīkī, offered only 1.3 minutes of time savings. While agreeing with the Regional segment in 2003, we opposed the In-town segment back then because it only offered miniscule time savings while resulting in vastly increased traffic congestion along Ala Moana and Kapi‘olani Boulevards.

    The only significant engineering required for the FAST plan is that for the 2.2 mile Nimitz flyover from the Nimitz Interchange to Hilo Hattie. However, the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation has already planned it and it has an approved Final Environmental Impact Statement. It is also fully described, with drawings, in the 2003 Final EIS for the BRT.

    What other engineering drawings does Caldwell want? Engineering drawings of a bus?

     

    date  October 5, 2012.

    Yesterday's Mayoral debate:

    If you missed yesterday's debate between Kirk Caldwell and Governor Ben Cayetano, this is your chance to see it. You will be proud of how Ben handles the conflicts with Caldwell.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIPTPIx3wtw

    date September 30, 2012.

    Today's Star Advertiser editorial:

    There is always a massive difference between whether the Star Advertiser's management likes an idea or a candidate, or not, and if not then their editorials are unreasonably unfair. As another writer pointed out, when Cayetano declines all the debate requests asked of him, it is unreasonable. When Hirono at one point was declining to debate at all, there was no criticism.

    The Star Advertiser management wants rail. So they turn for advice to the transparently subjective City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka for consultation; they do not appear to have asked the other side for their opinions.

    We offer the following comments on Yoshioka's points:

    In considering the 2-mile Nimitz flyover supposedly costing $600 million, according to Yoshioka, the Star Advertiser should consider that the winning bid for the 6.5 mile first segment of the rail bed was $487 million, or $75 million a mile, or $150 million for 2 miles. However, the road does not need the strength that the rail bed needs. For example, the 59-foot wide Tampa Expressway sits on six foot pillars while the 30-foot wide rail bed also needs 6-foot pillars. Roads are cheaper to build than rail beds.

    Second, the Nimitz Flyover Final EIS issued during Governor Cayetano's time, not Governor Lingle's.

    Third, this harping on operating costs without consideration of capital costs ignores basic economics. The ½ percent GE Tax override is doing harm to our economy already; UH Economics Professor James Roumasset calculates that the tax override is costing Honolulu about 1,000 jobs annually. The locally funded rail project capital cost is $3.5 billion. Were we to issue bonds for that amount the interest costs alone would be $175 million annually without ever paying off that liability. That gives you some idea of the amount of damage currently being done to our economy.

    Fourth, Yoshioka can say that he studied the kind of low-height underpasses proposed by Professor Panos Prevedouros for the Cayetano FAST proposal, but that sure missed us. He often says that the City studied this or studied that but somehow the paperwork detailing it can never be found.

    Fifth, the biggest whopper is Yoshioka saying the computerized traffic signals "are being implemented." We have been hearing that for at least the last 25 years. During the last rail iteration, 20 years ago, the same jokes were being bandied about then, as they are now, that the city was doing nothing about traffic lights until the rail line opened. The City did not want any traffic improvements to interfere with the demand for rail.

    While the editorial carps about a lack of detail of the Cayetano proposal, we suggest they cut to the quick: The Star Advertiser management should remember that Parsons Brinckerhoff's 2003 BRT Final EIS projected more riders for BRT than they currently do for rail. Second, as another  indicator, the Country Express Bus C currently takes less time to get Downtown using the Zipper Lane than that promised for the rail line. Lastly, it doesn't take an accountant to figure out that whatever the BRT costs, it is obviously going to cost a tiny fraction of the rail project with all its attendant computers, trains, rails, security staff, etc.

     

    Wall Street Journal features BRT

    Last Thursday, coincidentally the same day that Governor Cayetano presented his FAST (Flexible, Affordable, Smart Transportation) plan to the public, the Wall Street Journal published a feature article on BRT trends titled, "The Commute of the Future." You may link to the article here and to the associated video here.

     

    Governor Cayetano lays out transit plan:

    On Thursday Governor Cayetano laid out the details of his alternative to the rail project. As expected it follows the outlines of the 2003 Final EIS for BRT which he had signed when Governor.

    It adds the Nimitz Flyover, the Final EIS for which he had also approved when still Governor. Further, he adds a shoulder lane on Moanalua dedicated to buses. the Ewa end of King Street would be widened to six lanes and have one contraflow lane thus allowing four lanes inbound in the morning rush hour. Also a contraflow lane on Dillingham Boulevard. There would be construction of low height tunnels at some of the worst intersections coming into town from the Windward side.

    There would also be a major overhaul of the oft-promised computerized traffic signals and that promises a major reduction of in-town traffic congestion.

    Find the complete Star Advertiser article here.

    Get a complete report from Hawaii Reporter here

     

    date  September 21, 2012.

    Star Advertiser — "Mayoral election slows feds on funding":

    Today's Star Advertiser discusses the HART/City trip to Washington to convince the FTA to approve the Full Funding Grant Agreement. The FFGA approval is when, for the first time, the FTA tells the City how much they are committing to in federal rail construction funds.

    In brief, HART/City executives came away empty handed. The FTA described the meeting as "productive," which in diplomatic language translates to, "nothing happened." The FTA spokesperson said, "We look forward to signing a full funding agreement … by the end of the calendar year, barring any unforeseen complications." That translates into, "barring Ben Cayetano getting elected Mayor."

    You can read the full story at the link above.

     

    date  September 19, 2012.

    Let's not dig any deeper:

    Here's an op/ed with Cliff Slater's view of why we should stop digging.

    Two lawsuits, one State and one federal, pose a serious threat to rail. Congress seems ready to cut rail funds and, on top of that, Ben Cayetano likely to be our next Mayor. Meanwhile HART and the City are spending money like sailors on shore leave. Instead they should remember Will Rogers advice, "When you are in a hole, stop digging."

    Read the op/ed.

     

    date  September 13, 2012.

    Burial site found in Kaka'ako:

    A likely burial site was found yesterday by a HART excavation team in Kaka'ako at the corner of Cooke and Halekauwila Streets. It is being assumed that they are iwi kupuna although that has yet to be confirmed.

    As yet, we do not know what additional delays it will cause — see story below.

     

    HART: Delay will be 6-9 months — at least:

    At today's HART Board of Directors Meeting, CEO Dan Grabauskas outlined the reasons for, and range of, the time delays that the Hawaii State Supreme Court's recent unanimous decision is causing — and that is only if no iwi kupuna are found. If any are found, and that is almost a certainty in the Downtown area, the delay will be even longer.

