ATI The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu


 update 2/19/2005


In December 2004, the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization released the results of a survey of public attitudes about transportation issues. It is a blatant attempt to jack up support for a rail line among Oahu residents. Here’s why:

You can skew a survey by the quality of the questions being asked. Here’s an example: Consider the following two hypothetical questions regarding someone choosing a car:

Would you like a BMW? Answer: YES.

Would you like a BMW if you had to make the $800 a month payments and pay maintenance and insurance costs averaging $2,500 a year? Answer: NO.

Back to the OMPO survey:

All the questions were designed by OMPO, which is to say, at the direction of the elected officials who favor rail transit.

At no time in this survey do they tell those being polled the costs for a rail line even though the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) has already estimated the cost at $2.6 billion dollars. Given that the federal government has already imposed a limit of $500 million in funding per project it means that we would have to fund $2.1 billion locally. That would undoubtedly take the imposition of a one percent Honolulu County G.E. tax. But the survey does not mention a specific amount.

Instead of asking the bland, "Do you support a tax for rail transit?" they should be asking "Do you support a tax for rail transit that will cost the average family of four about $900 a year?" When people don't know the cost of the tax, how can they reasonably answer the question in a way that has meaning.

Nor is there any mention of the reversible elevated highway, which has also been considered by HDOT, and would cost about $1 billion and would require only $300 million in local funding.

Thus, the difference in local funding for these two projects is between $2.1 BILLION for rail and $300 MILLION for the transitway. No indication of cost is mentioned to those being surveyed.

Instead, this is the type of language they used to skew the responses (emphasis added):

Q4. Currently, it would be difficult and expensive (p. 16) to build new roadways or widen existing ones in the urban core of Honolulu.

Q9. Do you feel that a rail rapid transit system should be constructed as a long-term transportation solution for Honolulu?

Note that highways are “difficult and expensive” while the rail system is “rapid transit.” And those descriptions are incorrect. The rail option is ten times more expensive than the reversible highway option to carry the same number of riders. And far from being “rapid,” the rail line would operate at an average speed of 22.5 mph while the highway option would average 55 mph.

Even with the skewing, on page 4 it says, "Oahu drivers – two-thirds of adults – favored making traffic flow improvements over encouraging more mass transit usage." On page 23-24, we find that more people support a tax increase for roads than they do rail.

The full survey is available at: