formerly The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu


  May 31, 2005

Editorial: Follow the money

If you want to understand what is behind the push for the rail transit tax, follow the money. The developers, the construction unions, the non-bid consultants, the rail transit suppliers, and let us not forget our elected officials. READ MORE

Join the Vote Hawaii discussion group:

See the tab at left for interesting discussions on issues for voters, including the rail tax.

The scandal regarding Seattle's 'vote for rail':

We keep hearing about other communities voting to built and extend light rail. This study by Dr. Harkness, an urban planner, details what really happens. READ MORE  

American Highway Users Alliance on U.S. roads:
American Highway Users Alliance Deplores Deteriorating Road Conditions; Urges Congress to Pass Long-Overdue Highway Bill. New Study Finds Pavement Conditions Worsening. READ MORE Also see new tab at left.

Texas passes new toll road legislation:
AThe new bill allows Texas to spend $2 billion annually on toll road construction and makes administration of toll roads easier. READ MORE    See also new tab at left for Peter Samuel's Tollroad News magazine.


May 27, 2005

Transit discussion yesterday on public radio:

Beth Ann Kozlovich of Hawaii Public Radio's Town Square hosted Cliff Slater to discuss the transit issue. During the hour long call-in show, with only one caller apparently known to Cliff, the callers were overwhelmingly opposed to rail. Strangely, many were residents of the hard hit Mililani to Ewa Beach areas. We are now thinking that the politicians are out of touch with voters' sentiments on this issue.


BART directors approve fare hikes and new parking fees:

Yesterday BART directors approved charges for park and rides of up to $5, reductions in senior and student discounts, as "anticipated changes as a result of labor contract negotiations with transit employees." READ MORE


Here's the latest Locally Preferred Alternative:



May 26, 2005

Nestor Garcia presents to the Chamber:

           Council member Garcia, Chair of the Transportation Committee, showed the same Powerpoint presentation that he used at his last Committee hearing to Chamber members in the Prince Hotel bar this morning. During questioning he showed himself to be for rail under any circumstances. For greater detail see Peter Kay's blog for his take.


And you thought we were alone with our problem:


The Chamber and its "rail or HOT lanes" debate:

           The date for this has been changed to June 21, 7:30 (?) am, Hyatt Regency Hotel.


May 25, 2005

The Chamber and its "rail or HOT lanes" debate:

           Two weeks ago the Chamber of Commerce's Jim Tollefson said there would be a debate on June 23rd between Honolulutraffic.com's nominee, Cliff Slater, and the Mayor's nominee. However, the Chamber has not yet set any ground rules and the Mayor has still not nominated anyone .... Hmmm.  

          Our guess is that he is not going to do so and that the Chamber will not object. Or if the Mayor does, he will nominate someone that no one has ever heard of. That way when the debate goes wrong they can blame it on the person's performance rather than the facts. However, the biggest proponent of rail is Ed Hirata, the "temporary" Director of the City's Department of Transportation Services; he is the Mayor's logical nominee. He knows the issues well; he should be the nominee. Somehow, we doubt it.


The strangeness of Hawaii politics and rail:

              In other cities the left is opposed to rail and in favor of better bus service. That is because in most places rail sucks up every loose transportation dollar and short changes bus service.

             In Vancouver, Canada, for example, the leftist bus riders union opposes extension of Skytrain at the expense of buses. The Los Angeles Bus Riders Union headlines "Stop Holding Bus Riders Hostage to Your Rail Mania!" There's now even a movie, Bus Riders' Union .

             In Honolulu the left passes a GE tax increase, which is the tax that most hurts lower income families. But the usual advocates for the poor are not heard from. Where are Ah Quon McElrath, Larry Boyd, and the others?


Cartoonists do love rail transit:


 May 23, 2005

Salt Lake City's light rail line is out of control:

          An excerpt: " The current proposal to build a commuter rail from northern Weber County to Salt Lake City is particularly nonsensical. The system will cost about $550 million to build, and the UTA has projected initial ridership of only 5,900 per day.
    Amortizing the capital cost over 30 years, assuming 5 percent for interest, gives a monthly capital cost $2.9 million - about $492 per rider per month. This is well short of Mr. Inglish's $771 monthly vehicle allowance, but would still be enough to lease each of these potential riders a decent car - say a Mercedes C-class."


