date December 30, 2011.

Star Advertiser headline wrong again:

Since most of our residents only have time for a headline and a seven-second sound bite, it is quite annoying when the media gets them wrong.

Today’s Star Advertiser headline, written by the paper’s management we assume, rather than the reporter, is, “Rail project cleared for federal funding.” It could not be more misleading.

There is no federal funding; only if Congress passes a transportation bill with New Starts funding in it, will there be some transit funding. At the moment we do not know what the amount will be and how much of it Honolulu will get, if any.

The first paragraph of the story put it better in that it “is still on track to receive federal funding.” That is correct, but the track is long and tortuous. If they are lucky it will culminate in a Full Funding Grant Agreement either at the end of 2012 or the following year.

It is only when we get to page 6 do we get to the “devil in the details” that give us a hint of how far the city is from getting federal funding as we cover in an adjacent story.


We testify before HART — with questions:

The following is our testimony before the HART board yesterday:

“The city tells us that they will start construction of the rail line this coming February — just 35 days from now. We have some questions for HART:

1. “As the Star Advertiser implied yesterday, the land swap resulting in the City getting title to the land for the rail maintenance facility is a little iffy. Is it wise, or even legal, for the City to build this facility on land that it does not own?

2. “The Ho’opili property across which rail would run is zoned agricultural. Is it wise or even legal, to build on that land before a change in zoning?

3. “It now appears impossible for Congress to pass a new transportation bill before March at the earliest. Given the Congressional Republican opposition to New Starts funding, is it wise to start rail construction before we have some assurance of federal funding for rail?

4. “If Congress approves a transportation bill with New Starts funding, there would be substantial political competition among potential recipients for those funds. This would limit FTA’s ability to provide all the funds the city is banking on. Is it wise to proceed with construction until such time as the funding issue is settled with a signed Full Funding Grant Agreement?

5. “We understand that the city has yet to receive FTA approval for its financial plan for entry into the Final Design phase. This must precede the FTA issuance of a Letter of No Prejudice allowing the city to start construction. Is it wise to start construction prior to receiving a Letter of No Prejudice?

6. “The City’s recent motion to dismiss elements of the et al. lawsuit was denied on all counts by Federal Judge Tashima. Is it wise to start construction in the face of a lawsuit result that may well be resolved against the city?

“Lastly, the aggregate amount of risk enumerated here would at least temporarily halt further spending by anyone risking their own money on such an adventure. Is it wise to do otherwise with taxpayers’ money?”

Out of some responses to our testimony we learned that construction would not start until March.

We also learned from the discussions among board members that they have been poorly briefed on the FTA process. They needed a great deal of clarification of what the city could currently do prior to getting a Letter of No Prejudice allowing the work that could be performed without jeopardizing federal funding.

We found that HART executives did not even try to address our questions unless asked questions by board members.

We also learned subsequently that FTA approved the financial plan, but with so many qualifications that we wonder whether it could really be called an approval.


date December 29, 2011.

FTA allows city to enter Final Design phase — with qualifications:

The FTA today sent HART (the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation) a letter granting permission to enter the Final Design phase but it has some unusual language as follows:

"Regarding the Financial Capacity Assessment, FTA notes that the financial plan HART submitted is sufficient to advance the project into final design. However, it must be further strengthened before FTA will consider awarding an FFGA [Full Funding Grant Agreement].

"Specifically, the financial plan states that additional revenues may be obtained from an extension of the General Excise Tax or implementation of value capture mechanisms. However, these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART's ability to control. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should demonstrate the availability of additional revenue sources that could be tapped should unexpected events such as cost increases or funding shortfalls occur.

"Additionally, HART made assumptions in three areas that require further justification or amendment: (1) the containment of bus and HandiVan operating expenses; (2) the increasing share of the City's annual budget required to fund the transit system; and (3) the diversion of Section 5307 funds from preventive maintenance to the Project. Prior to the Project's consideration for an FFGA, HART should either provide further documentation justifying the reasonableness of these assumptions or consider revising these assumptions to more closely follow historical patterns."

We find it a little strange that at this stage the FTA would approve the current financial plan but have so many difficulties with it. The FTA is now telling the city that they have to go to the State legislature and the City Council to get an unspecified extension of the ½ percent General Excise Tax increase.  In addition, "HART made assumptions in three areas that require justification."

The FTA has been sitting on this financial plan since early September — nearly three months. Now they approve it but with enough qualifications that tells us they should not have approved it in the first place. This is going to be interesting.

We also find it interesting that HART must have delayed releasing this letter until around 5:00 PM today, which is 10:00 PM Washington time. Would that have anything to do with precluding interviews for the popular six o'clock news?


date December 22, 2011.

We're asking FTA why they approve killing express buses:

Yesterday we sent the Federal Transit Administration a letter spelling out that in some cases express buses offer better service than what is promised for the city's rail project. Yet they are going to discontinue express buses the day that rail would open. We are asking why FTA is approving this?

Read the letter you will be astonished they could do this.


date December 18, 2011.

A reminder about FTA Administrator Rogoff's Boston Reserve speech:

In May 2010, Peter Rogoff held forth before the Boston Federal Reserve with an anti-rail, pro-Bus/Rapid Transit speech that was quite astonishing. If you missed it when we publicized it before, read it here. Or see the speech on YouTube.


Star Advertiser op/ed — "On the hook with rail":

Today's Star Advertiser carries an op/ed by Lee Catterall titled, "On the hook with rail," which points out that the principle legal obstacle facing HART is our lawsuit.

Two corrections are necessary. First, Senior Ninth Circuit Judge Tashima is not "acting." He is a very senior judge on the circuit. Second, the reason we have a California judge instead of one from Hawaii is not because "Honolulu-based federal judges are conflicted by the nearness of the rail plan to their chambers." It was because all but one of our federal judges had signed a petition in opposition to the rail line, and the other recused himself early on. They and the General Services Administration are concerned about the security of their chambers in the Federal Building, which are only 45 feet from the proposed rail line.

They had objections to the route early on in the process but were essentially dissed, albeit very politely and at length.


Detroit News — "Rapid buses bump light rail plan":

Three paragraphs from the Detroit News:

"Washington — The Obama administration and the city of Detroit are expected to announce as early as today they will scrap a plan for light rail along Woodward in favor of a rapid-transit bus system, three officials briefed on the plan said late Tuesday.

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff will outline a bus system as part of a regional transportation plan in a meeting with Michigan members of Congress today.

"Detroit is struggling with significant financial issues, and a rapid regional bus system is far cheaper than building a light rail system along Woodward Avenue and could serve far more people, officials said."

Read the full story.


date December 16, 2011.

Our Quotes section is full of surprising riches:

Here's the kind of gem you can find in our Quotes section, Mayor Harris writing in the city's Progress Report #3 somewhere around 2000:

"Previous proposals for a grade-separated rail transit system in Honolulu deeply divided the community and would have required massive capital investments. It is increasingly clear that our best path to better mobility on Oahu is to improve our highway infrastructure as much as we can and build on our very successful bus service to improve and expand public transit. With cutting edge technologies and innovative operational systems, we can make big improvements at an affordable cost."

In your heart of hearts, don't you really miss the guy?


date December 13, 2011.

New report says the transit selection process biased in favor of rail:

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy's (ITDP) mission "is to work with cities worldwide to bring about transport solutions that cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of urban life. "

In a new report, it says that the transit selection process is rigged in favor of less effective rail projects and seriously biased against bus and road. The report "Recapturing Global Leadership in Bus Rapid Transit: a Survey of Select US Cities" is written by Annie Weinstock, Michael Replogle and Ramon Cruz. Replogle at least has been a vocal opponent of roads and a transit supporter, employed for years at the Environmental Defense Fund. The ITDP report has an Introduction by longtime transit enthusiast Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Democrat-Oregon.


Federal court judge denies City/FTA motion:

Yesterday California Senior Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima denied the City/FTA Motion to a) dismiss certain of the plaintiffs for lack of standing, and b) the plaintiffs did not identify certain historical sites during the environmental process.

The reason given was simple. Since the City/FTA had refused to produce the Administrative Record (the full record of all papers including emails in the possession of the City/FTA) it was impossible to tell what was in it. (The judge had earlier ordered them to produce the record by January 13). This was precisely what we had said in our defense in a hearing before the judge earlier this month.

The Advertiser headline this morning was, “Opponents allowed to contest rail project.” However, that missed the point. The judge asked of the City/FTA more than once during the recent hearing why they were asking for dismissal because even if he was to dismiss the four there were other plaintiffs who clearly had standing and that meant the case would go on anyway.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) spun the story by saying, “Despite the City's efforts to streamline the case early in the process by asking the Court to remove [certain] Plaintiffs …” Streamline the case? All they were trying to do was delay, obfuscate and drive up costs. As quoted in the Pacific Business News, plaintiff and former federal district court judge, Walter Heen, said the city’s motion was only wasting the plaintiffs’, and the court’s, time.

“The defendants need to get their act together and get the full administrative record before the court so that the court can make a decision on these preliminary matters and the entire issue,” he said. “The court’s decision, while not couched in such terms, to me is indicative of the city’s plan of action in delaying a decision on the lawsuit in order to force the plaintiffs to come up with more money to pay their lawyers and to give the city more time to engage in their make-work operations to try to prove to the public that, in spite of the lawsuit and the plaintiffs’ opposition to the project, everything is moving forward.”


date December 12, 2011.

Vancouver Skytrain now installing turnstiles for safety:

Yesterday the Star Advertiser report, "Honor Bound," said that the city rail system would have an honor system that would require passengers to buy tickets or passes but would not check everyone to see if they had actually done so. Instead the inspectors would be used to check passengers randomly and collect fines if they find that they do not have passes or tickets.

Acting HART Executive Director Toru Hamayasu said the decision to adopt an open station design was made partly because barriers slow passengers down and they present some complications when riders want to transfer from bus to rail, according to the Star Advertiser. HART Finance Chair Don Horner expressed some concerns about safety.

However the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News reports the Vancouver Skytrain is abandoning its open access plan and adopting checking payments at turnstiles. It reports:

"Construction of the new SkyTrain turnstiles was kicked off by a crew of politicians at the Commercial-Broadway Station on Tuesday morning.

"TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said it will take about 18 months to install about 400 gates, including 150 accessible gates for wheelchairs and strollers, throughout the 49 stations in the system.

"The total cost of the gates is estimated at $100 million. The province is paying about $40 million and the federal government is paying $30 million of the cost, with the rest of the cost coming out of TransLink's existing budget.

"The gates are designed to work with TransLink's new smart-card system called the Compass card which will work throughout the entire regional transit system, including Coast Mountain buses, the SeaBus and the West Coast Express.

"The Compass smart-card system is expected to cost an additional $70 million.

"TransLink estimates it loses more than $7 million a year through fare evasion, but one of the main reasons for installing the new system has been demands to make the system safer." (underlining added)


date December 6, 2011.

We are not the only ones spending fortunes on PR:

Engineering News-Record reveals that California's High Speed rail project has one contract alone for $9 million, which elected officials are endeavoring to cancel. The paper tells us:

" the rail authority's public relations campaign has in recent years included not only its contract with Ogilvy -- which is now being unwound -- but also millions of dollars more in lucrative, publicly funded outreach contracts embedded in agency engineering contracts."


date December 5, 2011.

Another glimpse of construction-caused congestion:

One of our major criticisms of the City is not what they tell you but what they leave out. For example, they tell you that rail will relieve traffic congestion, and that is true, but grossly misleading. What they don't tell you is the rest of the story. That is, rail will relieve traffic congestion (slightly) from what it might be if we did nothing, but congestion will still be worse than it is today.

Similarly, they tell you that they would put in supporting pillars but they don't tell you what that entails. Here's an example of a pile cap arrangement that would have to be constructed anywhere the ground is not stable, such as anywhere makai of Queen Street, the original waterfront. Taking the average of the dimensions given in the engineering drawing below, it shows that they will drive three piles down to solid coral and then cap that with a concrete block that is 42.5' long x 11' wide x 5' thick. On top of that is placed an 8' diameter (same width as a city bus) by 42' high supporting pillar capped with the platform upon which the rails would be placed.

Let's consider the implications of that. Along Nimitz Highway and Halekauwila Street they would dig holes 42.5' wide, say four lanes, and 11' long. That means the Halekauwila Street would have to be closed during construction since in most place the street is not that wide. Nimitz Highway might be able to sustain traffic operations for one lane in each direction — possibly. We must remember that while the hole may be 42.5' wide, additional space is needed all around it for construction crews and equipment to operate. Of course, if native Hawaiian bones are discovered it means that everything stops until all the legal issues are sorted out. Altogether this might have some implications for traffic congestion.


date December 4, 2011.

The cartoonists are always the first to smell blood in the water:

When public opinion begins to coalesce on a contentious issue the cartoonists are always the first to notice it and reflect it back to their readers. Judging from the spate of recent great cartoons, obviously something is happening with public opinion right now.

Pritchett's View: Showdown at the Injunction Junction:

Our view of Wednesday's federal court hearing:

Our hearing this past Wednesday in Federal Court concerned the City and the FTA’s Motion to Dismiss four of our eight plaintiffs. The City/FTA also filed to dismiss on the grounds of our supposed insufficient detailing of historic properties and resources. Judge Tashima will rule on these two issues soon.

As far as dismissing plaintiffs, it accomplishes nothing as Judge Tashima noted on Thursday. Even were he to dismiss the four, the remaining four would still continue on with the Complaint.

Nor did the other filing concerning historic properties stop the suit from continuing. In the unlikely event he were to rule against us, the suit still goes on.

What has become clear is that the City/FTA is fighting not to get clarification on the legal issues, but rather to obstruct and delay in any way they can. The advantage gained by the government is solely to run up the legal expenses in an attempt to freeze us out. We plaintiffs have to raise money from volunteers whereas a majority of the City Council continues to give the City Administration unlimited legal funds to fight us.

The big issue in the delay is that the FTA and the City have refused to produce the Administrative Record despite a nearly seven month lag from the filing of our complaint. The record of emails and phone calls between our attorneys and theirs clearly indicate a sudden foot dragging starting last July.

Nicholas Yost, arguably the nation’s leading environmental lawyer, who has been practicing such law for 40 years, told the media, "Back in September they said there were 500,000 documents, which are the universe from which the administrative record would be selected, that they had isolated them, and they were ready. So why haven't they come up with it?"

He said that in all his years he has never seen such a delay in the production of an Administrative Record. For example, the Record of Decision was researched on the basis of the Administrative Record so they have no excuse in not providing it. Judge Tashima one ruling on Thursday was to order the City/FTA to produce it by January 13, 2012. Our attorneys will be conferring with their attorneys shortly and the result of these discussions will determine our future moves.

The media weighed in on the Court hearing. Here are links to their reports:

KHON Channel 2 News   KITV Channel 4 News  Hawaii News Now  Star Advertiser   Hawaii Reporter


date November 27, 2011.

We offer today's Star Advertiser cartoon without comment:


Our lawsuit now in court Wednesday at 10:00 AM:

The first phase of our lawsuit, et al. vs. FTA and the City and County of Honolulu, will be heard in Federal Courtroom AHA KAULIKE this Wednesday at 10:00 AM by Judge A. Wallace Tashima, a Senior Ninth Circuit Judge of California. The order of business is first to hear the Defendants' Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings, followed by a Status/Scheduling Conference.

Note: Some of the courtrooms have Hawaiian names. ‘Aha Kupono (place of justice), ‘Aha Kaulike (place of equity), and ‘Aha Nonoi (place of appeal) all share the same floor with Judge Mollway’s courtroom, ‘Aha Kanawai (place of law). Those are the courtrooms that the Article III Judges and Senior Judges use.


date November 26, 2011.

Our lawsuit gets first hearing this Wednesday:

We have been having difficulty this week getting a definitive time for our Wednesday hearing. It will be in Federal Court starting at either 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM and as soon as we have a definitive answer we will post it.

The court will hear the City and FTA's Motion to Dismiss both some of the plaintiffs, and also part of our 4(f) claims. The City/FTA are claiming that Plaintiffs Governor Cayetano, Judge Walter Heen, the Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation, Professor Randall Roth and Dr. Michael Uechi do not have standing to be plaintiffs. However, they do not claim that Plaintiffs Cliff Slater, Hawaii's Thousand Friends and do not have standing. Therefore, it does not affect the progress of the lawsuit. All it accomplishes is to run up the legal expenses for both sides and, maybe, get some positive PR out of it for the City.


Ansaldo decision drags on; does not delay rail:

The on again, off again, city signing of the contract with Ansaldo STS, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, looks like it is on again after a quick flight to Honolulu by Ansaldo STS CEO, Sergio De Luca, who spent Friday morning with the Hawaii Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) board apparently convincing them that their hearts should not be troubled. All the news we have heard lately, we now hear was an unfortunate misunderstanding. It is now expected that the final decision-maker, Toru Hamayasu, HART's Interim Director, will likely sign the contract this coming week sometime.

Whether the contract is signed now or later should net affect the City's projected timeline. The concrete guideway has to be completed before a track can be laid or vehicles run on them. Since there is no need to rush this element of the project, one has to wonder why they are doing it.


date November 23, 2011.

Outdoor Circle formalizes its opposition to rail:

The Star Advertiser's Kevin Dayton reported today on the Outdoor Circle firming up its opposition to elevated rail through town. The Outdoor Circle's position on rail is unequivocal; here are just two paragraphs:   

"In our 100 year history The Outdoor Circle (TOC) has seen no other venture that holds the potential to degrade the landscape of Oahu as the proposed Honolulu Rail Transit project. TOC has been involved in virtually every step of the project from the moment it was first brought to the public for discussion. For more than five years, at every opportunity, we have urged the City to explain how it will mitigate Transit’s horrific visual damage to this island as well as the degradation to neighborhoods and communities along the route of this six billion dollar project..

"Of great concern to TOC is the visual damage caused by Transit. The City acknowledges that the damage will occur but has determined that the blight the project creates is the price our residents and visitors must pay for “progress.” Imagine the cumulative visual impact of more than 20 miles of a massive elevated concrete guideway, supported by 720 large concrete columns with the inevitable graffiti and enormous transit stations. The project is destined to become an ugly scar across one of the most beautiful places on earth while there is little evidence that it will bring relief to Oahu’s unacceptable traffic situation."

Both of these reports should be read.


date November 21, 2011.

Here's another taste of what's to come should they get to build rail:

We showed yesterday the nuisance that traffic will encounter this week Downtown. We have excerpted from one of the technical documents the pages that involve details of construction related effects. The document is part of the EIS but is not in the main document. It is the Transportation Technical Report, pages 7-1 to 7-20.

Skim the pages of this report and it will give you a good feel of the traffic-related effects of rail construction. However, it will only be for the next nine years until 2020 unless there are hold ups because of discoveries of native Hawaiian bones, in which case it may take a little longer.


date November 20, 2011.

Here's just a taste of what's to come should they get to build rail:


This is just a little taste of what would come. You have to imagine rush hour when half of Dillingham Blvd. is closed down at the same time that half of Nimitz is closed. You will love it.

Here's what is coming  for this week starting tomorrow morning:


Sign up to "like" our Facebook page:

We now have a Facebook page and you can easily get there by clicking on the Facebook logo in the upper left corner of this page. We would appreciate you affirm that you "like" the page. The more people we get to "like" it the more the search engines pay attention. Go there now! Thank you.


Today's Star Advertiser: "Court fight may decide if rail stays on track":

Kevin Dayton reports today on details of our lawsuit and points out how many projects, such as the Superferry, the Hokulia residential development in Kona and the telescopes project at Mauna Kea, have come undone (as in "undone deal") because of violations of the environmental process.

This is very good coverage of the essentials of our lawsuit, which will have its first day in federal court on November 30, one week from this coming Wednesday.


Star Advertiser editorial tells HART "Scrutiny of rail deal worth delay":

The lead paragraph in today's main editorial is,

"Honolulu's contract with a subsidiary of an Italian conglomerate to design, build and operate the city's rail transit project was scheduled to be signed next Friday, but a delay is needed to reassess what increasingly looks as shaky as the euro."

That about says it all but the whole editorial is worth reading.


date November 17, 2011.

HART schedules a new review of the Ansaldo deal November 25:

The Pacific Business News story today tells us:

"The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will conduct additional due diligence on contractor Ansaldo Honolulu JV before signing a contract for the $1.4 billion contract to design, build and operate Honolulu’s proposed rail transit system because of concerns about its parent company’s finances.

"HART has scheduled a joint finance and project oversight meeting for Nov. 25 — the deadline for the city to sign the Ansaldo contract — to discuss Ansaldo’s “financial capacity to meet all of its obligations under the contract,” HART said in a statement.

"Although the deadline is Nov. 25, HART could extend the deadline, spokesman Scott Ishikawa said."


Councilmember Tom Berg's reso for a new EIS held by Harimoto:

Tom Berg has proposed a reso #11-258, "Urging the Mayor and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement for the City's Transit Project."  Council Transportation Chair Breene Harimoto refuses to hear the reso.

We wholeheartedly agree; this is essentially what our federal lawsuit argues for. The City needs to study the alternative routes and technology in a scientific and unbiased way. Only then will see a transportation alternative that will satisfy the electorate. Readers who agree with us should encourage him to reconsider.


City Council majority urges City to delay rail approval:

Today's Star Advertiser has a story by Kevin Dayton detailing the issue. The majority were Council Chair Ernest Martin, Ann Kobayashi, Ikaika Anderson, Tom Berg, and Tulsi Gabbard. Apparently they were not joined by Stanley Chang, Nestor Garcia, Breene Harimoto and possibly, Romy Cachola.

Similarly, Governor Ariyoshi expressed his concerns last Wednesday in a Star Advertiser op/ed titled, "Leave no stone unturned before passing rail's point of no return." which summed up his feelings on the subject. His final comment in the op/ed was as follows:

"Those who are minding the store now need to ask themselves if they are doing the right thing by them and take another close look at the options. The city and HART's best assurance of delivering a world-class rail system is to entrust the task to a company with a proven track record. That is the prediction of future success. Only then will people breathe easier — and travel better."

David Shapiro chimed in yesterday in his column titled, "Ariyoshi offers smart, sharp criticism of rail."  Sharpiro commented that:

"Even many rail supporters are baffled by the city's apparent fixation on Ansaldo from the start and dogged support for the company as reports have mounted about questionable performance and turmoil in the home office."


date November 15, 2011.

Honolulu Rotary Club video now available:

On October 11 this year, the so-called Gang of Four, Governor Ben Cayetano, Judge Walter Heen, Professor Randy Roth, and businessman Cliff Slater, presented their views of the current rail project to Hawaii's largest Rotary Club. The presentation together with questions took 32 minutes. As a quick critique of the rail project and the status of our lawsuit, this is very useful. It is titled, "How the City Misled the Public on Transit Issues."


date November 10, 2011.

The 2011 Federal Transportation Energy Data Book is now out:

The U.S. Department of Energy has issued the 30th edition of its Transportation Energy Data Book and tells us that the automobile is still more energy efficient than most rail lines. Among other things, it tells us that 3,538 Btus per passenger mile is now the average energy usage for automobiles. (British Thermal Units is the standard measurement of energy) (Source: Table 2.13).

The Data Book warns us to be careful with averages. This is especially true for weighted averages where, for example, New York City, which has nearly 60 percent of the nation’s rail transit passenger boardings and is very energy efficient, has an overwhelming influence on the weighted average.

Obviously, a heavy automobile with one passenger is going to use more energy per passenger mile than a compact auto with four passengers. It is somewhat similar with buses and trains.

Honolulu’s #8 bus, shuttling full loads of tourists back and forth from Waikīkī to Ala Moana Center, is far more energy efficient than a relatively empty bus might be in the hinterlands.

Similarly, a New York subway train shuttling people back and forth about the city all day and night long is going to be far more energy efficient per passenger mile than a suburban commuter route bringing full loads into town in the morning and out in the afternoon, but for the rest of the time is going back and forth fairly empty.

We can see in the adjacent Data Book chart, that there is lower energy use among heavy rail systems in the big cities versus the higher energy use among suburban oriented lines. The rail lines more like Honolulu’s would be the other elevated heavy rail lines, Miami’s Metrorail and San Juan’s Tren Urbano, both of which have far higher energy use than most of the others.

Unfortunately, the Final EIS does not attempt to explain to us why Honolulu's rail line would be more energy efficient than these two lines, let alone the average automobile.


A reminder about our Quotes page:

From time to time we add to our quotes page (quotes.htm). Here are three to encourage you to go to there. The all time quote about rail proponents was from former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier in 1990, who said:

“First they say, `It's cheaper.' When you show it costs more, they say, ` It's faster.' When you show it's slower, they say, `It serves more riders.' When you show there are fewer riders, they say, `It brings economic development.' When you show no economic development, they say, `It helps the image.' When you say you don't want to spend that much money on image, they say, `It will solve the pollution problem.' When you show it won't help pollution, they say, finally, `It will take time. You’ll see.” Houston Metropolitan Magazine. November 1990, page 49.

Here are three more quotes from our collection:

"Regardless of how good a mass transit system is developed for Honolulu, no private cars will be taken off the highways, and the vehicle population will continue to increase." Hawaii Dept of Transportation. Report to the 9th Legislature Relating to the Statewide Transportation Council. December 1977. p.7.

"The Shirley Highway busway carries more people into and out of the Washington DC region's urban core during rush hours than any of the several rapid rail lines that serve Washington. The Express Bus Lane into New York carries more people across the Hudson during rush hours than any other single facility, despite the fact that it is only one lane. Busways...make van and carpools more attractive. Busways also encourage competitive provision of transit services since different bus operators may use the same busway." U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The Status of the Nation's Local Mass Transportation; Performance and Condition. Dept. of Transportation - UMTA. 1988.

"Some form of mass transit will have to be developed to meet transportation demands created by limited accommodation of the automobile. The system that is finally adopted should be one which will lend itself readily to incremental planning. Grand schemes, such as BART, should be considered suspect from an economic point of view. The BART system, which was supposed to be finished in 1971 for one billion dollars and be self-supporting, is still not completed, will cost in the neighborhood of two or more billion dollars, and already has been acknowledged as an economic failure. Recently, a sales tax had to be levied on the residents served by BART to bail it out of financial difficulty. There is every reason to believe that the tax will be needed indefinitely in order to continue its operation. Given the history of cost overruns with such systems,Honolulu should not be too hasty in committing itself to any such system at this time." Interdepartmental Transportation Control Commission, Office of the Governor, State of Hawaii. Report to the 8th Legislature. November 1974. p.10.


date November 4, 2011.

Tom Berg's video, "Fruitless in Fruitvale":

In 2007, Councilmember Tom Berg visited Fruitvale, a part of Oakland, California, which was then being lauded by our City officials as a successful Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). He made this video and it is well worth watching.


New City rendering now available:

You may remember that on October 27 we posted a City-produced rendering of a rail station in response to our opponents on the October 13, Channel 10 Island Insights TV show who claimed that the renderings we showed were exaggerated. The renderings had been provided by the Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) . We have subsequently found a better quality print of the city rendering. It shows how much worse the city's own view of a station is than the ones provided by AIA — and this is before the taggers apply their graffiti to it.


date November 3, 2011.

Hearing on our lawsuit set for November 30:

Federal Judge Teshima of California will allow oral argument in a hearing in Federal Court here in Honolulu on November 30th. We do not yet have full details on the hearing but will post them as soon as we know.

Full details of the environmental process are available at

Full details of the lawsuit are at


date November 2, 2011.

A reminder that rail is politics at its purest:

A year ago last May, we wrote about a speech that Peter Rogoff, the FTA Administrator, gave at the Boston Federal Reserve. Of late we have had many in the media reporting on Rogoff's highly flattering remarks about rail transit and Honolulu's in particular.

However, that is what Rogoff says for our local consumption, most probably at the urging of Senator Inouye who signs Rogoff's paycheck. When Rogoff talks to other folks we hear a totally different tune. Here we repeat his remarks to the Federal Reserve and, just in case someone believes we have taken him out of context, we have included the video.

"Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don't want to hear. One is this -- Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive.

"Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a "special" bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.

Once you've got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap. Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.

"A little honesty about the differences between bus and rail can have some profound effects.

"Earlier I pointed out that our new estimate for the deferred maintenance backlog for the entire transit universe is roughly $78 billion. But you should know that fully 75 percent of that figure is to replace rail assets.

"Now let's remember that the majority of transit trips in this country are still done by bus. When it comes to delivering actual transit service, Americans take 21 percent more transit trips every year than rail trips. That said, fully three quarters of the funding backlog we face in achieving a state of good repair is associated with underfunded rail assets.

"Communities deciding between bus and rail investments need to stare those numbers in the face. Some communities might be tempted to pay the extra cost for shiny new rails now. But they need to be mindful of the costs they are teeing up for future generations."


The full speech, which is available online on the FTA website, is worth reading if only to learn that while the busiest seven rail transit systems have a maintenance backlog of $50 billion, the others add another $28 billion for a $78 billion backlog total. And that total only brings these systems into an marginally acceptable condition, what is called "a state of good repair," a condition with half the score of an "excellent" condition.


date October 27, 2011.