    Of course, if we prevail in our federal lawsuit, either in court or on appeal, that is a whole different matter. We believe that the outcome of such an event will, in the long run, result in a new Alternatives Analysis that the rail project will not survive.

     

    date  September 5, 2012.

    Could our rail be a big a disaster as San Juan’s Tren Urbano?

    We have a written a new report showing that the Puerto Rico’s Tren Urbano rail line was a complete disaster. Cost escalated to 74 percent greater than the Full Funding Grant Agreement projection, ridership was over estimated by four times the actual ridership.

    Worse than this was that San Juan’s total bus and rail transit ridership resulted in 30 percent fewer riders than what they had before they built rail.

    In this short, but very important, report we give you all the sources of information and we also discuss why such a disaster could happen with Honolulu rail  

     

     date  August 28, 2012.

    Where we stand today:

    The Hawai‘i Supreme Court unanimously found in the Kaleikini case, that the State should have ensured a full Archeological Inventory Survey (AIS) of the entire route was performed before rail transit construction began.

    Ms. Kaleikini argued that if the entire route was not surveyed, it would preclude the opportunity for alternative routes and modes to be chosen were it found that negotiating the burial sites would be an insurmountable problem.

    We note that, there might be a possibility, however remote, that the City might find adequate space to place the supporting pillars between burial sites without disturbing them. In that case, construction would be able to continue once the AIS has been performed for the entire route.

    The good news is that this ruling will lead to at least a few months delay in construction. By that time, we believe we will have a favorable ruling either in Federal District Court, or should we not prevail there, on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We are confident that the court will require the City to re-evaluate the Alternatives Analysis and “rigorously explore” alternatives that would not use, even “constructively use,” historic resources including native Hawaiian burial sites.

    We do not believe that a “rigorous” Alternatives Analysis performed under a federal court order, is likely to result in elevated rail chosen as the “environmentally preferable alternative.”

    Failing all of the above, we believe that Ben Cayetano will become Mayor and the FTA Administrator has made it clear that he will not fund a project that does not have “strong local political support.”

     

    date  August 27, 2012.

    L.A. Bus Riders Union says rail hurts those of lower incomes:

    Thanks to our correspondent Barry Klein, we learn that Eric Mann of the L.A. Bus Riders Union wrote last week in "Yes" magazine of the impact of rail lines on inner city folk and how it ruins their bus system. Here are three paragraphs from the article:

    "In big,sprawling cities like Los Angeles, transportation is key. Without it, you can’t get to work, to the grocery store, or anywhere else you might need to go. For the middle class and the wealthy, the answer is the car. For everyone else, especially poor people of color, the answer has always been the bus.

    "And yet, the city of Los Angeles seems intent on dismantling its bus system. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has cut more than 1 million hours of bus service, using the money to fund its ambitious new system of rails. Rail funding already receives the lion’s share of the MTA's $4 billion yearly budget, but the agency also uses bus money to pay for cost overruns on their rail projects."

    The final paragraph of the complete article, which you should read, is:

    "What’s more, new developments in technology are making buses faster and more reliable around the world. Simple improvements include signal synchronization, or traffic lights timed for rapid movement; freeway buses that run on protected rapid lanes; systems of bus-only lanes, and 24/7 service. More cutting-edge is Bus Rapid Transit, a unified system that involves physically separated bus lanes, pre-boarding fare payments, and a control center that manages the system. It’s working great in Curitiba, Brazil, and Bogotá, Colombia. This is our vision for the future of transportation in Los Angeles."

     

    Star Advertiser — "RAIL FOES WIN BIG":

    Today's Star Advertiser headline gave a certain inspiring lift to those who are both regular Advertiser readers and rail opponents. They had been expecting something like, "City wins on two counts."  The first few paragraphs of Kevin Dayton's story was:

    "Opponents of the $5.26 billion Oahu rail project won a clear victory Friday as the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a state agency violated its rules by approving the rail project before an archaeological survey was completed for the 20-mile rail route.

    "In a unanimous ruling, the court found that rules governing the State Historic Preservation Division "do not permit the SHPD to concur in the rail Project" until the city finishes the survey to determine whether there are Native Hawaiian burials or other archaeological resources in the path of the rail line.

    "The city has been surveying the rail route in sections, and still has not completed the portion of the route in urban Honolulu where experts agree that burials are most likely to be found.

    "The ruling also found that the special management area permit the city issued for the rail project is invalid. The decision sends the case back to Circuit Court for further proceedings.

    "The lawsuit was filed by Paulette Kaanohiokalani Kaleikini, represented by David Kimo Frankel and Ashley Obrey of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp."

     

    Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. gives ultimatum to the City:

    Yesterday afternoon, David Frankel, attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, gave the City/HART until Monday morning to cease work on the rail project or he would immediately seek an injunction .  

    HART's Dan Grabauskas subsequently said they would complete constructing the supporting pillars in those holes that had already been dug, but would not engage in any further "ground disturbing" activities for the time being.

     

    date  August 24, 2012.

    Hawai‘i Supreme Court Rules — Rail is an Undone Deal:

    In Paulette K. Kaleikini vs. Wayne Yoshioka et al., Kaleikini had sought,

      (1) a declaration that the City and DLNR [Department of Land and Natural Resources] violated HRS §§ 6E-42 and/or 6E-8;

      (2) a declaration that an AIS [Archeological Inventory Survey] must be prepared for the rail project prior to “decisionmaking on the project and/or commencement”;

      (3) a declaration that the final EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] was “unacceptable” because it did not include an AIS;

      (4) a declaration voiding “any and all state or county permits or approvals” for the rail project;

    Today the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the City and the State had violated the law concerning the surveying of Native Hawai’ian burial sites. They said that,

      "… the SHPD [State Historic Preservation Division] failed to follow its own rules when it concurred in the rail project prior to the completion of an archaeological inventory survey for the entire project. As explained below, the rules establish a sequential process under which an archaeological inventory survey must precede the SHPD’s concurrence in a project. As noted in the rules, “[t]he review process is designed to identify significant historic properties in project areas and then to develop and execute plans to handle impacts to the significant properties in the public interest.” HAR § 13-275-1(a) (emphasis added) …. the SHPD failed to comply with HRS chapter 6E and its implementing rules when it concurred in the rail project prior to the completion of the required archaeological inventory survey for the entire project. The City similarly failed to comply with HRS chapter 6E and its implementing rules by granting a special management area permit for the rail project and by commencing construction prior to the completion of the historic preservation review process.

      "Accordingly, we vacate the circuit court’s judgment on [the above listed] Counts 1 through 4 of Kaleikini’s complaint, which challenged the rail project under HRS chapter 6E, and remand to the circuit court for further proceedings on those counts."

