ATI The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu


  February 27, 2005.
A Great op/ed by Dale Evans today
Dale Evans, Head of Charley's Taxi and the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance, wrote a great piece in the Advertiser today outlining our position against rail and for HOT lanes. It's a two parter with Karl Kim,
professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. Kim's is first and Dale's piece follows it. READ MORE

February 26, 2005.
Again: Winners are always those who show up. Be there!
As the Tax Foundation and the Advertiser are saying, it will cost $900 per family annually to build rail. But that does not include the subsidies necessary to operate it. According to the 1992 FEIS, p. 6-6, that would have been $45 million annually. Allowing for inflation that amounts $57 million in today's money, or $265 per family of four annually to add to the $900. To stop this kind of nonsense it is worth getting out early for the demonstration. Right?
LATE NOTE: National Weather Service forecast for
Monday...Sunny. Highs 77 to 83. East winds 10 to 15 mph

February 26, 2005.
Winners are always those who show up. Be there!

A reminder that the demonstration is Monday morning early. See below for details.
The image below is a rendering made by the American Institute of Architects, Hawaii Chapter in 1992 of the rail line along Nimitz.


Lee Cataluna speaks out on taxes and spending:
She talks about politicians who, "look straight into the camera and tell us we NEED to have whatever they're up to."  It's surely the truth about rail transit and campaign contributions. READ MORE

February 25, 2005.
Demonstration against rail tax on Monday; be there:
This Monday morning, February 28, from 7:30am to 8:30am, members of The Alliance for Traffic Improvement (ATI) and supporters, including the League of Women Voters and Small Business Hawaii among others, will picket the Mission Memorial Auditorium to protest the proposed 25 percent tax hike in the G.E. tax from four to five percent to pay for a rail transit line.
We will picket the “Summit” that the City is having as an “Informational Briefing for members of the State Legislature, Business and Community Leaders, and media representatives.” Other summit sponsors are the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OMPO) and CBT — the Committee for Balanced Transportation — a new “same old, same old” group run by a collection of City employees and City consultants, at least one of whom has been fined for illegal campaign contributions.
We will provide signs and for parking

February 23, 2005.
Nation's leading consultants blast the rail idea
In 1990, the state government selected eleven nationally recognized academic experts to examine the EIS for the rail line and comment on it. UH staffers assembled their responses, summarized it, then printed the resulting document. It was a bombshell; the eleven experts criticized virtually everything in the plan. Since state and city officials have said they are going to bring the old FEIS up to date and others have said the early 1990's proposal will be the basis of a new one, it is essential that everyone understand the report's contents. The full report itself is available at various libraries in town. Here we present a few of the more choice comments. READ MORE

February 20, 2005.
Leading tax attorney blasts the rail tax proposal 
Ronald I. Heller, a leading tax attorney and Chair of NFIB's Hawaii Leadership Council, discusses the additional county tax for rail as being bad for the state for eight different reasons. We are already rated dead last on the U.S. Tax Foundation's
Business Tax Climate Index (see story yesterday)  and we pay the fourth highest per capita taxes in the nation. And they want to raise taxes?  READ MORE

AP: Houston's light rail making a real dent in city's car traffic
When we first read this headline from the Associated Press in the Seattle Times on line, we were taken aback. But they were discussing the more than 50 collisions with automobiles that Houston's light rail has had in just nine months — it's now known locally as the Wham-Bam-Tram.

Update: The Last Word On Rail Transit:
Rail transit forecasts for ridership are normally for 20-25 years in the future and they usually forecast a 50 percent increase in the percentage of commuters that will use public transportation.
However, we can look back 20 years and see what happened in the 22 U.S. metro areas with rail transit since most of the rail transit lines opened between the 1980 and 2000 Censuses.
The Census data shows us that the percentage of commuters using public transportation declined in all but one of them
— San Diego — and it only held its own. All the other 21 metro areas with rail, saw a decline.
On the other hand, four of the metro areas that did not have rail, increased their percentage.
Get the federal data from us at the
ATI SITE or the Federal Highway Administration site.(FHWA) (Look for page 4-9 in Chapter 4).