Waipahu will be readily available by rail from the Abercrombie Towers:

Much is being made in the Star Advertiser today about Abercrombie’s new plans for new 650-foot high rises in Kaka’ako within a half-mile of rail stations.

Less is being made of what function the rail will play in this effort. It seems to be assumed that people will just jump on the rail to go wherever they want. And where is that? People are not going to Waipahu for the shopping. If you live in Kaka’ako your likely destinations available by rail are Downtown and Ala Moana Center. Period. These will be both readily available by bus, or by foot.

To pretend that this is Transit Oriented Development, as though rail will make one whit of difference to the project, is nonsense. It would be better named, Developer Oriented Transit.


date October 27, 2011.

City renderings show stations are uglier than those provided by AIA:

On October 14, we posted a small clip of a city provided rendering of a rail station. We had done this in response to comments by the pro-railers on the Island Insights that the renderings provided by the Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) deliberately overstated their intrusiveness. We have subsequently found a better quality print of the city rendering; we post it again to show how much worse the city view of a station is than the ones provided by AIA.

date October 26, 2011.

Maybe there is another reason for the city accepting Ansaldo's high bid:

Having heard no rational explanation for the City's accepting Ansaldo's high bid over Bombardier's lower bid for the Design/Build/Operate/Maintain (DBOM) contract, let us offer a speculative rationale.

For the Design Build cost (construction costs), Ansaldo is clearly the winner with a bid that is $125 million less than Bombardier. However, for operating costs, Bombardier is the clear winner with a bid that is $240 million less (nearly half) than Ansaldo's.

Overall, Bombardier's bid was $125 million less than Ansaldo's, but they lost the bid, which is a little strange.

Bear in mind that the City's rail construction budget is limited to their using what they can get from the city's ½ percent addition to the GE Tax, any federal dollars, and any private funds they can raise; they cannot use any funds from the city's General Fund.

On the other hand, they can use all they want for operating subsidies from the General Fund. It seems logical, given that the rail construction fund is held together with baling wire and duct tape, so to speak, that they would eagerly favor a bid that was low on constructions costs and high on operating subsidies.


date October 21, 2011.

Star-Advertiser op/ed on rail jobs by the four:

Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater and Randall Roth, who wrote "How the City misled the public," in the August 21st Star Advertiser wrote yesterday, "Counting on rail transit jobs? The numbers just don't add up." The first three paragraphs follow and that should be enough for you to download the entire op/ed.

"First, the city's new-jobs forecasts are based on a modeling program that does not attempt to identify the location of each new job. It ignores, for example, that $1.4 billion paid to Ansaldo would probably create far more jobs in Italy than in Hawaii.

"Billions more would be paid to other companies headquartered outside Hawaii. A British company, Parsons Brinckerhoff, already has contracts totaling $486 million. That company has a great deal of experience with rail projects outside Hawaii, and none in Hawaii. How much of its $486 million do you suppose will be paid to construction workers and others in Hawaii?

"Second, Nebraska-based Kiewit describes itself as "one of the largest employee-owned firms in the nation." The city has already given it $483 million in construction contracts, with more likely to follow. Kiewit will presumably look to its own employees first for key positions here, especially those who require experience building a rail system."


date October 18, 2011.

More woulda, coulda, shoulda rebutted on Island Insights:

This relates to Governor Cayetano and Cliff Slater debating Gary Okino and Drew Astolfi in a panel discussion moderated by Dan Boylan last week. The show is now available on Hawai‘i Public Television at:

On shows like this you never get to say all you wanted to, even to rebut some absurdity from an opponent. Here are some thoughts about what, given the choice, they might have given more attention to:

Gary Okino’s constant repetition of FTA’s blessing of the City’s rail project as the Last Word was not only irritating but wrong. The FTA has one of the worst records of any federal agency when it comes to their approvals of transit agencies' forecasts.

Okino says that since 1998 every transit project forecast has been met. Here’s the link to the FTA’s own 2007 assessment: , which “presents the predicted and actual impacts of 23 New Starts projects opened for full service between 2002 and 2007.” You can see from the table on page 20 of 158 that their “approved” forecasts compared to actual results were not even close.

The academics, such as those who wrote, Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects, have studied the problem of consistent error-prone forecasts for transportation projects and conclude, “Adopting an outside view of the problem has been shown to mitigate delusion. It is applied by ignoring the specific details of the project at hand and uses a broad reference class of similar projects to forecast outcomes for the current project.”

In other words you look at what is happening in reality in other jurisdictions and compare the city’s forecasts to the actual results of others. For just one example, the City is forecasting an increase in the number of people commuting by public transportation from today’s 6.0 percent to 7.4 percent 20 years in the future with rail. That doesn’t sound like much, but 6 to 7.4 is a 23 percent increase in market share for transit, which no other metro area has achieved over a like period of time. Transit is losing market share all over the Mainland and here. For example, TheBus users are not increasing while O’ahu’s population is.

We have only begun on this woulda, coulda, shoulda, said comment and it is already at 380 words so we will stop here for today and continue on tomorrow.


date October 17, 2011.

Star Advertiser: “Rail jobs plentiful regardless of who's counting.”

Today’s Star Advertiser report on jobs associated with the rail project is pure editorial posing as reportage. It is almost as bad as the treatment given a Letter to the Editor today by Joe Uno. He makes the case that the millions needed to cover rail’s operating shortfall will cause a cutback in city programs. The headline, which is all that most people read, is “If rail fails, other programs will suffer.”

That’s the exact opposite of what he wrote.

The article on jobs is titled, “Rail jobs plentiful regardless of who's counting.” This headline is, of course, intended to eliminate any doubts about the vast number of jobs to be created. However, all the article does is rehash the output for peak years jobs from various computer models, from UHERO’s 5,500 to the Final EIS of 17,250. That kind of disparity in outputs should give you pause, if nothing else.

There is no check of computer models against reality. As we keep saying, it should be reasonably easy to check on the number of jobs needed for comparable projects in San Juan, Miami, Vancouver, and elsewhere. Knowing the actual number of jobs created, we can then make appropriate adjustment for project size, labor productivity, and differences in construction type, to arrive at a close estimate of jobs that would be needed.

The fact that no one is attempting to make any check with reality to test their computer models is enough to tell us they do not want to know the likely answer.

The only solid indications we have so far are the 350 local jobs that Kiewit Pacific says they will hire for the first segment and the 300 local jobs that Ansaldo says they will hire. That begs the question, can the same 350 Kiewit workers go on to build the second and third segments?


date October 16, 2011.

More woulda, coulda, shoulda said on Island Insights:

Last Thursday on the Island Insights show (more below), Gary Okino kept his mantra going continuously that, "The FTA approves everything the city has done about rail." That's true, but irrelevant. One must not forget that politics is always involved in such projects. The FTA staff, their benefits and pensions, need to be funded; funding is approved by the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Daniel K. Inouye. What he wants he gets. Let's not forget FTA's record. The FTA has one of the worst records of any federal agency when it comes to their approvals of forecasts.

Okino also kept on about the FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff expressing his personal approval of the Honolulu rail project. That is for local consumption. Here's another view from Rogoff when he was in a different town:

In a speech made at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston last Tuesday, May 10, 2010, Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Administration made some surprising remarks. Here is an excerpt :

"Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don't want to hear. One is this -- Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive.

"Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a "special" bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.

Once you've got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap. Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.

"A little honesty about the differences between bus and rail can have some profound effects.

"Earlier I pointed out that our new estimate for the deferred maintenance backlog for the entire transit universe is roughly $78 billion. But you should know that fully 75 percent of that figure is to replace rail assets.

"Now let's remember that the majority of transit trips in this country are still done by bus. When it comes to delivering actual transit service, Americans take 21 percent more transit trips every year than rail trips. That said, fully three quarters of the funding backlog we face in achieving a state of good repair is associated with underfunded rail assets.

"Communities deciding between bus and rail investments need to stare those numbers in the face. Some communities might be tempted to pay the extra cost for shiny new rails now. But they need to be mindful of the costs they are teeing up for future generations."


date October 15, 2011.

About the Corky cartoon shown on Island Insights:

Most folks were not aware of the history of the cartoon than was shown by Cliff Slater at the opening of the Island Insights show so here's the whole story.

In 1991 during the earlier fight over rail, the Waikiki Improvement Association, which is essentially a sort of Chamber of Commerce for Waikiki businesses, staged a debate between COST and the City (The Committee on Sensible Transit (COST) was an earlier incarnation of before the Internet came of age). Robert Behnke, a former Hawaii prominent businessman and traffic expert, and Cliff Slater represented COST and Sharon Greene, a still prominent transportation finance expert, Joe Magaldi, then City Transportation Director, and Amar Sappal, his deputy, represented the City.

The debate took place before a crowd of about 200 in a Waikiki Hotel and it is generally agreed that COST wiped the floor with City. We know the City agreed with this assessment since the following day Mayor Frank Fasi issued a formal gag order preventing any City employee from ever appearing on a platform with COST members. That was twenty years ago and occasioned a great deal of comment in the press with one daily headlining in very large type, "GAG ORDER!" Corky drew his cartoon the next day after the gag order was put in place. The order even applied to events planned by UH and high school students. The three people represented in the cartoon are from the left Sappal, Magaldi, and we believe the then Corporation Counsel.

To the best of our knowledge that gag order is still in place because two other local TV stations have tried to establish discussion panels with the City and Honolulutraffic,com and our partners with absolutely no luck. Because the City will not show up, and forbids it employees and its contractors to do so, these shows are usually cancelled. We are highly appreciative of Hawaii Public Television's incredible persistence in finding pro-rail people not in the control of the City to show up. We are also appreciative of Gary Okino's and Drew Astolfi's willingness to take the City's place in a discussion forum.


date October 14, 2011.

Hawai'i Public TV's Island Insights to be rebroadcast tomorrow:

We now have word that Island Insights will repeat yesterday's show on Channel 10, tomorrow, Saturday, at 1:00 PM. See it, or record it to see later. You might even consider recording it, having a few friends over to watch it and remind them of our dire need for funds for the legal bills.