    Here is the full Hawaii Supreme Court ruling. How this will now proceed before Judge Chang is presently unclear.

       

    date  August 22, 2012.

    Yesterday was our day in court:

    Unfortunately, Nicholas Yost, our lead attorney, was still in hospital recovering from emergency surgery and unable to make yesterday's hearing. Nevertheless, Matt Adams, his assistant, stood in for him and performed incredibly well. It was a distinct pleasure to see him up against a solid phalanx of government-funded attorneys and out perform them. Matt stuck to the law while his opposition was all over the place with irrelevancies. At one point I was expecting them to bring up Hirono's Mother.

    The Star Advertiser's Kevin Dayton wrote,"The city later dropped the BRT project and pursued rail instead, but the BRT option "was certainly reasonable enough to consider" in the 2010 EIS, Adams said. Instead, the lawsuit alleges the EIS considered just three similar rail lines and no BRT option.

    "The city argues that it considered and discarded the BRT option in an alternatives analysis that was completed in 2006. That analysis was done before the city began the EIS, which the city argues is legal and proper."

    What the City is ignoring is that Mufi rejected the 2003 BRT plan only one year after the FTA and the City had approved it because he personally preferred the rail line.

    For a media view of events see KITV or KHON. For the Hawaii Reporter views of Professors Randy Roth and Panos Prevedouros on this story, see this video.

     

    HART with another Lie of Omission:

    It is well documented that transit officials, nationally and internationally, have been notorious during the last 40 years for misrepresenting their transportation projects. They do not lie directly. Instead, they misrepresent their projects — more often than not by Lies of Omission.

    There are two definitions for a lie in the American Heritage dictionary. The first is, “falsehood.” The second is, “Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.” In the latter category are the indirect lies, the Lies of Omission — acts of deliberately not telling all the truth.

    HART, the rail transit authority, tells us that it is launching a new "Did You Know?" informational series of topics concerning the rail project, with this:

    It’s another Lie of Omission: As we wrote a few months ago, HART keeps emphasizing that our $5.2 billion rail project will take 40,000 cars, or 48,000 car trips, off our roads by 2030 compared to the No Build Alternative, which is to say, doing nothing. To the voters that sounds like a huge number that would significantly reduce traffic congestion.

    However, we need to put that number in context. According to the Final EIS projections in the table below, the rail project would reduce daily car trips by 48,000, but it would be in the face of a 520,000 increase in daily car trips because of population growth. That would mean 2.8 million car trips daily in 2030. A 48,000 trip reduction means rail would take just 1.7 percent of the cars off the road. Put another way, if we do not build rail we will experience an increase in car traffic of 23 percent, and if we do build it, 21 percent. In short, a 48,000 reduction sounds big but it would be barely detectible.

    So, in one way, saying that taking 48,000 car trips off the road is true, in that it is not false, but by the dictionary’s second definition of a lie, “Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression,” it is certainly a lie — a Lie of Omission.

    It is unfortunate that new HART CEO Grabauskas and the entire HART board cannot be trusted to tell us the real truth, only a Lie of Omission.

    For those of your colleagues and friends who only read the newspaper headlines, please enlighten them; they will be grateful.  

     

    date August 17, 2012.

    Final hearing this coming Tuesday:

    The final hearing on the Motions for Summary Judgment are set for Tuesday, 8/21/201 at 10:00 AM before Judge A. Wallace Tashima. The Court Hearing will take place in Courtroom No. 8 located on the second floor of the Federal Courthouse Building.

     

    date August 15, 2012.

    Hawaii News Now: Tom Berg justifiably hits the roof over rail real estate:

    OUR TWO CENTS: Until Tom Berg came along, Council meetings were essentially Kabuki plays scripted by highly influential people who were not in the room. Our testimonies have always been an opportunity to make our case to the public via Olelo; we would otherwise not bother. Since Berg's arrival matters have become less predictable; he has been a great influence on the City Council.  

    PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) - - The city continues to buy property in the line of the rail transit project, some for much higher than the homes are valued by the city.

    In 2006, the city estimated it would pay about $70 million to buy about 215 full and partial properties along the rail route. Today, that cost has jumped to $222 million, and you might be surprised to see the properties that the city has paid more than a million dollars for.

    "Thank you chair, keep it secret. Mahalo chair, for just acknowledging you want to keep it secret. Mahalo," said Honolulu City Councilman Tom Berg, during a Budget Committee meeting July 26.

    Before Councilman Berg made that outburst, he was trying to make a valid point. Why is the city paying so much for properties in the way of rail? Take houses in the Banana Patch area of Pearl City, for example. A house at 96-137 Kamehameha Highway was built in 1950 has seen better days, but it is on almost an acre of land. The city values it at $392,000. Zillow says it's worth $600,000. HART paid the owners more than a million dollars. [See Hawaii News Now video]

    Another property at 96-149 Kamehameha Highway is valued at $477,000. The city bought for $558,000. The small home is falling apart and appears to be in disrepair. The property, this one at 96-157 Kamehameha Highway, includes 3.5 acres in the Banana Patch. It is valued at $456,000 according to the city. It was bought for more than $1.2 million.

    "How do you get those inflated numbers that Hart is now coming across? Because it is three times over the value," said Councilman Berg.

    In 2006 the city projected spending a total of $70 million acquiring properties. Steve Sofos, a leading realtor in Hawaii, says it's typical government to low ball early to make a project look good. He calls the city negligent, in part because they knew the numbers would be higher.

    "They obviously underestimated the number to begin with to make the rail look good. The overall real estate market has not changed that drastically. It's been a relatively flat market the last 5 years," said Sofos. "They figure the public will accept it. There is no way they should have the projected numbers that low."

    "They more than low balled. It was a bait and switch," said Berg.

    "The current estimate for property acquisition and relocation costs is $222.19 million, as listed in the latest financial plan," said Scott Ishikawa, HART spokesperson. "As for the $75 million rough estimate on property acquisition costs, that figure came before any planning study for the rail project was completed. The figure is based on 2006 dollars, not year of expenditure dollars which adjusts for inflation."

    As for the prices to buy homes Hart says it paid fair market value set by a third party appraiser from California who then contracted local companies Yamaguchi and Yamaguchi, John Childs & Company and ACM Consultants Inc.

    Ishikawa adds the property appraisals were approved by the federal government. It still doesn't add up to Councilman Berg, who says sometimes he has to make a scene in order to make a point.

    "If I have to sacrifice my reputation or character to save the taxpayer money it's no loss to me. It's on their behalf," said Berg.