February 19, 2005.
New group backs rail transit:

The Committee for Balanced Transportation with Roger Morton of TheBus, Wes Frystecki a longtime City consultant are running things. They accuse opponents of "fictions."
We have answered them. READ MORE

Rail tax bill does not allow filling Harris holes:
House Bill 1309 which will enable the counties to increase the GE tax for rail transit for The county surcharge on state tax shall not be used to build or repair public roads or highways," says House Bill 1309. READ MORE

Update on the OMPO rail tax survey:
Since officials have been touting the public approval of the rail tax, we decided to take another look at it. The poll was taken in September before the BRT began service; 70 percent of those polled thought that BRT would be an improvement. Wonder what they would think today.  READ MORE

U.S. Tax Foundation rates Hawaii dead last:
The Foundation's Business Tax Climate Index rates us at the bottom of all states. READ MORE 

February 16, 2005.
Let's try other taxes for rail:
Legislators are looking to allow Honolulu's City Council to raise the GE Tax one percent to pay for rail. But that is a regressive tax falling unfairly on the less affluent. Instead, since motorists will benefit by lessened congestion, let them pay for it with a $1.34 increase in the City gasoline tax. Or, failing that, we could boost property taxes — about 60 percent would be enough — so that the taxes on a $500,000 house would go from $1,800 to $3,000. These kind of proposals give voters a better idea of what rail transit will really cost us.
Of course, $3 gasoline or a drastic hike in property taxes would cause voters to mutiny so legislators have said, "Let's stick in to 'em with a hike in the G.E. tax — they'll hardly notice." But they should not — our tax is not a sales tax; it has a far greater bite. A good explanation was in last Saturday's Advertiser.

February 15, 2005.
Today, maybe the Advertiser's Dick Adair gets it:


February 10, 2005.
Reps. Mark Moses and Galen Fox support rail tax
In House Transportation Committee votes this week Moses voted for the county tax and Fox did not vote. However, Fox has stated his pro-rail views on many occasions and in conversation with us today Fox said that he would have voted for the motion had he been there and will do so at the next opportunity. Both Republicans Fox and Moses have signed the Americans for Tax Reform "pledge to all the people of this state that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes." Fox's excuse is that he is not voting for a tax but rather for the counties ability to impose a tax. We have said before that to give the counties that ability without requiring a commensurate decrease in state taxes is, quite simply, a vote for a tax increase. Fox and Moses are, to understate it, a disappointment. Let's hope their constituents take note.

If only these legislators understood the problem as well as John Pritchett in this week's Honolulu Weekly.

February 9, 2005.
Advertiser: "Rail tax could cost a family $900 more."
Today's Advertiser headline is for a story by Mike Leidemann and said that sentiment in an informal poll was running 10 to 1 opposed to a tax hike.

House and Senate ready tax increase for rail transit
House bill 1309 and Senate bills 1731 and 1366 were approved by their respective transportation committees yesterday. They call for allowing the counties to hike the G.E. tax by one percent to be used for rail transit and specifically excludes its use to "repair public roads," in other words, potholes.
OUR OPINION: First, if you can't fix potholes what is with this "home rule" excuse to raise taxes? Read the bills, if you must
HB1309 SB1366 SB1731  
Second, the tax increase is not necessary. We can provide greater capacity for public transportation with a HOTway and no new tax would be needed. See Answer above.
Third, we must all remember that anyone favoring a tax hike for the counties without providing for a commensurate state tax decrease is, by definition, favoring a tax hike. Period.
Fourth , the 1 percent tax hike raising $300 million annually is not enough; that only covers the capital costs; legislators forgot the increase in annual operating costs. The 1992 rail transit proposal called for a $45 million increase annually in operating costs (FEIS, S-25) over that of TheBus. In today's money that is $57 million annually. All this is before the inevitability of cost overruns for both capital costs and operating costs.
Fifth, a one percent increase from 4 to 5 percent in the G.E. tax is a 25 percent hike in the tax we will actually pay.

February 6, 2005.
Why are they using Vancouver as an example?
Lately elected officials have been citing Vancouver's Sky Train as a system that would be right for Honolulu. Of all the rail systems in the U.S. is there not one they could cite? For them the advantage of using Vancouver is that the data available and the definitions of terms are different than in the U.S. It makes it easier to get away with "misspeaking." They can hardly use Portland (see below). See also the WSJ article below.

