Group files complaint to halt city’s rail proposal
A group of critics against Mayor Mufi Hannemann's proposal for a rail system filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Transit Administration, saying city officials are lying to the public and requesting a hold in federal funding for a project they say is likely to fail.
The group, named honolulutraffic.com, submitted a list called "21 lies," in which they dissected statements made by city transportation planner Toru Hamayasu and City Councilman Gary Okino on a recent PBS television show, "Island Insights."
"We are being swindled by our own government," the letter to the federal agency said. "We are complaining to the FTA because you should know the city administration is lying, trying to fool the public with false information and recklessly proceeding with a project that in all likelihood will never be fully completed, wasting huge amounts of taxpayer money."
Hamayasu, who received most of the group's criticism, disputed the allegations and does not fear that there will be retribution because of the formal complaint, such as a loss in federal funding.
"When you look at the type of complaint they're filing, I seriously doubt that anyone with a technical background would find it valid," Hamayasu said yesterday. "We stand by everything we say."
The group, whose members have testified against rail at community and City Council meetings, is pushing for High-Occupancy and Toll Lanes (HOT Lanes), an elevated highway system where vehicles, excluding buses and van pools, would have to pay toll fees.
In "21 lies" some of the group's allegations include the city's exaggerations of HOT Lane cost to $2.6 billion whereas the group estimates the cost at $900 million, based on a similar structure in Tampa, Fla., and a prejudice toward rail by saying it is the best option when not properly including alternatives.
The group also wants the city to stop working on a draft environmental impact statement so it could include HOT Lanes in such a report.
"Times have changed," said Panos Prevedouros, a honolulutraffic.com member and a University of Hawaii-Manoa professor who studies traffic patterns. "We are going from a mass transit model to individual models. Sardine kinds of transportation is not going to work."
But Hamayasu contends that the city considered HOT Lanes beginning in November 2005 among other scenarios, including an elevated fixed guideway system and not to build anything at all. The City Council excluded HOT Lanes in a vote last December, Hamayasu said.
Hamayasu said HOT Lanes are at this point essentially no longer an option for the city's plans.
The city expects to complete a draft environmental impact statement by June. The City Council will vote on technology of the fixed guideway system -- including a bus rapid transit system and rail -- before the city starts on its final environmental impact statement.