    To see the list of 16 properties acquired so far and how much the city paid for them, click here.

    date  August 14, 2012.

    Honolulu Weekly gets it right about TheBus:

    The last Honolulu Weekly, ran as its lead story Michael Kain's, "Honolulu's Big Bus Shibai," with a subhed, "Cuts and re-routings have--surprise!--been met with backlash. Wait till the public learns how our bus money is being siphoned off for rail."

    The story starts with "Legend of the Shortfall," and reviews the City's talking points memo used to befuddle the public about their supposed reasons for cutting service, which as Kain tells us the City spins as, "optimize bus operations for even greater efficiencies.”

    City Transportation Director Yoshioka tells us that it was either that, or increase City subsidies by $7 million. Yoshioka also says that the City is looking far into the future to 2019 for "real" relief with rail.

    In discussing the use by the City of federal bus funds to build rail, Yoshioka makes it clear that this $214 million in federal bus funds may not be needed unless there are cost overruns, which most people seem to think are certain. However, the bus funds would certainly be used if the federal government does not approve the $1.55 billion the City has been counting on. In that case, the City would replace the $1.55 billion with the bus funds and an increase or extension, or both, of the GET surcharge.

    Kain makes the point that the increased costs the City gives as their rationale for cutting bus service were all foreseeable and would be more credible if they had actually sought an increase in funds from the City Council, which they did not.

    Our view is, as we have written here before, that the bus service cuts ARE due to rail. The following excerpts from a letter by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to the City make it clear that the City has to bring TheBus and HandiVan operating costs under control if it is ever to receive federal New Starts funding:

    “Regarding the Financial Capacity Assessment, FTA notes that the financial plan HART [Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation] submitted is sufficient to advance the project into final design. However, it must be further strengthened before FTA will consider awarding an FFGA [Full Funding Grant Agreement].

    “Specifically, the financial plan states that additional revenues may be obtained from an extension of the General Excise Tax or implementation of value capture mechanisms. “However, these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART's ability to control. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should demonstrate the availability of additional revenue sources that could be tapped should unexpected events such as cost increases or funding shortfalls occur.

    “Additionally, HART made assumptions in three areas that require further justification or amendment: (1) the containment of bus and HandiVan operating expenses; (2) the increasing share of the City's annual budget required to fund the transit system; and (3) the diversion of Section 5307 [bus purchasing] funds from preventive maintenance to the Project. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should either provide further documentation justifying the reasonableness of these assumptions or consider revising these assumptions to more closely follow historical patterns.” (underline added).

    Here’s the link to the full letter.

     

    date  August 10, 2012.

    My letter to the Star Advertiser unfortunately stripped:

    The following is my original letter to the Star Advertiser, which in its stripped form, missing the underlined portion, was published on Wednesday. What was disappointing was the gutting of the very points demonstrating what a hypocrite Tad Ono is. It is not as though we made up these facts. The funding of Go Rail Go by both Parsons Brinckerhoff and its employees was reported on in the Honolulu Advertiser at the time and also in the relevant Campaign Spending Commission contribution listings for Go Rail Go.

      Tad Ono tells us, “I am a retired engineer who managed the Hawaii businesses of two different engineering companies. I hope my speaking out will in some way give voice to my fellow engineers who have been robbed of their dignity, integrity and honor.”

      This is chutzpah of the highest order.

      Ono does not tell readers he was until recently the Parsons Brinckerhoff principal in Honolulu. In that role, he assumedly was the one who gave the orders for PB employees to donate heavily to mayoral campaigns, and for the funding of Go Rail Go.

      As for “my fellow engineers who have been robbed of their dignity, integrity and honor,” no one ordered Ono to play the games he did, nor other PB engineers. They have free will, they can always quit, as did many other PB engineers over the omissions and distortions in their work on the rail project.

      Ono and his colleagues could always join the clear majority of Hawai‘i’s engineers and architects who do not pay-to-play and which has cost them dearly in lost business, but has left them “their dignity, integrity and honor.”

      On the other hand that would mean giving up their share of the hundreds of millions of dollars PB has already garnered from the rail project with hundreds of millions more to come.  

    Our note: The "integrity, honor and dignity" line is straight out of the Civil Engineers' Code of Ethics, which requires Engineers "to uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the engineering profession by being honest and impartial and serving with fidelity the public ... Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner ... Engineers shall not give, solicit or receive either directly or indirectly, any political contribution, gratuity, or unlawful consideration in order to secure work."

    You don't know whether to laugh or cry when you dealing with someone like Ono.

     

    date  August 8, 2012.

    Will you be the "1"?

    In the mayoral election this Saturday, Ben Cayetano could be elected Mayor of Honolulu if he gets a majority, which is 50 percent of the vote, plus 1 more vote. Will you be that “1” vote? 

    The most important election in Honolulu’s history is just three days away. You have undoubtedly heard the disgusting ads put out by PRP, the lobby group for the Carpenters Union and unionized construction companies.

    The “facts’ put out by this group have been checked by Civil Beat’s fact checkers, and here is their conclusion:

    Civil Beat found that, In sharp contrast to misleading attack ads by Pacific Resource Partnership and other pro-rail special interest groups, the facts in Governor Cayetano’s “Budget Surplus” commercial are indeed TRUE facts. Here’s the actual FACT CHECK news article from Civil Beat.

    The bottom line, Civil Beat reports, is that Governor Ben:

    • Managed a state budget roughly seven times the size of the city budget;

    • Left the state with a $2.58 billion budget surplus;

    • Reorganized government and reduced costs;

    • Stood up to unions and other special interest groups; and

    • Reduced state income taxes.

    In other words, Governor Ben’s commercial passed the Truth Test with flying colors.

    The Governor’s Truth Squad has been telling the facts about city infrastructure, what is needed, and what is not, and how we can pay for what we need. We are very proud that Ben Cayetano has kept above the fray in this campaign, and now we have to help him get out the vote. Pick up your friends and family and help get them to the polls this Saturday, August 11. Remember to tell people to turn their ballots over and vote on the reverse side for Ben Cayetano for mayor of Honolulu.

    Voters can also to go Honolulu Hale, corner of Punchbowl and King Street, or to Kapolei Hale, 1000 Ulu’ohi’a Street, or Pali Golf Course Clubhouse, to vote this Wednesday or Thursday only from 8:00am to 4:00pm.

     

    date  August 7, 2012.

    Olelo: Randy Roth clobbers Wayne Yoshioka:

    In a recently videotaped session moderated by Public Radio's Beth Ann Kozlovich, Randy Roth took on Wayne Yoshioka on the rail issue. See this it is highly entertaining; Here's Dennis Callan's review of it.