You can also let your friends know that the program is available 24/7 on the PBS website at


Woulda, coulda, shoulda said on Island Insights last night:

Governor Cayetano and Cliff Slater spent an hour last night debating Gary Okino and Drew Astolfi in a panel discussion moderated by Dan Boylan. The show is now available on Hawai‘i Public Television at: On shows like this you never get to say all you wanted to, even to rebut some absurdity from an opponent. Here are some thoughts about what, given the choice, rail opponents might have given more attention to:

They showed before and after photos and renderings of the Downtown and Chinatown rail stations as provided to them by the Honolulu Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Rail proponents both said that the renderings were unrealistically ugly. They did not know, nor did anyone else on stage, that in the intro to the program the producer showed a city-provided rendering of its view of the Downtown station and it is far uglier than the AIA's!


Rail opponents also might have shown the photo below of the 18-month old Sea Tac rail station in Seattle. Between the two of them they make the point that rail will ruin our City.



date October 12, 2011.

Events: Honolulu Rotary and Public TV's Island Insights:

Tomorrow night, Thursday, October 13, on Public Television's KHET Channel 10, Governor Cayetano and Cliff Slater will be part of an Island Insights discussion of rail. They will be joined by former Honolulu City Councilmember Gary Okino and Drew Astolfi, head of FACE, (Faith Action for Community Equity), a faith-based Hawai'i organization. KHET tried hard to get City employees, such as Toru Hamayasu or Gary Yoshioka, or their supporting organizations such as Parsons Brinckerhoff and InfraConsult LLC, or their contractors, but unfortunately they all needed to spend more time with their families.

Yesterday at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Governor Cayetano, Judge Walter Heen, Professor Randy Roth and businessman Cliff Slater all appeared before the Honolulu Rotary Club, Hawaii's biggest one, to discuss the rail situation with their members. It was quite clear that the audience was mostly against the rail project. Next Tuesday they will hear from Mayor Carlisle.


date October 5, 2011.

Writer Bob Freeman has written an excellent piece for Hawaii Reporter titled "Future of Honolulu's Rail Project? Dark cloud of growing public doubts cast shadow on Honolulu rail." It is worth reading. Here are the first two paragraphs:

"The long abandoned elevated rail system on O’ahu has found a new life and becomes literally the largest tourist attraction in the islands. Modeled after the long successful Hi-Line project in Manhattan, New York, It brings new life to an eyesore reminiscent of politics and financial planning run amok during previous City administrations.

"The 20-mile stretch of graffiti-covered elevated concrete corridors, which has been a haven for drug dealers and vagrants, has finally been cleaned up. Tracks and other remnants of the failed system have been removed and sold as scrap to partially finance the project. Tons of copper wire and other electrical items had been stolen and sold for scrap by vandals and thieves long ago."


date September 29, 2011.

Competitive Enterprise Institute takes note of Honolulu Rail:

When members were in Washington DC, earlier this  year to brief Hill staffers on the Honolulu rail project, we also met with the senior staff of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Among them was Marc Scribner, who recently penned this review of our rail project. It is always useful to get an outsider's take on what's happening here.


date September 29, 2011.

City: "Rail is the green solution." Right.

                                       Before rail ▲        After rail ▼

  Rendering courtesy of the American Institute of Architects, Honolulu Chapter

date September 27, 2011.

Rail lawsuit plaintiffs filed their response to the FTA's motions yesterday:

Late last night our attorneys filed our response to the FTA's Motion to dismiss certain Plaintiffs from the lawsuit and in addition their claim that the plaintiffs had insufficient participation in the process. This was of course all nonsense and an effort by the FTA and the City to delay matters. This is what we said in our press release:

"In these Responses, we and the other Plaintiffs address clearly and directly the Defendants’ allegations that some of the Plaintiffs did not participate in the administrative processes of the City and FTA. Our response sets out ways in which various Plaintiffs participated, including, for example, eight rounds of comments from and additional comments from its members.

"In our Responses, we point out that the Defendants’ motion has nothing to do with the merits of the case. In fact, it represents an exceptionally weak attempt by the Defendants to avoid a resolution on the merits. We take the Defendants' decision not to engage on substantive issues as a sign that they are aware of the weakness of their legal position.

"All it takes for the lawsuit to continue is the participation of at least one Plaintiff with standing to sue. The Defendants’ effort to remove some of the Plaintiffs from this case is a waste of the court’s time and the taxpayers’ money.

"We continue to view the Defendants’ motion as frivolous."

Plaintiff's response to the FTA Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Plaintiff's response to the FTA request for judicial notice.

Roth et al. Press Release re the filing of the Response


date September 26, 2011.

Rail's support columns are now up to eight feet in diameter:

In a report published in today's Honolulu Star Advertiser, the city spokesperson says that the supporting column diameters through Downtown to Ala Moana Center will be eight feet in diameter versus the six feet that we were led to believe. We suggest that you pace out, or measure, that kind of diameter to visualize how large that will be. As an example, the supporting pillars in the rendering below were calculated for six foot diameters. The volume of the 8-feet diameter is 75 percent greater than the six feet one.


Electric cars better for the environment than trains:

We are grateful to long-time member of, Alan S. Lloyd, formerly of Hawai‘ian Electric for the following input on energy issues as they relate to urban transportation.

• Hawaiian electricity load peaks in the early morning around 6:30 AM with its least requirements between midnight and 5:00 AM (see chart but note the 24-hour day).

• After midnight HECO orders H-Power and wind power producers to reduce output so that HECO can maintain the minimum output they need to keep their reheat type steam turbines running.

• Wind blows stronger overnight, when the demand for electricity is lowest, while solar energy, weather permitting, assists ONLY with the daytime load.

More information may be found at the Hawaiian Electric website.

Alan points out that the electric car, whether pure or hybrid is rapidly taking over the automobile world. Owners typically charge their cars at night and can be easily scheduled to charge from midnight to 4:00 AM. Most cars charging on a 240v system take from 2 to 4 hours to recharge.

The marginal increase in electrical power needed for the rail system, which is scheduled to run from 4:00 AM to Midnight will come from existing oil fired generators consuming imported oil. During early morning hours the marginal increase needed for electric car battery charging will come from H-Power municipal waste and wind power.

In short, during the rush hours rail transit will be using electricity generated primarily by oil-fired turbines. Electric automobiles on the other hand will be using electricity from batteries that have been charged from power generated earlier in the day from windmills and H-power.

You may draw your own conclusions as to which transportation system is preferable for the environment.


date September 18, 2011.

Engineering News-Record on California's proposed HOT lanes:  

Engineering News-Record offers this report from a conference in California last week. Here are two paragraphs:

"High-occupancy toll lanes, known as HOT lanes, are in development throughout urban California. Such lanes, built along existing freeways, allow carpools to travel for free while charging a toll to solo drivers.

"The newest such project, on a 14-mile-long stretch of southbound Interstate 680 in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, opens Monday. The organizations that build and operate the toll lanes have two fundamentally different financial approaches."


date September 17, 2011.

Pritchett does it again:  


date September 13, 2011.

The Plaintiffs' response to Friday's FTA Motion:  

The following in its entirety is the PRESS RELEASE signed by Law Professor Dr. Randy Roth, Governor Ben Cayetano, Judge Walter Heen and Cliff Slater.

The Defendants in our rail lawsuit just filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings (Defendants' Motion). The Motion may be most notable for what it fails to say and do. Several examples:

  • Our lawsuit alleges that the Defendants violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing properly to consider alternatives to the project. The Defendants' Motion does not dispute those claims. So no matter what happens with the Motion, our NEPA claims will go forward.
  • Our lawsuit alleges that the Defendants violated Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act by improperly approving a project that will harm historic resources even though other reasonable and prudent alternatives and mitigation measures exist. The Defendants' Motion does not dispute those claims. So no matter what happens with the Motion, our Section 4(f) claims regarding alternatives will go forward.
  • Our lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to identify—and mitigate impacts to—historic resources before approving the project. The Defendants' Motion does not dispute those claims. So no matter what happens with the Motion, our NHPA claims will go forward.

The Defendants' Motion does make several claims, all of which lack merit.

  • The Defendants' Motion claims that we waived certain of our arguments regarding the historic nature of the resources that would be damaged by the Project by failing to raise those concerns before the issuance of the Record of Decision. For example, the Motion claims that the Defendants were never aware of any concerns about the historic nature of the Aloha Tower or potential impacts to the Tower associated with the project. This is inaccurate: Numerous comments on the EIS expressed concerns about views of the Aloha Tower. This claim also shows just how out of touch the Defendants really are: virtually everyone knows that the Aloha Tower is historic, and if the FTA and the City and County of Honolulu need that fact to be reiterated they are the wrong people to be making decisions about major projects.
  • The Defendants' Motion claims that some of the Plaintiffs did not properly raise their concerns before the issuance of the Record of Decision. This is both wrong and irrelevant. The Plaintiffs represent a broad coalition of community leaders who have consistently expressed their principled opposition to the Project and to the process by which the Defendants circumvented the law in order to get the Project approved. Moreover, the Defendants have already admitted that (1) Plaintiffs like and Hawaii's Thousand Friends properly and timely raised concerns about the project and (2) by law, the lawsuit must therefore proceed.

In short, the Motion will not prevent our lawsuit from going forward and, in any event, is devoid of substantive merit. We consider it frivolous … a waste of the court's time and the taxpayers' money. 


We have a new section — "Legal Process":

In the tabs to the left you will find a new section, Legal Process, and under that, "Legal Process Docs," which contains the following as of today and we will add more as they become available:

The initial action was a complaint filed in federal court on May 11, 2011 by plaintiffs,, Governor Ben Cayetano, Judge Walter Heen, Professor Randal Roth, Senator Sam Slom's SBH Educational Foundation, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Dr. Michael Uechi MD, and Cliff Slater, against the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the City and County of Honolulu (City).