Lee Cataluna has the last word on 'visioning':
It's a funny column. She says, "It has become akin to profanity." READ IT

WSJ: Why we can believe what is patently untrue.
People Believe a 'Fact' That Fits Their Views Even if It's Clearly False," the Wall Street Journal tells us in their Science column on Friday. They summarize with, "The findings also offer Machiavellian possibilities for politicians. They can make a false claim that helps their cause, contritely retract it -- and rest assured that some people will nevertheless keep thinking of it as true." WSJ must be talking about the rail transit issue. READ THE COLUMN

Portland's numbers don't jibe with the Census data.
This is a chart from
Reason Foundation's Privatization Watch which mirrors the Census data on commuting. One half of one percent of Portland's commuters go by light rail? Does not quite fit with what we are told by transit officials.

February 1, 2005.
Zipper lane extension to be completed by summer.
This is self explanatory but
READ THE FULL STORY and click on the map for a larger version.

January 29, 2005.
Star-Bulletin headlines rail tax increase:
They say, "
Rail transit tax increase gets political momentum: Federal and local lawmakers
agree to revisit funding options." There are bills in both houses to increase the G.E. tax "by up to one percent." Most likely appears giving the counties taxing authority and Honolulu would then impose a one percent county G.E. tax.
OUR OPINION: We should ensure that voters understand that if the state legislature allows the counties to raise taxes without there being a commensurate reduction in the state G.E. tax, then that is a net tax increase, no matter which way they try to spin it.

January 27, 2005.
Mayor Hanneman's plan for traffic
Revealed in the January Small Business Hawaii News that the Mayor will look into "redoing portions of Kuhio Avenue and the Ala Wai according to recommendations from the emergency response personnel and bus drivers."

Star-Bulletin's Borecca on the push for rail:
Says Rep. Abercrombie pushing hard for rail through having the Legislature allow the counties to raise the excise tax. Abercrombie is dismissing opponents as members of "The Flat Earth Society."
OUR OPINION: Dismissing HOT lanes, the favored mode of the federal government, as "Flat Earth" says more about our hirsute Congressman than it does about us.

New SAFETEA legislation to allow more highway tolls:
SAFETEA's Sections 1615 on Toll Programs and 1610 on Use of HOV Lanes, expands the allowable use of tolled lanes of federally funded highways and, most importantly, variable pricing as a way to deal with traffic congestion.

Gov's State of the State speech on traffic:
She said, "
Mayor Hannemann and I have been supporters of mass transit on O`ahu." Notice that there is no mention of rail, or "fixed rail mass transit." "Mass transit" used alone is defined by the federal government as publicly accessible vehicles used for carrying unassociated riders. Regular buses, private buses, jitney buses, and shared-ride taxis all qualify as "mass transit."  READ THE SPEECH

Public Roads Magazine discusses "Managed Lanes":
The November/December issue of the FHWA's bi-monthly magazine had a great article, "Managed Lanes:
Combining access control, vehicle eligibility, and pricing strategies can help mitigate congestion and improve mobility on the Nation's busiest roadways."  READ THE ARTICLE.

January 18, 2005.
Rail: Star-Bulletin wants it because it wants it."
Today's Star-Bulletin editorial tells us they want rail transit really badly. They don't tell us why. They don't make any arguments about if it works (?) in other cities — or doesn't. They just really want it. Oh, well.

At least Corky and Memminger get it:
Charles Memminger talks about how Souki's demand to limit the number of cars through punitive action will hurt the little guy READ IT, and Corky's take is below:

Tomorrow at Kailua Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Tomorrow, Wednesday at noon, at Mid Pacific Country Club, one of our speakers, Cliff Slater, will make the case against 'light' rail and the case for elevated reversible HOT lanes. See another discussion of that issue above. The public is welcome but call Kelika Ishole at 261-4947 for reservations.

Leidemann discusses rail in legislature
"When the state Legislature begins its annual session tomorrow, transportation is expected to be one of the hot topics. Everybody wants somebody to do something — anything! — to give us all a little traffic relief." He believes that "the best bets at this point are that legislators will probably give counties the authority to raise their own taxes or create a special transportation authority, which could have power to raise its own money."
OUR OPINION: Opponents should start emailing their entire email list referring people to this website and particularly the rail page at:
If legislators approve funding for a rail line that will be the end of highway improvements since rail will need all the funds legislators can get their hands on.