    Randy Roth did a wonderful job in a rail debate last week with Wayne Yoshioka on ‘Olelo. If you didn’t see the debate, you would really enjoy watching it.

    The way Randy handled each question with calm, polite knowledge was such a stark contrast with Yoshioka, who was consistently offensive and condescending. In the fast-paced hour Randy was able to bring up all the important issues and repeat them for emphasis during the program. Yoshioka one the other hand, often came across as an obnoxious know-it-all, like this: “what Randy is spewing out there is the rhetoric that the anti-rail has always been spewing about what has been put out there” (20:32).

    “I’m gonna, I’m gonna put my foot down here. Uhm, you know, this is supposed to be a discussion panel, and what I’m not going to stand for during this discussion panel is Randy sittin there and spouting the, uhh, the anti-rail rhetoric that’s been part of their propaganda throughout the entire campaign…let me finish…(it’s) absolute conjecture on their part.” (14:28)

    Then Yoshioka denies they want “elevated heavy rail” and tries to call it a new, non-existent category, “light metro.” A short while later he totally interrupts, then keeps talking over Randy while the moderator tries to calm things down. A very weak performance versus someone in complete control, articulate, smiling and friendly.

     

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    O'Toole —  "Rail Propaganda Is Not a Civil Right":

    Cato's Randal O'Toole wrote yesterday:

    "Honolulu’s transit agency signed millions of dollars worth of contracts to Parsons Brinckerhoff and other consultants to spread propaganda in favor of its $5 billion rail project, which is a major issue in tomorrow’s mayoral election. When a member of Honolulu’s city council proposed to require the transit agency to terminate these contracts and limit its public relations programs to just one staff member (instead of the current ten), the agency responded saying that it was required by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to issue the propaganda.

    "This and other federal laws, says the transit agency, “require recipients of federal transit funding to engage in an active, inclusive, and extensive public participation and involvement process in the planning, implementation, operation, and improvement of public transit projects.” This would be believable if the agency ever actually listened to any member of the public who is not enthusiastically in favor of its vision of an ugly elevated rail line through Honolulu. While the agency has jumped through the hoops of seeking comments on environmental impact statements and other documents, it has totally ignored any the substance of those comments (such as a request that the agency compare rail with a wide range of alternatives).

    "Propaganda is not public involvement, and transit agencies that conduct advertising or other campaigns to gain support for their projects (as opposed to simply getting new riders) are deceiving the public and wasting their money."

    OUR NOTE: As we wrote in our Draft EIS comments on the way the City discussed traffic congestion:

    To involve is totally different than to inform. The intent of the statute is for the public to be involved. Lacking an FTA definition of involvement we have to fall back on the dictionary definition, which tells us that to involve is,

    “To engage as a participant; embroil: involved the bystanders in his dispute with the police.

    “To connect closely and often incriminatingly; implicate: evidence that involved the governor in the scandal.

    “To influence or affect: The matter is serious because it involves your reputation.

    “To occupy or engage the interest of: a story that completely involved me for the rest of the evening.”

    To make clear the distinction: If you are involved in a murder, you may be hanged. If you are only informed of a murder you will not be.

     

    date  August 1, 2012.

    Shapiro about what's landing "on the coffin of O'ahu rail transit":

    In his Volcanic Ash column today in the Star Advertiser, David Shapiro blasts the PRP's obscene attacks against Ben Cayetano's mayoral candidacy. He says,

    "The Star-Advertiser's new Hawaii Poll reflects a strong public repudiation of the most offensive example of pilau politics in this year's election: the sleazy effort by Pacific Resource Partnership to discredit the anti-rail mayoral campaign of former Gov. Ben Cayetano."

    Shapiro's concluding paragraph is,

    "The bachi [what goes around, comes around] is that the dirt these special interests are shoveling appears to be landing not on Cayetano, but on the coffin of Oahu rail transit."

    For further information on this, see the posting immediately below and, further below, the entry titled, "A frank admission from PRP's head, John White."

     

    A tale of two cities where heavy pro-rail spending failed:

    First, we find that PRP, the political lobbying group of construction unions and companies, spent $1,032,823 so far this year on the current election. Ben Cayetano spent $275,515. PRP outspent Ben four-to-one, and that doesn't include Go Rail Go and all the others, and it didn't move the needle one iota. In the latest Star Advertiser poll, Ben showed the same support that he has had all along.

    In Atlanta, Georgia, Wendell Cox reports that:

    "Atlanta area voters said "no" to a proposed $7 billion transportation tax that was promoted as a solution to the metropolitan area's legendary traffic congestion, despite a campaign in which supporters outspent opponents by more than 500 to one.

    "With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the measure lost 63% to 37%. This 26% margin of loss was nearly three times the margin shown in most recent poll by the Journal-Constitution. Proponents had claimed on the weekend that the measure was "dead even" three days before the election.

    "Proponents spent heavily on the campaign, with reports ranging up to $8.5 million in campaign donations, indicating a cost to contributors of more than $30 per vote. Opponents raised less than $15,000."

    The Atlanta Journal Constitution gives the Tea Party credit for the defeat of the tax hike.

     

    date  July  29, 2012.

    LA Bus riders demonstrate for relief from bus service cuts:

    Today’s LA times writes, “Metro officials said that about 860,000 hours of bus service have been cut since 2009.”

    The paper also wrote, “The bus riders group, along with a host of other organizations, including the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, also called for lower transit fares and a moratorium on rail construction, saying local officials have prioritized those projects at the cost of bus riders.”

    It is the norm that when budgets get tight in cities with rail, the first thing to be cut is not rail service but rather bus service. Bus riders who would not benefit from rail should be made aware of that. They are not just the bus riders not served by rail but also the express bus riders who presently can go from home to work without transferring. All those express bus routes are scheduled to be eliminated if rail is built.

     

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

    Today's Star Advertiser poll results show 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 Ben still with 44 percent and Carlisle with 27 percent and Caldwell 25 percent.

     

    date  July  28, 2012.

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

    [The following has been corrected as we had used the name "John Michael White" in error.]

    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 their Draft FFGA to the FTA recently; they did not enter any dollar amounts:

     

    date  July  27, 2012.

    Ben's latest campaign ad is a winner:

    Click anywhere on the image below to see the video clip.

     

    Washington Times: de Gracia interviews O’Toole:

    In the Washington Times today, 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.

     

    date  July  26, 2012.

    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.

     

    date  July  23, 2012.

    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.

     

    date  July 18, 2012.