Original Complaint filed  May 11, 2011.

City's response to the Complaint.

FTA's response the Complaint.

Roth et al. Press Release re the FTA response.

FTA Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

Roth et al. Press Release re the FTA  Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.


Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects:

The following paragraphs are from Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects. CALIFORNIA MANAGEMENT REVIEW VOL. 51, NO. 2 WINTER 2009.

The underlying reasons for all forecasting errors can usefully be grouped into three categories: delusions or honest mistakes; deceptions or strategic manipulation of information or processes; or bad luck. Bad luck or the unfortunate resolution of one of the major project uncertainties is the attribution typically given by management for a poor outcome. While not denying such a salient explanation, this article explores the underlying psychological and governance reasons for mis-estimation rather than proximate engineering causes.

Deliberately or not, risks of scope changes, high complexity, and unexpected geological features are systematically underestimated during project preparation. Both delusion and deception see the high failure rates for ventures as a consequence of flawed decision making. According to the first explanation— delusion—the flaw consists in executives falling victim to what psychologists call the planning fallacy. In its grip, managers make decisions based on delusional optimism rather than on a rational weighting of gains, losses, and probabilities. They overestimate benefits and underestimate costs and time. They involuntarily spin scenarios of success and overlook the potential for mistakes and miscalculations. As a result, managers pursue initiatives that are unlikely to come in on budget or on time, or to ever deliver the expected returns. These biases are often the result of the inside view in forecasting: decision makers have a strong tendency to consider problems as unique and thus focus on the particulars of the case at hand when generating solutions. Adopting an outside view of the problem has been shown to mitigate delusion. It is applied by ignoring the specific details of the project at hand and uses a broad reference class of similar projects to forecast outcomes for the current project.

According to the second explanation—deception—decision making is flawed by strategic misrepresentation or the presence of what economists refer to as principal-agent problems. Whereas the first explanation is psychological, the second is due to the different preferences and incentives of the actors in the system.11 In this situation, politicians, planners, or project champions deliberately and strategically overestimate benefits and underestimate costs in order to increase the likelihood that their projects, and not their competition’s, gain approval and funding. These actors purposely spin scenarios of success and gloss over the potential for failure. This results in managers promoting ventures that are unlikely to come in on budget or on time, or to deliver the promised benefits.

However, this misrepresentation and failure can be moderated by measures that enhance transparency, provide accountability, and align incentives.


date September 8, 2011.

Dave Shapiro slams the Mayor:

Yesterday in his Volcanic Ash column titled, "Carlisle railroading citizens on other side of rail debate", David Shapiro took the gloves off.

This is how he concludes his comments:

"Instead of bringing in fresh faces who could change the hostile tone of the debate and give credible assurances that rail was being done on the up and up, Carlisle kept on former Mayor Mufi Hannemann's team, which had been accused of heavy-handed management.

"Rather than do his own due diligence on the most expensive public works project in Hawaii's history, Carlisle lazily mouthed Hannemann's old lines as his own.

"Among his first acts was a trip to Washington, D.C., to assure federal transit officials that nothing had changed — and to assure rich campaign donors associated with rail that the checks they had been sending Hannemann could be made out to him.

"Now he's earning his keep by punk-talking honest citizens who ask fair questions."

Read the entire column from the link above.


date August 27, 2011.

Pacific Business News reverses position to now oppose rail:

Yesterday, PBN, which has long favored rail, reversed course and came out with an editorial strongly opposed to the rail line in its current form. Here are the final two paragraphs of yesterday's PBN editorial, which we hope you will read in its entirety:

"The arguments outlined by Cayetano, Heen, Slater and Roth in their essay are compelling, and their reputations beyond reproach. With so much at stake, we hope that Hawaii’s business leadership makes sure its voice — regardless of stance — is heard. City Council members need the feedback, especially when so much about the project is changing.

"In opposing plans for the elevated rail system as they now stand, we are not faulting the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the semi-autonomous body created to oversee the project. But we would remind its members that the “R” in HART stands for “Rapid,” not “Rail.” We encourage them to seek better alternatives to the current plan, which by every indication is leading us down the wrong track."


TheBus is going to be faster than TheTrain?

Let's review the City's projected travel time by rail from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center:

The Final EIS tells us in the table to the left that future rail commuters leaving East Kapolei would arrive at Ala Moana Center in 42 minutes. This is not quite credible given that the Final EIS table to the left shows that Iwilei to Ala Moana Center supposedly takes only six minutes even though it must load and unload passengers at five stations along the way (FEIS, Table 3-16).

Further, the FEIS states, “the travel time, including access to station and waiting time for rail, between East Kapolei and Downtown Honolulu will be 55 minutes with the [rail] Project." (FEIS, Table 3-1)

The 55 minutes travel time is a little more believable.

Now let's review the current bus service from Kapolei proper, its Transit Center, to Ala Moana Center:

Today’s scheduled time for the Route C Country Express service of TheBus from Kapolei Transit Center to Ala Moana Center during the rush hour varies from 44 to 58 minutes and averages 52 minutes. This you can see for yourself on the TheBus transit timetables. We have also discussed this with commuters who currently use this service and they find the service generally on time and reliable. Bear in mind that Kapolei proper is further from town than East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center is further along the route than Downtown.

The FEIS also states that transit travel time from Kapolei to Downtown currently takes 86 minutes (FEIS, 1-9). Obviously, city planners are not coordinating their planning with TheBus administration.


date August 25, 2011.

Don't you just love it when Pritchett nails it again?

This is John Pritchett's latest in this week's Honolulu Weekly.

Star Advertiser's Cynthia Oi trashes the City's rail plan:

Cynthia Oi's Sunny Side Up column in today's Star Advertiser is very encouraging and we suggest you read it. Here's the final paragraph:

    "Honolulu is putting billions of dollars in one huge basket. Doing so without examining other options, including distributed transportation components in an integrated network, is a big mistake."

date August 21, 2011.

Los Angeles Times — "Cutting back on bus lines hurts L.A.'s low-income":

In yesterday's Los Angeles Times in a story titled, "L.A. transit activists rally for a federal probe," they covered,

    "The [Bus Riders'] union and several other activist groups at what was billed as a "transit justice town hall," accused the county transportation agency of hurting poor riders by aggressively pursuing new rail projects while slashing bus service. The groups say the cuts unfairly hurt low-income, nonwhite residents and insist that bus service needs to be expanded."

Bus riders unions are common in our large cities because of the propensity of elected officials to build rail lines at the expense of inner city bus riders. For more of this story click the link above.


date August 21, 2011.

Star Advertiser — "How the city misled the public":

Today, the Star Advertiser printed an op/ed by Governor Cayetano, Judge Walter Heen, Professor Randall Roth, and Cliff Slater with the headline above. We could not have asked for more as to how the op/ed was run and displayed. Please send the link below to your friends who may not be aware of the op/ed.












date August 18, 2011.

Robert Poole reports on the real threat to Amtrak:

Bob reports in his August issue of Surface Transportation Innovations on the impact that the nation's new inter-city bus lines are having on the traveling public and Amtrak.

To read the entire edition of Innovations link above and link here for just the inter-city bus article.

It shows the difference that free market innovation can have in transportation where it is allowed. These new unsubsidized buses are rapidly gaining market share from Amtrak and, in addition, are widening the market for all inter-city travel because of their convenience and prices. On top of that, while Amtrak is subsidized by 25¢ per passenger mile (DC-Boston is a $55 subsidy), the new buses cost us taxpayers nothing at all.

We are reminded of the Atlantic City jitney buses that are the only unsubsidized public transportation in the U.S. We use the older form of "public," meaning publicly available. It has of late come to mean "publicly owned." The AC Jitney Association is not allowed to be a member of the American Public Transportation Association, assumedly because they are not government funded.

date August 17, 2011.

The Star “It’s a Done Deal” Advertiser boosts rail again:

We have complained in the past that the Star Advertiser’s headlines about rail are often misleading. Many people will read the headline, or a paragraph or two, and leave it at that. When news editors tell us that the full text explains everything, they may be right. But if “everything” is continued on page 8, next to the classifieds, most readers will never see it. Young readers, especially, may only read a newspaper headline briefly over a parent’s shoulder and leave it at that.


That leads us to the city’s June poll on transit where the Star Advertiser headline reads “City's poll finds majority favors rail.” If we get into the detail we find that those readers who are over 35, and who are most likely to read the full stories about rail, overwhelmingly oppose rail, while those younger who are likely to just read the headlines, if that, favor rail 2-1.

Here are just four misleading headlines:

  1. Take the Star Advertiser headline early this year that reads, “City plan accounts for problematic burial sites: The state grants its blessing for a process to protect graves in the path of the rail project.” Getting well into the story we finally read that the City is not going to “protect graves” as required by the Hawai‘i State Burial Council and federal statute, but is only going to relocate the occupants — sensitively, of course.
  2. Then we read later that, “City wins federal approval to begin rail construction.” The story does not tell us that the City is nowhere near beginning rail construction. It is only now applying to FTA for permission to go into the next stage of the process, Final Design.
  3. Today's headline, which provoked this piece, reads, "Rail deal moves ahead." Now what does "ahead" exactly mean? They tell us that the City has asked Ansaldo for confirmation of its "financial capacity" and that it will be able to provide the appropriate bonds. We don't have that at this late stage? Later in the story we find that Bombardier has filed suit and Sumitomo is likely to. All this is moving ahead?
  4. An earlier headline reads, “Groundbreaking ceremony marks start of rail project.” This is same kind of flag-waving, “it’s a done deal” kind of headlining; it is essentially putting their editorial position in the news headlines.

The fact is that currently the City is only allowed to do site clearing, such as chopping down trees and relocating utility lines that may be in the way of future rail construction. However, what the FTA has specifically not allowed the City to do is begin rail construction. This is for good reason; until the FTA has completed its full investigation of the financial and management capability of the City and its project, they do not want the City jumping the gun to try to force the FTA’s hand into early commitment of funds. Nothing is committed yet. There are still major problems out there even more than our lawsuit.

