Transit decision should be based on traffic reduction, not coercing taxpayers
In criticizing Honolulutraffic.com's stance on rail in an op-ed (Star-Bulletin, Dec. 2), Rep. Marilyn Lee says, "Yet modern transit solutions take cars off the road, reduce traffic, shorten commuter time, improve the public health, provide reliability and increase the quality of life."
The fact is that rail does not take cars off the road. If it did, those U.S. cities with new rail transit would have experienced reduced traffic congestion and they have not. The experts on that subject are at the Texas Transportation Institute and you can review their data at http://tti.tamu.edu.
Lee says rail will shorten commuter time. However, rail is slow because it has to stop at every station. That is why the city projects in its Alternatives Analysis that Kapolei to downtown by rail will take 65 minutes, both during the rush hour and at off-peak times. It is reliable, but reliably slow. You can review this fact for yourself on the city's Web site: www.honolulutransit.com/more_info/library/files/Alterntives_Analysis_Chapter3_to_End.pdf
Lee says rail will increase the "quality of life." Government planners and certain elected officials really believe this. However, real human beings want personal, individual transportation that will get them to big box stores, supermarkets, the kids' soccer games and school. This is 2007.
When the Honolulu Rapid Transit Company came to town in the late 1800s, it did improve the quality of life -- but then the only option to transit was walking. But that was then, and 2007 is now, and they are different.
Lee quotes U.S. PIRG, an "independent" group, on the benefits of rail. It took two minutes to uncover this as a far-left group. So it is hardly surprising that she cannot talk about the word "profit" without the contempt showing, as in "reap profits," "huge profits" and "enormous profits," even though we are talking about public-private partnerships (PPP) where the highway projects are put out to bid.
Manufacturers, hoteliers, publishers, retailers and others all work hard to get consumers' business. If they offer a good service or product at a reasonable price and the consumer takes advantage of it, both supplier and consumers benefit. The consumer is happy to buy; the supplier is happy to sell. This is the "voluntary dollar."
Everyone involved in a competitive business is thoroughly aware that their future, even their paycheck, is dependent on their company's products or services finding favor with consumers.
Funding for government operations, on the other hand, is totally dependent on what can be coerced from taxpayers. Since there is nothing voluntary about it, there is no accountability. For example, Hawaii has one of the worst public education systems in the country and has for 40 years. The accountability for such a state of affairs? Nothing -- it is because the DOE is funded with "coerced dollars" rather than voluntary dollars.
Someone who works for the government is more familiar with the "coerced dollar," and that leads to a thoroughly distorted view about money and business and how you get things done efficiently.
The fact is that voters are waking up to the only two things they need to know about rail. First, whether they believe the city or they believe me , rail will cost billions and billions and billions of dollars. Second, the city is forecasting in the Alternatives Analysis that future traffic congestion with rail will be far worse than it is today.
What more do voters need to know?
Cliff Slater is a businessman and former community scholar in the University of Hawaii economics department.