    Callan sounds off on the Sierra Club's position:

    In this week's Honolulu Weekly, Anthony Aalto and Rick Barboza wrote, "Beyond Rail: The big issue is urban sprawl." Rick Barboza is Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter; Anthony Aalto is Chair of the Sierra Club, Oahu Group.

    The article provoked long-time Honolulutraffic.com member Dennis Callan to write some comments on it. Here are the opening paragraphs which should have you reading the rest of it.

    Dear Sierra Club:

    "I was just reading the Anthony Alto and Rick Barboza's Sierra Club statement in this week’s Honolulu Weekly about mass transit, urban growth and the mayoral election. I found it riddled with contradictions. Their statements are in italics.

    Like you, I am pro-urban growth, but I am also anti-rail. I want to see our city built up like European cities I have enjoyed in my 65 trips to Europe -- right now I am in Stockholm, one of the great examples. I am knowledgeable in how cities can function, how they can include urban housing (I live in a Makiki highrise). Here are some problems with Alto/Barboza's, and apparently the Sierra Club’s, attitude:

    "we are firmly committed to a future where development is concentrated in the urban core" Rail to Kapolei is not in the urban core, DUH!!!!! "we should be promoting modern, livable, walkable cities."

    TOD is not going to create that in Waipahu, Aiea or Pearl City and certainly not in the farmlands of Kapolei, DUH!!!!!  

    The rest of Dennis' letter is well worth reading.

     

    date  July 18, 2012.

    Wall Street Journal — "Paving the Way for Driverless Cars":

    Today's Wall Street Journal has a great article by Clifford Winston titled, "Paving the Way for Driverless Cars: Instead of focusing on an enormously expensive high-speed rail system, government should promote modern highway design for cars of the future."

    Most of our flying these days is done by fly-by-wire. If we don't mind hurtling around the sky at 500 mph moving in three dimensions by computer, maybe we will get used to the idea of being on roads moving at 60 mph in two dimensions. Yes, you can. Read this article, it will open your mind.

     

    date  July 17, 2012.

    Last call for the "Save Our Honolulu" fundraiser this Saturday the 21st:

    We are raising money to help fund our lawsuit to keep the heavy rail elevated train out of downtown Honolulu. Please join us for an evening of camaraderie, fun, good food and entertainment and a great silent auction!

    Dr. Jeremy Lam has kindly offered his lovely home on Kalanianaole Highway with a great view of the ocean and our beautiful Hawaiian sunsets.

    5847 Kalanianaole Highway

    Saturday, July 21st.

    6:00 to 9:00pm

    Valet parking will be available.

    Minimum $100.00 contribution, tax deductible

    Governor Ben Cayetano, Professor Randy Roth and Cliff Slater will briefly update us on all the latest news and answer all our questions.

    The Gerbode Foundation is offering us a matching grant of $25,000 provided that we raise that amount by the end of July. Your tax deductible donation will help us reach this goal and your donation will be doubled!

    Here are a few examples of the auction items:

    • A one week stay at a "Paradise Found" guest suite, just steps from Kailua beach with surfboards and kayaks available for your use. (What a wonderful gift for some honeymooners!)
    • A 2-3 hour sail for 4 on Kaneohe Bay on a TransPac yacht. This is a beautiful way to see the bay, and a lovely lunch is included.
    • A private tour of the Pacific Aviation Museum, with lunch, the aviation simulator!
    • A lovely home for a week on Malaekahana beach, which sleeps eight. An escape to Malaekahana would be perfect for a family birthday!

    Send your RSVP along with your donation to: SBH Foundation Rail Fund, 6600 Kalanianaole Hwy, Suite 212, Honolulu HI 96825 Or, if you prefer to pay with your credit card on PayPal, www.paypal.com and then email your receipt together with your name and address. Download full details here.

    Thank you for all of you interest and support, for all these nine years. You make this effort possible! We are near the end.

     

    Council's Kobayashi — uncomfortable with ridership projections:

    Councilmember Kobayashi is quoted in today's Star Advertiser story (see below) as saying:

    "... she is uncomfortable with the projected growth in taxpayer transit subsidies, in part because the amount of subsidy that will be required to run the transit system depends on ridership. "If the ridership doesn't pan out the way they projected, it's a greater subsidy," she said. "The whole thing is very worrisome. And you know, the greatest source of revenue for the city is property taxes."

    She should be uncomfortable. Rail transit ridership shortfalls from what were projected have been significant. The average shortfall shown in the FTA's own surveys has been 41 percent; that's only achieving 59 percent of what was projected. The last U.S. heavy elevated rail line built was the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto. Their FTA approved forecast was short by 76 percent; they only made 24 percent of their forecast.

     

    SA shows whopping increase in transit taxes:

    Today's headline in the Star Advertiser is, "After rail, city will spend 17% of taxes on transportation." Here are the first five paragraphs to the story. If you are able, go online to www.staradvertiser.com and review readers' comments; we don't believe we have ever seen so many comments on a single story.

    "City taxpayer subsidies for public transportation in Honolulu will increase by hundreds of millions of dollars to 17 percent of overall city tax collections after the new 20-mile rail system gets rolling, according to the new financial plan for rail.

    "The city now spends about 12 percent of general fund and highway fund tax collections to subsidize transit, which means Honolulu is about to significantly increase the share of the overall budget pie devoted to public transportation.

    "At the same time, the city plans to impose fare increases in the years ahead that will require riders to pay more to use TheBus, TheHandi-Van and the new rail system, according to the rail financial plan.

    "The city is planning for significant fare increases in 2017 and 2023 to help cover the operating costs of the combined rail, bus and Handi-Van systems.

    "The city recently released those updated transit cost calculations as part of an application to the Federal Transit Administration for $1.55 billion in federal funds to help finance construction of the rail system."

     

    date  July 15, 2012.

    Protesting bus cuts? Get used to it:

    The norm in rail and bus cities is for rail to soak up a disproportionate amount of operating funds and the elected officials’ response is to cut bus service first before they even think about raising fares on rail. Rarely do they cut service on rail.

    This has led to bus riders protesting in some of our transit proponent’s favorite rail cities.

    Portland, Oregon

    TriMet board kills Portland's Free Rail Zone, raises fares, cuts bus service over protesters' shouts, jeers.

    “A ticket to ride? Going up -- again. Bus service? Cut. Again.

    "Meeting in an abandoned credit union building scheduled to be demolished for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line, TriMet's board unanimously approved a plan Wednesday that one opponent called "economic warfare" on financially strapped and transit-dependent riders.”

    Los Angeles, CA.

    Bus riders protest against elimination of bus service in LA

    Pittsburgh, PA.

    Bus Riders Rally Against Proposed Port Authority Cuts Proposal Includes Cuts To Dozens Of Routes.