For example, the Congress has still not approved funding for the Project. The FTA may want it and Senator Inouye may want it, but funding begins in the U.S. House and the House Republicans are opposed to federal rail transit funding.

Second, is the management issue: No one in the City or HART’s employ has any experience whatsoever working for a rail transit operation. And the FTA is essentially saying, “This is no way to run a railroad.”


date August 15, 2011.

Star Advertiser lauds our "apolitical" HART rail board:

The Star Advertiser writes today in "Honolulu strikes own path with rail board" that the HART board was formed to have “apolitical leadership.“ How can you have an “apolitical leadership” when the “leaders” are all appointed by politicians?

Eight of the ten-person “apolitical” HART board consists of six current and former City employees and two union officials. The minority two are businesspeople. This is “apolitical”?

Second, while the Star Advertiser contends that “most boards in other cities are run by politicians,” that does not appear to be the case. Reviewing the boards of the six largest transit agencies reveals that only Los Angeles MTA is run by politicians, whereas Chicago CTA, New York MTA, Boston MBTA, Philadelphia SEPTA, and Atlanta MARTA, are not.

More importantly, the report should have read, “most boards in other areas” since we cannot find another transit authority that runs transit in only one city or county. Transit authorities generally run transit for multiple cities or counties since the needed political coordination between them requires it. Honolulu may well be the only city in the U.S. that has its own transit authority.

Even worse, HART does not run TheBus, even though a common fare structure with rail is promised and bus schedules will have to be coordinated with rail. That alone tells you that something strange is going on.

We have consistently asked at Council hearings the rationale for establishing a transit authority for rail alone, and in a single jurisdiction, and have not received an intelligent response.

The only reason that makes sense to us is that it is done to shield elected officials from the harsh criticisms that will well up from voters when the cost overruns and ridership shortfalls occur and consequent increases in property taxes are needed. Then the mostly anonymous HART appointees will take the flak.


date August 14, 2011.

Star Advertiser: "Rail lawsuit gets muted response from federal government":

Finally, in addition to the City's response we have now received the federal government's response to our lawsuit — three months after we filed it.

To correct today's Star Advertiser story: It fails to mention the other plaintiffs, namely, Senator Sam Slom's SBH Education Foundation, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Dr. Michael Uechi MD, and We will shortly be adding the League of Women Voters and Life of the Land who have also asked to be plaintiffs in this matter.

Professor Roth sent out a press release about the feds response yesterday, some of which the Star Advertiser covered. However, his most important legal point concerning our paragraph 112 in the lawsuit, which alleges the FTA's improper approval of the City's rail line in violation of the historic resources environmental statutes, particularly 49USC303, also known as Section 4(f), was not covered. Our lawsuit specified the following:

  • "112. Reasonable and prudent alternatives to the Project include, but are not limited to, a BRT program; the Managed Lanes Alternative evaluated in the 2006 Alternatives Screening Memo; the Managed Lanes Alternative evaluated in the 2006 Alternatives Report; the Managed Lanes alternatives suggested by Plaintiff and its members; the light rail alternative proposed by the Kamehameha schools; the Pearl Harbor Tunnel; alternative fixed guideway routes, including routes making use of a tunnel beneath King Street and routes making use of Queen Street; Transportation System Management; and alternative locations for individual stations, including the downtown Honolulu station. Each of these alternatives would have fewer impacts on 4(f) [Historic]Resources than would the [Rail] Project."

The federal response was:

  • "112. The allegations in paragraph 112 constitute conclusions of law to which no response is required. To the extent a response is required, Federal Defendants lack the knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of allegations in this paragraph and on that basis deny the allegations."

What Professor Roth had written in the press release was:

  • "Their reliance on "we don't know" denials leaves them vulnerable. For example, take a look at the answer to the allegations in paragraph 112 of our Complaint. Essentially, they are saying that they won't answer in detail because they lack the knowledge to do so. But the subject of paragraph 112 is the existence of reasonable and prudent alternatives - the very thing the Federal Defendants were legally required to know. In short, (1) their Answer does not set out any previously-unidentified facts that could threaten our position and (2) the refusal to address in detail our allegations leaves all the defendants vulnerable to our arguments about FTA's failure to undertake required analyses."

In other words, the FTA is saying that they "lack the knowledge" about the other alternatives to rail. That is bizarre! If there is one matter that FTA always has to approve it is the statutory requirement to ensure that the City actually did, "Rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives."  If the FTA "lacks the knowledge" about the other alternatives, how can they possibly have approved the City's handling of it in the EIS?


Finally, one issue that we get tired of is when reporters write that "rail opponents argue" or "contend" as in today's story, "The Chinatown Historic District, the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark and Aloha Tower are among the 32 historic sites the lawsuit said would be negatively affected. Rail opponents also argue views of historic downtown buildings will be affected."

The fact is that not only do the plaintiffs say it, virtually all our environmental organizations say it, and far more importantly, the City  itself says it quite clearly in the Final EIS. A quick glance at Table 4-9 reveals such statements as:

"The Downtown Station and guideway will be dominant features in views along Nimitz Highway. These project elements will contrast substantially with Irwin Park street trees along the highway and the nearby smaller scale office buildings."

This is the City's way of saying that rail will impact views. The Outdoor Circle translated it better as, "The Honolulu Transit Project is destined to become the most visually dominant and intrusive construction project in the history of Hawai‘i."

If reporters would only do their homework it would markedly change the whole rail discussion.


dateJuly 29, 2011

"Houston, we have a problem":

None of us will forget astronaut James Lovell's words about the sudden problem they experienced on Apollo 13. Houston is now being warned about a major transit problem.

Houston has 20 percent less bus and rail transit ridership today than it had ten years ago when it only had a bus system. This has happened despite building a rail transit system and having a 26 percent increase in population.

Houston's rail ridership is now 11.4 million annually, or 11 percent of their total transit ridership. To put that in perspective, it is a third of what is projected for Honolulu even though Houston has over six times our population. Should Honolulu be worried just because other rail lines have only achieved 60 percent of the ridership their Cities had forecast? You bet.

Source: American Public Transportation Association ridership data:
Population data:

In case you wish to know more about Houston’s Transit Authority, read the following two paragraphs, then follow the link below to read more.

“In May 2010, [Chief Executive Officer] Wilson signed a deal to terminate his employment as METRO president and chief executive officer in exchange for payments totaling $456,000, plus extensive pension and insurance benefits. George Greanias, a former city councilman and city controller, was named acting chief executive. Wilson's departure had been expected since the 2009 election of city controller Annise Parker as mayor of Houston. Parker made the need for new leadership at METRO a key platform of her campaign, saying Wilson and former board chairman David Wolff hadn't made enough progress on light rail and had damaged the agency's relationship with the community. Wilson was hired just a few months after voters narrowly approved the construction of five new light rail lines to connect to the starter Main Street line that opened in January 2004. Wilson and the board struggled through the elaborate federal funding process in the face of political opposition that grew particularly intense over the alignment of part of the University line along Richmond Avenue.

“In the months that followed Parker’s election, METRO would become involved in criminal investigations by the Harris Country District Attorney's Office and the FBI. A state district judge issued a restraining order barring Metro from destroying public records. Wilson himself would become the target of two lawsuits for leading document-shredding sessions, then firing a METRO attorney as part of an alleged cover-up.”


dateJuly 28, 2011

A word about all those local jobs:

We thank Dr. Prevedouros for pointing us to an article with the following, "regulations currently applicable to transportation infrastructure construction prohibit local hiring preferences."

We checked and found that the Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR. §635.117) states the following:

    (b) “No procedures or requirement shall be imposed by any State which will operate to discriminate against the employment of labor from any other State, possession or territory of the United States, in the construction of a Federal-aid project.”

dateJuly 25, 2011

Seattle rail: How rail stations really look:

This is a photo of Seattle's SeaTac rail station. At 18 months old, it is so new that it has yet to show any graffiti.

We have shown a number of renderings from both AIA members and those of the City. The problem is that renderings do not include all the grunge that rail stations tend to accumulate else the producers of them would be accused of distorting reality. A photo is a different matter; it shows the reality. This photo was taken by one of our supporters who has just returned from Seattle.


dateJuly 18, 2011

A repeat of "The environmentally preferable alternative":

Some things are worth repeating. We wrote this originally last September 8 and since it is at the heart of our federal court Complaint we thought it well worth repeating. This is especially so since the U.S. Justice Department is due to respond to our Complaint later today.

The above images are of the Waipahu rail transit station showing the impact that "the environmentally preferable" rail line will have on Waipahu and, of course, everywhere else.

The following is an excerpt from our comments on the Final EIS, which is quite relevant to the above images.


“The environmentally preferable alternative”

"Above all what most puzzles us is how a noisy elevated rail line, 40 feet high and 30 feet wide, traversing the most historically sensitive part of Honolulu’s waterfront area, and thus opposed by every one of Hawaii’s environmental organizations, can be approved as “the alternative or alternatives which were considered to be environmentally preferable.” How can this happen?

"The following two statements in the Final EIS, taken together make a mockery of the NEPA process. The first statement is that,

    "While the [rail] Project will be environmentally preferable regarding effects on air quality, energy use, and water quality, the No Build Alternative [and, logically, the Managed Lane Alternative] is the environmentally preferable alternative based on overall consideration of the criteria listed in 40 CFR 1505.2(b). The No Build Alternative [and the MLA] would affect fewer historic and cultural resources and waters of the U.S., have no visual impact, and cause no displacements. However, the No Build Alternative does not meet the Purpose and Need for the Project. [ FEIS, 4-3.]

The second statement is that,

      "The purpose of the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project is to provide high capacity rapid transit in the highly congested east-west transportation corridor between Kapolei and UH Manoa, as specified in the ORTP (O‘ahuMPO 2007). [FEIS, 1-21].


