We can find better ways to move people around
The recent newspaper ad "Getting Real on Rail," paid for by Mayor Mufi Hannemann's $2.5 million campaign fund, is the latest in a string of disturbing developments by pro-rail forces. The Hannemann administration's steel-on-steel heavy rail system was ill-conceived from the start and the campaign to promote it has consistently tried to stifle the voices of anyone proposing an alternative.
The Hannemann ad, which has appeared in both dailies, would seem to be a parody if it weren't so unsettling. It paints, in Hunter S. Thompson style, a right-wing "extremist" plot to kill rail, masterminded by a Texas beauty queen and funded by the auto industry, petro dollars, urban sprawl developers and others.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Stoprailnow.com is a home-grown, grass-roots organization of concerned citizens from throughout the political spectrum. For example, of the authors of this piece, Callan is a progressive Democrat and Uechi is nonpartisan. More than 30,000 people have now signed the petition, with several thousand volunteers actively helping, and a large portion of the public agrees with this effort. To call this a small, secretive movement "fueled by ... special interest groups" is insulting.
Our primary goal is to let citizens vote on this issue, which has clearly resonated with the Oahu residents. The mayor says rail is "what most people feel is the best choice" but he says that he will do everything possible to oppose putting rail on the ballot. If most people really did feel rail was the best choice, the mayor would welcome a vote to validate his choice of a multibillion-dollar rail project.
We are not against public transit -- on the contrary we believe there are better, less expensive and more environmentally friendly ways to move people. Stoprailnow.com believes the rail plan was flawed from the very beginning because it focused on rail to the exclusion of other solutions. The scheme will neither improve the commute nor offer a viable mass transit alternative.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to sway public opinion on a rail system that by the city's own analysis increases transit trips by a mere 2 percent.
Meanwhile the city reckons that congestion on the H-1 will only continue to worsen. Why spend $5 or 6 billion on a project that will have no discernable impact on highway congestion? And rail is an energy hog compared to bus mass transit and carpools.
We believe the study completed by Panos Prevedouros, a distinguished professor of traffic and transportation engineering at the University of Hawaii, deserves consideration. Prevedouros has come up with the most in-depth analysis of traffic congestion on Oahu which includes complex simulations of the benefits of rail, HOT Lanes and tunnels. This study didn't cost taxpayers a penny.
We believe the study is far more informative than the mayor's multimillion-dollar "Alternatives Analysis," and offers a solution that reduces congestion on a large scale, for about one-fifth the cost of the city's program. This alternative solution calls for new elevated lanes for express bus, vanpool and carpools, bypassing the Leeward congestion without extending any elevated portion through central Honolulu. Many other alternative road improvements, also part of this engineering plan, have been completely ignored by the city.
Instead of considering Prevedouros' detailed report, the mayor instead unleashed a barrage of propaganda through his proxies. In doing so, Mayor Hannemann not only denies citizens the benefit of a masterfully designed solution to a real problem, but drastically squelches public discourse.
In contrast to the million-dollar-plus TV advertising, public relations and print ads spent by the pro-rail juggernaut, SRN is an all-volunteer organization that has to date spent about $30,000 -- most of it on one Midweek ad.
Stoprailnow.com, with its growing number of volunteers, has been collecting about 1,000 signatures each day but more signatures are needed to reach our goal of putting the issue on the ballot.
We believe Oahu residents should have the opportunity to vote on mass transit -- the largest public works in the history of our state.
Dennis Callan, a tour manager and president of Hawaii Geographic Society, and Michael Uechi, a urologist practicing in Honolulu, are founders of Stop Rail Now.