    Boston, Massachusetts.

    Hundreds protest MBTA cuts, fare hikes

    "Nearly 400 area residents, most regular riders of the MBTA, packed Malden Government Center last night to sound off about steep service cuts and fare hikes the public transit authority has proposed to close a $161 million deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

    "The MBTA is holding hearings around Greater Boston to gain public input before its board of directors votes on a plan to close the deficit, probably at its April meeting. The Malden crowd grew so large, it spilled out of the council chamber into a conference room.

    "On the table are across-the-board service reductions in local bus and commuter rail service, along with fare hikes ranging from 35 to 43 percent, depending on the level of cuts made. Last night, 135 speakers, including students and senior citizens, urged T officials to consider the impact the changes would have on their daily lives."

     

    TheBus service cuts ARE due to rail:

    The following excerpts from a letter by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to the City make it clear that the City has to bring TheBus and HandiVan operating costs under control if it is ever to receive federal New Starts funding:

    “Regarding the Financial Capacity Assessment, FTA notes that the financial plan HART [Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation] submitted is sufficient to advance the project into final design. However, it must be further strengthened before FTA will consider awarding an FFGA [Full Funding Grant Agreement].

    “Specifically, the financial plan states that additional revenues may be obtained from an extension of the General Excise Tax or implementation of value capture mechanisms. “However, these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART's ability to control. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should demonstrate the availability of additional revenue sources that could be tapped should unexpected events such as cost increases or funding shortfalls occur.

    “Additionally, HART made assumptions in three areas that require further justification or amendment: (1) the containment of bus and HandiVan operating expenses; (2) the increasing share of the City's annual budget required to fund the transit system; and (3) the diversion of Section 5307 [bus purchasing] funds from preventive maintenance to the Project. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should either provide further documentation justifying the reasonableness of these assumptions or consider revising these assumptions to more closely follow historical patterns.” (underline added).

    Here’s the link to the full letter.

     

    HART has been incorrectly named:

    HART is the acronym for Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. Had it been named "Rapid Transit" that would have been definitive and correct since ""rapid transit" is officially defined as heavy rail. There is no official definition for "Rapid Transportation" so it is merely descriptive and thus incorrect. The 28 mph average for the rail project is hardly "rapid." Automobiles on the highway that are averaging 28 mph are considered to be in highly congested traffic.

    HART having a misleading name goes along with the rest of its actions.

     

    date  July 12, 2012.

    Ben Cayetano's awesome closing statement at the debate:

    At the end of last night's Mayoral debate each of the three candidate's was asked to make a closing statement. Here is Ben's:

    "Rail is a big issue but the real issue is about power. Big business, big labor and a select few have been running things for a long time. They have their fingers in nearly everything that affects our lives -- and our children's future. They influence or intimidate politicians to do their bidding -- and they try to crush those who don't go along."

    "They have taken over the political power which rightfully belongs to you, the people.

    "This can be a transformational election in Hawaii politics. Let's take back the city government and return power where it rightfully belongs -- with you, the people."

    We asked if he would mind if we printed it. He replied:

    "I wrote this during the break because that was how I felt. The positive response has been quite amazing, it seems like I hit a nerve among viewers who felt the same as I did."

    It certainly did with us.

    This is the link to the video clip of Ben delivering this inspiring message.

     

    date  July 8, 2012.

    Dennis Callan's "Low Population Density Dooms Rail":

    The biggest problem with rail is that Leeward Oahu does not have enough people living near the proposed stations, which will produce very few riders and have little impact on our traffic congestion. Rail transit requires concentrated populations living and working in walking distance of the stations, and we just don’t have that along the proposed rail route. The city claims that more than 60% of Oahu residents live along the rail route, but our analysis shows that less than 6% of Oahu's population actually resides within walking distance of the proposed train stations.

    A recent study by urban planners at UC Berkeley confirms that cost-effectiveness for rail transit requires “dense concentrations of people and jobs around transit stations…of approximately 45 residents per gross acre,” and even “light rail needs about 30 residents per gross acre” to be justified. Link to the Census data and station area maps of the population along the Honolulu rail route. Included in that report are excerpts from a population study conducted by rail contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2006 which shows similar population amounts, confirming our analysis. Further, this video documents and also confirms these station populations.

     

    date  July 7, 2012.

    Pritchett does it again:

    It seems that the news that the Sierra Club was for THIS rail line was a little premature; they have yet to make up their minds.

    We have shown that BRT will be far more energy efficient than THIS rail line. That automobile traffic will be 23 percent more than we have today if we don't build rail and 21 percent if we do, which would not be a noticeable difference.

    Given the downside environmentally and the excessive cost, which might delay fixing the sewage treatment and water supply that the Sierra Club fought to get done, one wonders what there is to think about.

     

     

    Rail's projected costs vs. actual results — it fails again:

    Hawaii Reporter ran a story yesterday titled, "City Promises No Additional Cost for Rail Authority, but Oahu Taxpayers Now Fund Agency at $22 Million Annually." it tells of the City's promise made to voters that, "there would be no additional cost to create the transit authority as it utilizes existing staff and facilities. Members of the transit authority’s board of directors would be volunteers."

    Hawaii Reporter points out that, "Volunteers serve on the board, but this is the same board that hired HART Executive director/CEO Dan Grabauskas this spring at a cost of nearly $1 million for a three-year contract."

    And having recently leased another 20,000 sq.ft. floor at Alii Plaza they now have three full floors in the building.

    It doesn't matter what smooth assurances HART gives us, everything they touch finishes up costing more than they forecast, or even promised.

     

    We have redone the comments and responses on the Draft EIS:

    Some of you were complaining that you could not find certain items when searching the Appendix A in the Final EIS section. This is the comments made by many of you to the City's Draft EIS together with the responses that the City made later. The problem was that many of the responses were in bit map format and encrypted to boot. We have now decrypted this section and used OCR to make it searchable. Look for it as Appendix A, under the Final EIS tab to the left.

     

    date  July 6, 2012.

    Dan Boylan in Midweek — "Bogus Ploy To Discredit Cayetano":

    Excellent op/ed by Dan Boylan in Midweek. Here's one excerpt:

    "When a politician threatens a $5.3 billion infrastructure project backed by years of planning, an apparent approval by the electorate, and powerful labor, political and business interests, there was bound to be pushback."  

    Here's the link to the MidWeek op/ed.

     

    HART clarifies its role as selling the rail project — at any cost:

    Yesterday at the HART Board Meeting, we suggested to their board members that it would be useful if HART were to clarify whether they were representing the taxpayers, or were they just selling the rail project.

