Anti-railers’ logic is as clear as the H-1 on a Monday morning
It was 8:30 Sunday morning and, as I sat down to read the Star-Bulletin, there was a knock at my door.
A lady, a neighbor, was standing there with a clipboard displaying that repugnant "Stop Rail Now" petition. Strike one.
She didn't know I grew up using commuter rail on a regular basis to go to and return from Boston, or that I think rail mass transit is the most sane way to get around any city in this country.
I told her there was no way I would sign that petition.
She then said that wasn't why she was there. She wanted my Star-Bulletin when I was done with it to read an op-ed piece by Jerry Coffee. Strike two for not even buying the S-B and Strike Three for even mentioning Coffee's name.
I said I save all those anti-rail, anti-progress articles that stab the citizens of West Oahu and the Leeward Coast in the back.
(I found out later that Coffee wasn't bashing rail this time as he did in five MidWeek columns, but was bashing the Star-Bulletin, Barack Obama and all of us who might vote for him.)
So, I asked anti-rail lady what she and her cohorts have against the people of West Oahu/Leeward Coast who spend an hour or more getting into Honolulu, then an hour getting back. What is wrong with them having another transportation option?
She said, "The cost."
I said millions of dollars were spent widening Kalanianaole Highway twice to ease traffic to our neighborhood.
She said, "I have no problem with that."
That's when I figured the anti-rail letter writers from the Windward side probably had no problem with the millions - or was it billions - of dollars spent boring six holes in the Koolau Mountains for three highways and that everlasting footprint.
I asked anti-rail lady if she saw the national news story about commuter rail ridership being up 27 percent in Seattle, at a 24-year high in Chicago and up more than 10 percent in several other cities. Or that commuters made 85 million more trips in the first quarter of 2008 than 2007. (You can verify this at www.apta.com)
She said, "I didn't know it was that high in Seattle, but commuter rail is OK on the mainland."
So if it is OK for the mainland, why do the anti-rail people say it won't work here? They never give a reason.
When the anti-railers invade your neighborhood, ask them if they have done a comprehensive survey of, say, 50,000 or more homes in West Oahu to find out what those citizens think about the opportunity to have rail transit.
I then asked anti-rail lady why there has been a marked increase in the number of riders on the city ferry system.
She said, "Gas prices."
Right. Two words you never hear from the anti-rail lobby.
I asked if she knew there were 800 pass-ups by TheBus drivers in a recent month, most on routes from the very area the rail transit system's first segment will be built.
She knew a pass-up meant the bus was full and the driver did not stop to pick up waiting customers. Her solution: More buses.
TheBus has 525 buses out on our streets now. The first one roars past my house up the hill at the end of Lunalilo Home Road at 5:20 a.m. and the last one clears the area at 1:10 a.m.
Oh yes, the full-page anti-rail ad in last Sunday's paper mentions there is no planned widening of the H-1 to accommodate growth in Leeward Oahu. There are already five lanes on both sides in some areas. What do these people want, five more lanes on each side?
Didn't Los Angeles try building freeway after freeway on top of freeway? Now there are leaders there who look forward and have started a rail system that should reach 400 miles by 2020.
If you have lived here as long as I have (the Pali Tunnels weren't open when I arrived), you are aware of the hatchet job done on Mayor Frank Fasi's attempt to build a mass transit system that set this city back 20 years.
If it weren't for a myopic few, some of whom are still around, the city would be looking at extensions to either Mililani/Wahiawa, the university or Waikiki now instead of trying to lay the first rail.
Think carefully about family, friends and fellow workers who have to battle a worsening traffic problem every day before signing any petition that will adversely affect their lives.
Better yet, ask the anti-rail people if they care about the citizens this system will serve.
Al Chase, a retired Star-Bulletin sports writer, lives in Hawaii Kai.