 May 21, 2005

Here's the final version of HB 1309 CD1, the tax bill:

          Of particular note in the final version of HB 1309 is that the tax revenues can only be used for "operating or capital costs of a locally preferred alternative for a mass transit project" and it "shall not be used to build or repair public roads or highways or support public transportation systems already in existence"  and the state takes a 10 percent cut. So much for home rule.


Latest on Council Bill 40, the City rail tax bill:

         These hearings all take place during the day at Honolulu Hale, which makes it difficult for working folks to attend. "Working families," which is to say, unions, do not have this problem.

         The dates of the Committee and Council "hearings" for the transit tax, Bill 40, are as follows:

5/11/05, 10:00AM, Full Council, first reading. Passed 7-2.

5/17/05, Joint Transportation/Budget Committees, first reading. Passed 6-1

6/6/05, Full Council, second reading.

6/21/05, Final Joint Transportation/Budget Committees.

7/06/05, Full Council final "hearing."


Dale Evan's latest cogent comment:

          "If there is so 'little room for new roads,' how come there is so much room for new developments?"


Council Bill 40 passes 2nd reading in Committee 6-1.

           As anticipated the bill passed with only Barbara Marshall dissenting; Charles Djou is not a member of this committee. The City's Rail Development Schedule was revealed during this hearing. READ MORE


  May 17, 2005

OPINION: Rail gets crazier by the day:

        The City scenario shows that the first segment of the rail transit will run from Kapolei to Waipahu (for the shopping?) at a cost of $500 million using only local taxes — no federal funding.

        We have just been down this road: We spent millions on the initial segment of the BRT with the idea of getting federal funding and then the feds said no. Not only were those millions of taxpayers’ funds wasted but, in addition, taxpayers had to pay for millions of dollars of the new hybrid buses and all the special equipment for them — buses that will not even go uphill.

        What happens this time when we build the initial segment and then the feds say no again?

In addition, the Mayor now says he will extend the rail line to UH-Manoa, which is about a one thousand, 200 million dollar extension beyond the original two thousand, six hundred million dollar plan for Kapolei to Iwilei. That is a total of three thousand, eight hundred million dollars — before cost overruns.

        How many times do we need to learn that we must have a plan first? Not a tax first — a plan first. READ SCENARIO  And to think that no one has yet reduced traffic congestion with rail.


Rail tax bill hearing today at City Hall:

House Bill 40, raising the GE tax by 12.5 percent, which raises the same amount of taxpayer money as a 68¢ hike in the gas tax, or a 30 percent hike in property tax, will be heard today at 2:00 pm by the Joint Committee on Budget & Transportation and Planning. Come and testify.


  May 16, 2005

We need volunteers to help inform voters:

The average voter has no idea that a 12.5 percent GE tax increase is hanging over their heads. We need volunteers out in their communities to get the word out. And we need hearings in communities; it is outrageous that the biggest tax increase in Hawaii's history is about to be voted on and so few are aware of it. Please email us at info@honolulutraffic.com that you are willing to help.


Top 12 reasons for the Mayor's staff to do their homework.

Of late the Mayor has been handing out, "TOP 12 REASONS FOR RAIL TRANSIT." It's embarrassingly inaccurate so we renamed it, "TOP 12 REASONS FOR THE MAYOR’S STAFF TO DO THEIR HOMEWORK."
For Reason # 1, the Mayor tells us that we had 814,423 registered vehicles on Oahu last July up 36 percent since 1992. That's WRONG; there were 688,163 vehicles on Oahu last July, up only 12.5 percent. It gets worse. READ MORE


 May 15, 2005

Council Committees hear Bill 40 this Tuesday:

Council Bill 40 to raise our GE. Tax by a half percent will be heard on Tuesday, May 17, at 2:00 pm by a joint meeting of the Transportation and Budget Committees in the 2nd floor Committee hearing room.. Please be there and submit testimony.


A better understanding of buses on HOT lanes:

Our more complete explanation of our HOT lanes proposal is now available. READ MORE



May 13, 2005

Chamber of Commerce sets rail debate for June 23:

Having obtained agreements from the Mayor that he will nominate someone to debate ATI's nominee, Cliff Slater, the Chamber has scheduled a debate on the rail vs. HOT lanes issue for the 23rd of June at 7:00 am at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. It will be for approximately two hours; at least half of that time will be for questions.