January 17, 2005.
Legislature to raise taxes for rail.
"Traffic speeds onto agenda," headlines the Star-Bulletin today. Veteran Capitol Reporter Richard Borreca reports that "is not whether Honolulu needs mass transit but how it will be funded. There are two main ideas: either let the Honolulu City Council raise the excise tax, or form a transit authority with the power to raise funds." Rep. Joe Souki predicts, "There will be legislation to permit the counties to raise taxes for mass transit ... It will pass the House and Senate." Senate President Bunda says there is already agreement to give taxing authority to the counties. FULL STORY

The tragedy is that our legislators cannot point to a single U.S. rail line that has been successful in curbing auto traffic. In fact, since rail projects suck up all of a community's transportation moneys, there is little left to improve roads. This is why metropolitan areas with rail have experienced greater increases in traffic congestion than those without. For example, out of 47 metro areas of our size, less than 1 million population, only one has a rail line, Salt Lake City, and it has experienced the third worst increase in traffic congestion. 
What is it with our legislators that they want us to commit fiscal suicide?

January 7, 2005.
Strange happenings in federal funding?
Yesterday we revealed Tom Downs' October speech and now
Reason's Surface Transportation Newsletter for January has this quote:
“Highways in the U.S. are traditionally government planned, government funded, and government maintained. . . . But that is changing. The time has come for us to acknowledge that building a highway network is not substantially different than building a telecommunications network or a network for the delivery of electricity. . . . The time has come for us to allow – unleash – the private sector to participate in all elements of infrastructure improvements. It is time to let the free market deliver the innovation, the cost savings, and the quality it has delivered in other industries. And, it is time to allow the states to expand the pricing of their highway networks. We know PPPs work. The time is right to move them into the mainstream of transportation finance.” --Mary Peters, Federal Highway Administrator, speaking at ARTBA Public-Private Ventures conference, Dec. 9, 2004.

January 6, 2005.
Transportation funding back to the states?
Just coming to light is an October speech by Tom Downs, suggesting, "It is time to seriously look at the possibility that we need to devolve all surface transportation funding out of Washington." It is a carefully crafted argument emphasing the disintegration of the federal program and a real decline in gas tax collections. Downs is not a lonely voice out there but rather he is the consummate Washington insider. He is currently, Director of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland , and president and CEO of the Eno Transportation Foundation. Over the course of a long and distinguished career, he’s held just about every key job one can imagine in transportation: Associate Administrator of FHWA, Executive Director of FTA, Director of the DC Dept. of Transportation, President of the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and chairman and CEO of Amtrak, among others. It’s hard to think of anyone with broader and stronger transportation credentials than Tom Downs says Bob Poole, Director of Transportation Studies at Reason Foundation. FULL SPEECH

January 4, 2005.
Freight stalls in Portland's traffic congestion.
The Portland Tribune tells of the delays that traffic congestion is causing business. The congestion increases are the result of neglect in increasing and maintaining the highway system. As the Port of Oakland's transportation manager puts it, "Policymakers are responsive to their constituents, and freight doesn't vote." Voters do not understand the connection between stalled freight and increasing prices. FULL STORY  (Thanks for the tip-off to

January 3, 2005.
Cartoonist John Pritchett right on rail

We must always remind voters that, by definition, rail proponents favor a tax increase to finance it — there is no other way to do it.  PRITCHETT'S RAIL CARTOONS

January 1, 2005.
Ed Hirata, DTS Director prioritizes rail transit.
According to this morning's Star-Bulletin Mayor Hannemann's new appointment to be head of the City's transportation department is quoted as saying, "We need to get started on the rail project." Hirata was Governor Waihee's DOT Director during the last rail battle and has had a long association, as both an officer and registered lobbyist, with Hawaiian Electric (HECO), which would be a prime beneficiary of a rail line. Hirata will serve at least six months while Hannemann searches for a permanent director. The Bulletin reports that, "Besides getting the ball rolling on rail, Hirata will also assist Hannemann in implementing short-term traffic solutions such as better synchronization of traffic signals and possibly merging the state and city traffic management centers."