    We pointed out that HART fails to tell voters what the city has admitted in the Final EIS and that is, "traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail."

    Instead, HART continues to say that rail will take 40,000 cars, or 48,000 car trips, off our roads by 2030 compared to the No Build Alternative, which is to say, doing nothing. To the voters 40,000 fewer cars sounds like it would lead to a significant reduction in traffic congestion.

    However, it is grossly misleading. The 40,000 cars should be put in context of the projected total daily car trips of 2,800,000 — it is only a 1.7 percent reduction. In short, HART forecasts that if we do not build rail we will have an increase in automobile trips of 23 percent, or 21 percent if we do build rail. That reduction would not be noticeable to motorists.

    To fail to put the 40,000 in context can only be mean that such misleading of the voters is premeditated.

    The response from two of the board members was that their charter was to build the rail line. Our reply was that if that is your charter then there is no need for HART to misrepresent the rail project. The board members’ response was that the 40,000 number was an accurate number and that was that.

    Our final response was that the board had made it clear to us that they were indeed out to sell rail transit at any cost. Since we had established that point, we left.

    We have shortened the interchange to its basic elements but the sheer unmitigated arrogance of the two HART board members took us aback, and since the other board members remained silent, we can only infer that they concurred in what the others had said.

    As a matter of interest, the Charter question does not require that HART disseminate information, and certainly not misinformation. Quite the opposite, to encourage voters to establish HART, the City promised that it would “enhance transparency.” Some transparency.

     

    date  July 5, 2012.

    Rail outreach turning into outrage as it approaches $20 million:

    Honolulu Weekly has a new listing of PR expenditures promoting rail transit obtained from undercover city sources (“Deep Throat”). The list amounts to $11.7 million spent from 2008 through today. However, we must allow for three more items if we are to get a real handle on what is being spent.

    First, five accounts in the listing are shown as, “Not reported.” Jeanne Mariani-Belding, former editorial page editor of the Advertiser is one. PB Americas is charging HART $175,000 annually for Doug Carlson’s blog, and $215,000 annually for Pat Lee to attend Neighborhood Board meetings (see entire listing of HART people), so one would think that PB must charge Jeanne out for at least $250,000 annually, and she is just one of five on the “Not reported” list.

    Second, there are no charges shown for the period 2005 to 2008. However, we do know that the City issued $3.3 million in public relations/outreach contracts during this time.

    Third, we do not know HART’s projections for the next few years but, at the current level of $2 million plus annually, it would not be unreasonable to consider that future charges will be at least another $1.5 million annually until 2020, should the rail line get built. That would be another $12 million.

    The recipients of all this "outreach" may start to wonder how HART could have spent around $15 million on "outreach" and yet somehow forget to tell the voters that traffic congestion in the future with rail will be worse than it is today. How silly of them.

     

    Let’s consider how we are managing the rail project:

    First, we hired Parsons Brinckerhoff executive Wayne Yoshioka to be the City Transportation Director. Then we contracted with Parsons Brinckerhoff to plan the rail line. We then contracted with InfraConsult LLC to watch over PB. (Three senior PB officials had formed InfraConsult prior to its contract with the City).

    To run HART, the semi-autonomous transit authority, our politicians appointed nine directors, not one of whom had any familiarity with transit whatsoever. Lack of it seemed to be a requirement for appointment.

    Some months ago HART awarded Ansaldo STS/Breda a core systems contract which includes the design, construction and delivery of the train vehicles, the train control systems and the operation and maintenance of the rail system after installation. HART chose Ansaldo despite their not being the low bidder.

    Note that until a couple of months ago we had no employee or appointee in HART/City who had any experience in running a rail transit line. Yet we awarded contracts for billions of dollars to build of one of the most expensive heavy rail lines ever built in the U.S. We will ignore for the moment that HART did this with no commitment for federal funding.

    Having now awarded a majority of the contracts to build rail we finally hire someone, HART CEO Dan Grabauskas, who had actually run a rail transit line. While running Boston’s MBTA he had installed a new train control system on the Red Line that permitted more frequent service and he had also had installed an electronic fare system. He is also by reputation an excellent administrator. However, running a rail line and building one are two very different matters.

    In the meantime, PB was sold to British construction company Balfour Beatty PLC. Infraconsult has been sold to Omaha, Nebraska-based HDR Engineering, Inc. As we mentioned the other day, China South Locomotive, majority-owned by the Chinese government, is considering making a bid for Italian train maker Ansaldo STS, according to last Sunday’s London Sunday Times.

    Isn’t anyone else nervous?

    There has only been one U.S. elevated heavy rail line built since 1984 and that was the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Its cost overrun was 74 percent higher than the amount settled at the time of the Full Funding Grant Agreement. Its ridership was just as bad, it achieved only 23 percent of what it had projected.

    Even worse is its subsequent performance: In 2003, the last full year before rail, San Juan had bus ridership of 32.0 million. In 2010 the combined ridership of its buses and its multi-billion dollar rail line was 21.8 million, a 32 percent decline from 2003 from its bus ridership alone.

    Given these facts, you should now ask which, if any, of our elected decision makers have been to San Juan to see what they could learn about it to prevent a similar disaster happening here. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer to that one.

     

    date  July 4, 2012.

    Independence Day:

    Today is a good time to download and re-read the Declaration of Independence and remember why the Founding Fathers  declared our independence from Britain and the actions of George III. Here are two sentences from it:

    "He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures."

    "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance."

     

    date  July 1, 2012.

    Interesting items in the latest PMOC Monthly report:

    The following two excerpts are from the Project Management Oversight Contractor's (PMOC) MONTHLY REPORT for HART April 2012 (FINAL). They raise questions that we all have to ask the City (and HART) about at their meetings. It is the only time that they sometimes provide answers to questions.

      “The PMOC has concerns with the adequacy of [HART's] ability to forecast costs for the existing Design-Build (DB) contracts. The grantee’s current Estimate at Completion (EAC) does not accurately provide an assessment of the contract costs.” p. 4. (emphasis added).

    Our note: HART is presently discussing rail's cost for the existing contracts as being set in place and that it has resulted in set prices with great savings. 

      “The alignment will .... provide two significant areas with potential for Transit Oriented Development, one near the Airport and one in the surrounding industrial areas.” p. 10. (emphasis added).

    Our note: Only two significant areas? Are the others HART discusses considered insignificant by the FTA/PMOC?

     

    A buyer for Ansaldo?

    China South Locomotive, majority-owned by the Chinese government, is considering making a bid for Italian train maker Ansaldo STS SpA (STS), according to today's London Sunday Times.