The People's Pulse poll is being used to justify rail:
Of late the Chamber of Commerce has been quoting the People's Pulse (Winter '05) poll as justifying the people's preference for rail transit. Those polled were given four options, "Moving jobs to where residents live," "Developing a ferry system," "Expanding bus transit," and "Developing fixed rail mass transit." On Oahu, "moving jobs" scored most and "rail" was second.

First, of the four options respondents were given, none included highways of any kind, let alone HOT lanes. Second, none mentioned cost. Third, there was no information about the options given to respondents such as route, type of vehicles, ticket cost, etc.
In short, a poll such as this is worthless; we are surprised that Omnitrak would tarnish their reputation with it. See "Polls review" tab bottom left.


Galen Fox testifies against City bill 40:

Two weeks ago, having voted for the rail tax bill, HB 1309, which had no defined plan and which required the City Council to pass the tax increase before the end of the year, Republican Leader Galen Fox testified before the Council that he is now "shocked," absolutely "shocked," that the City would go ahead and pass legislation before the end of the year that has no defined plan. READ IT AND WEEP


City bus service loses $114 million in 2004:

We finally got a copy of the audit of the City bus system. It had operating losses of $113.8 million and in addition added $20 million in buses (net of retirements) and $12 million in "shop and other equipment."


May 12, 2005

Council passes Bill 40 to hike GE tax by 7-2:

We are pleased that Barbara Marshall joined Charles Djou in opposing the rail tax. This puts us in a better position than we were in 1990 when the first Council vote was 8-1. This is similar to the House vote of 32-19, which compared favorably with the near unanimous vote in 1990. As we pointed out to the Council, the City only got a ½ percent increase instead of the full one percent they said was needed for rail. Where is the other half of the cost coming from? More hikes in gas taxes and property taxes?

We also suggested they demand answers from Ed Hirata about which places have built rail and reduced traffic congestion, which proponents keep implying. We have told them there aren't any.

In his testimony, the Mayor said the rail would run from Kapolei to UH. The State DOT said that Kapolei to Iwilei would be $2.64 billion. Adding Iwilei to UH will add $1.4 billion for a total of $4 billion. He also discussed beginning the project without federal funds. The City made that mistake last time. Good coverage in the ADVERTISER

OPINION: This war is going along just like the 1992 rail war except that this time we are in a better position. Last time, at this point, the public was pro-rail tax by 65-35 percent, at the end it was unfavorable 72-28 percent. The more the voters knew, the less they liked it. Public opinion will change even more in our favor and, just like last time, Council members will follow public opinion and, one by one, change their positions as they did last time. However, this time we believe the public is already opposed to the rail tax.  

So here's the question: Who is going to get the Rene Mansho Memorial Award this time around? Who is going to be the last one to roll over and be forever blamed by their fellow pols for "killing rail"? We are running a pool on who will be the next three council members to roll over — what month, year, and in which order. Send us your bet; there will be free ice cream for the winner.

Finally a Star-Bulletin editorial writer gets it:

"Life in Hawaii is just a plague of suffering. ANYONE who lives in Hawaii must be nuts, absolute suckers for punishment. Frustrating traffic gets closer and closer to total gridlock every day and yet those knuckleheads at the state Capitol have given the OK to raise taxes so that Honolulu can build a rail transit system that will cost heaps of money forever and won't make a bit of difference in clearing the roads. Most motorists won't get out of their cars to ride the rails, though they really shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel anyway because people in Hawaii don't know the first thing about navigating freeways, having never had to steer a car on I-5 through Los Angeles or the Cross Bronx Expressway. That inability wouldn't be as critical if road engineers in Hawaii knew how to design on ramps and off ramps or even included some, like on the H-3."   STAR-BULLETIN


May 10, 2005

A reminder about those so-called pro-rail polls:

There have been no shibai- free polls so far about the latest rail idea. READ MORE


Big Chamber members unaffected by tax hike?

Hawaii Reporter posts today that of the 10 largest Chamber members, only one is impacted by the proposed transit tax hike. FULL STORY


Bill 40 on fast track; no community public hearings:

Bill 40, the transit tax, which will collect $3,000,000,000 ($3 billion) from taxpayers, or $13,000 for each family of four, would be the largest tax increase in Hawaii's history and yet there will be no opportunity for the opposition to voice its rebuttal in any detail; the "privilege" of being able to make a one minute comment does not count as a "hearing" — it is a joke. Nor will there be any opportunity for community understanding and input.

How are average voters expected to take off 3 to 4 hours from work to attend these "hearings"? Of course they can't.

This is an absolute outrage; we must demand hearings in each Neighborhood Board District. With a new Council and a new Mayor, we had expected the promised "open and transparent" process. Instead it is the "same old same old" shibai. Call, fax or email your Council member and express your outrage. Tell them you want an open process and hearings in each community. Don't let them get away with it.  HERE'S WHERE TO FIND THEM


So-called "hearings" set; all at Honolulu Hale:

The dates of the Committee and Council "hearings" for the transit tax, Bill 40, are as follows:

5/11/05, 10:00AM, Full Council, first reading.

5/17/05, Joint Transportation/Budget Committees, first reading.

6/6/05, Full Council, second reading.

6/21/05, Final Joint Transportation/Budget Committees.

7/06/05, Full Council final "hearing."


May 4, 2005

This is another way at looking at the results of rail:

Check this chart of the rail areas and how they have done with traffic congestion and changes in commuters using transit for work. READ MORE  It really demonstrates how much of a waste it would be.


Funding Fathers hike taxes again:

HB1309, hiking the GE tax 12.5 percent to 4.5 percent passed both the Senate and House yesterday. In the Senate it passed along nearly straight party lines with all the Democrats but Sen. Tsutsui voting for and all the Republicans against. In the House it was a different matter. The result was 32 for (some with reservation) and 19 against with a split vote. Democrats Berg, Chong, Carroll, Green, Hiraki, Luke, Nishimoto, Saiki, Tanaka, Wakai and Waters together with Republicans Moses, Stonebraker, Halford, Finnegan, Thielen, Mayer, Marumoto, and Pine voted against. However, despite having taken a No Tax Increase Pledge, Republican Galen Fox voted for, as did Corinne Ching.
Everything was very well scripted. In fact, Kabuki theater is like ‘Night at the Improv’ compared to the Legislature. It's a shame they do not give the credits and the beginning of each session like they do in the beginning of a movie, who wrote the script, who produced and directed the session, etc.

Joe Souki talked about the rail line going out further to the 'East' (Hawaii Kai) and Kailua and Kaneohe. Stonebraker reminded the House that the Founding Fathers had a revolution over a tax on tea, a tiny tax compared the one being imposed. Moses, expected to vote for it, was obviously conflicted on the issue gave an emotional heart and head speech and finally voted the right way.

It is interesting that the Democrats making their case for the tax, and talking about "having examined this issue carefully" nevertheless never once asked us to present the case against the rail tax.


More organizations opposed to the GE tax hike:

Please let us of any organizations opposed to the tax hike who are not on our list. Latest addition is: American Society of Travel Agents - Hawaii CURRENT LIST

May 1, 2005

California bus riders are fighting against rail

In light of Metro's continuing focus on "improving" bus service by changing routes ( often so the routes feed light rail ) and canceling routes , here are a couple of stories from the Los Angeles Times relating to bus service in California. READ MORE

Note two new tabs at left:

"Reports & Publications" and "Tampa's HOT lanes" . We will add more material to each of these as it becomes available.


San Francisco's BART in financial woes:

To put things in perspective, BART has average daily ridership of 350,000 versus Honolulu's TheBus of 230,000, showing that BART has about 40 percent more ridership than we do. Supposedly rail lines have less operating subsidies than buses. It does not appear to be that way with BART. According to their 2004 ANNUAL REPORT BART's fare revenues were $234,546,000, operating expenses were $498,503,000, leaving losses of $263,957,000. Capital costs make the situation worse.

That was in 2004 and now their latest budget is $50,000,000 short, which will mean even greater losses. And that is on top of new charges of $5 a day for park-and-ride spaces, fare increases and reduced discounts for seniors. BART has 45,000 parking spaces so that will add up. READ MORE READ MORE

OPINION: Such rail systems as being proposed for Honolulu are expensive as BART demonstrates. These reports should be read in conjunction with the American Planning Association article mentioned below.