    "In short, although the No-Build Alternative (and, by inference, the Managed Lane Alternative) are “environmentally preferable” they are not eligible as they are not “rapid transit,” which FTA defines as heavy rail. So no matter how environmentally preferable a project, if it is not “rapid transit” it will not be preferable?

However, that is not consistent with [the National Environmental Policy Act] NEPA. To be,

    “Consistent with NEPA, the purpose and need statement should be a statement of a transportation problem, not a specific solution. However, the purpose and need statement should be specific enough to generate alternatives that may potentially yield real solutions to the problem at-hand. A purpose and need statement that yields only one alternative may indicate a purpose and need that is too narrowly defined.”[23 CFR § 450.336]."


    We will let FTA answer that one — if they can.


dateJuly 16, 2011

Honolulu Magazine publishes superb article on rail:

This month's edition of Honolulu Magazine has a superb article by Tiffany Hill titled "Honolulu Rail's Next Stop?" The subtitle is "Since Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle came into office, the $5.3 billion elevated-rail project has gone into overdrive — and so have its critics."

Following is a couple of paragraphs to tempt you to buy this excellent magazine or, failing that, to get you to link to it above.

"But the city still has a long way to go. It’s been four months since the ceremony and no major construction has started—it was supposed to begin in December 2009—and there’s a possibility it won’t start anytime in 2011, or even next year. In the meantime, its price tag will only increase. In 2007, when HONOLULU Magazine last covered rail in depth, the project was budgeted at $3.6 billion—it’s gone up almost $2 billion since then.

"In May, they filed a federal lawsuit against two FTA administrators, the U.S. secretary of transportation and Wayne Yoshioka, the city director of transportation services. In addition to Slater, the plaintiffs include non-profits, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, and Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation (founded by Republican state Sen. Sam Slom), Judge Walter Heen (former chair of the Democratic Party and former OHA trustee), UH law professor Randy Roth, Dr. Michael Uechi and former Gov. Ben Cayetano [since this article was published  the League of Women Voters and Life of the Land also became plaintiffs].

"The lawsuit might be the only time these plaintiffs — unlikely allies — will ever agree on any single issue, and, yet, says Slater, all of them opposed elevated rail enough to publicly tie themselves to the action. Cayetano even donated his own money to pay for legal costs. They’re not anti mass transit, though most would prefer elevated tollways; Cayetano likes light rail."

Read the article.


dateJuly 15, 2011

Borreca writes on rail in today's Star Advertiser:

Borreca's column today is an interesting one but we do quibble with his following conclusion:

    "... the anti-rail contingent has yet to show its own alternative traffic solution. Honolulu's real traffic jam is the city's inability to move a plan that has overwhelming public support.

First, we have proposed elevated Managed Lanes, a HOT lanes variant, in which buses and vanpools would have priority and the remaining space allotted to automobiles and trucks paying a variable toll such that traffic would be fast flowing but full. This would relieve traffic on H-1.

It was given a disdainful look by the City in the Final EIS because they wanted heavy rail but that is no excuse for the Star Advertiser not to mention it even once. This is especially so since HOT lanes is, excuse the pun, the hottest transportation alternative on the Mainland at this time. So we can propose it all we want but if Borreca's paper does not print a single word about it then, I guess, Borreca can be excused for not having heard about it. Maybe.

In addition, others have made proposals for Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) systems and Kamehameha Schools proposed light rail. Our law suit asks the court to order the FTA and the City to follow the environmental statutes and "rigorously" examine all transit alternatives and possible routes to avoid Honolulu's sensitive historic areas and native Hawaiian burial sites. We do know that the incredibly ugly elevated heavy rail currently proposed would not survive the required process. We do not know which of the other alternatives would be found to be "the environmentally preferable alternative" but it would certainly not be elevated rail along our waterfront.

Second, regarding "overwhelming support," even the City's own poll released on June 1, showed that the "overwhelming" support only came from those 34 years or younger. Among adults 34 and older, those most likely to know what is going on politically, there was "overwhelming" opposition. Of course, Borreca can be excused from knowing that since his paper has never mentioned it. Strange.


We rather liked this in the comments section of Borreca's column

Top Ten Reasons The Great Pyramids Were Built Faster Than Rail

10. Surf's never up in Egypt

9. Egyptians benefited from Pyramid schemes of King TutenMadoff

8. They didn't have to go through Kalihi

7. No endless debate over the merits of elevated pyramids

6. All the "slaves" in Hawaii are already employed as public school teachers

5. Pyramid construction did not use Hawaii construction techniques such as the four-guys-watch-while-one-guy-works method

4. Everyone knows what a pyramid looks like from the back of a dollar bill, but nobody has any clue what Honolulu rail should look like.

3. As any Hawaii public high school graduate can tell you, it's easier to build things in Spain - or was that Italy? ok, maybe China?

2. Egyptians did not have to deal with the horrible tragedy of Zippy's upping prices and taking meatloaf off the rotating specials menu.

1. Pharaoh didn't blow all the money on useless "stimulus" programs - unlike a certain Punahou graduate


dateJuly 13, 2011

Our ad is running today in the Star Advertiser:

You can find our ad on page 6 in today's paper. We make certain claims in the ad that the City will try to rebut. However, the following are the facts shown it italics under each of the claims we make:


CLAIM 1. ITS ABOUT POLITICS. Rail has nothing to do with traffic. It's about money for land owners, developers, contractors, politicians and union leaders. It’s THEIR train!

    We Verify: Check the campaign contributions to politicians at the Campaign Spending Commission website, In particular, check former Mayor Hannemann’s list for the 2008 and 2010 elections.

CLAIM 2. TRAFFIC CONGESTION WILL BE WORSE. The City admits in its Final EIS that, “Traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today.”

    We Verify:The City wrote, “You are correct in pointing out that traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail, and that is supported by data included in the Final EIS.” (Page 1252 of Appendix A, Final EIS,

CLAIM 3. IT’S LIKELY TO COST $7 BILLION, NOT $5.3 BILLION. The City says the rail project will cost $5.3 billion. It doesn’t tell you that a Federal study concluded there is a 50% CHANCE IT WILL COST $7 BILLION.

CLAIM 4. WE CAN’T AFFORD IT. A $1.7 billion cost overrun, the $300 million taken from the federal bus funds, together with rail’s operating losses would cost the average household a $400 increase in property taxes every year FOREVER.

    We Verify: Actually, we understated the cost. The 2010 O’ahu property tax collections were $854 million. The 2006 average family of four property taxes paid were $1,650. The increase in City property tax collections 2006 to 2010 was 44 percent, which brings the average property tax paid to $2,368. Thus, a $400 increase would mean a 15 percent property tax increase. The $1.7 billion cost overrun ($7 billion less $5.3 billion), plus $300 million that has to be replaced from the General Fund, amortized over 35 years at 5.5 percent interest, is $130 million annually, which is 15.2 percent of 2010 tax collections. That covers the $400 annually and that’s before we get to the operating losses, which are difficult to calculate because rail ridership projections are notoriously overstated while operating expenses are usually understated. However, the projected bus/rail fare revenue in 2019 of $105 million and the expenses of $318 million resulting in losses of $213 million is certain to be exceeded.

CLAIM 5. IT WOULD BE A EYESORE. Imagine 720 of these huge supporting pillars along the route with stations 75 feet high and as long as a football field. Consider how it would degrade the grace of our City, block views and destroy the beauty of Honolulu’s waterfront. Never mind the many years of construction chaos.

    We Verify: Every one of O‘ahu’s environmental organizations is opposed to elevated heavy rail running through our city. For good reason, more elevated rail lines have been torn down in the U.S. than have been built in modern times.  

dateJuly 8, 2011

Bringing you up to date on the court process:

We have re-evaluated the timing of when our Complaint against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the City will reach court. We believe it will be a little later than we thought originally, sometime this December rather than November.

The U.S. Justice Department, which represents the U.S. DOT in our lawsuit, do not yet have the Administrative Record fully assembled from the City and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) even though this and the U.S. DOT's response to our complaint is all due on July 18, little more than a week from now. Since the Administrative Record is the basis upon which the FTA writes its Record of Decision (ROD) it is difficult to understand why it is not already at hand.

We will now await the events of  July 18. For more detail about the other issues that will hopefully make rail an "undone deal" see Where does the rail project stand today?


Dallas Morning News — Rail has fewer riders now than when they opened :

The Dallas Morning News' Transportation Writer filed this story two weeks ago and we are grateful to our Houston correspondent, Barry Klein, for drawing it to our attention. Here are three paragraphs to entice you to read the whole story.

"The faulty projections, however, are just one part of a much bigger problem for DART [Dallas Area Rapid Transit]. A Dallas Morning News review of passenger data from the past 15 years shows that despite massive promotion and billions in tax dollars spent, most of DART’s rail stations serve fewer people now than when they opened."

"Every year as part of its budgeting process, DART projects its finances — based on factors including ridership — for 20 years. In 2007, DART budget writers predicted that by 2012, the Green, Blue and Red lines would combine to provide 45 million passenger trips per year. Last week, [DART's Chief Financial Officer David] Leininger told the agency’s board that he’d be pleased with half that many. 'We recognized a couple of years ago that our ridership models looked like they were consistently overstating our actual ridership,' Leininger said."

“'There are many people, and I am one of them, who believe transit is a 50- to 100-year investment,' Plesko [Todd Plesko, DART's vice president for planning and development] said. 'We’re not giving up just because things aren’t where we hoped they’d be in 2011. We’re still building the network.'”  [Our note: This is transitspeak. He knows full well that rail systems have to be refurbished and replaced every 35 years for near what it cost originally.]  

For a major daily newspaper to be critical of rail for any reason is newsworthy in itself, so we could not resist printing this story.


dateJune 9, 2011

Our layman's guide to the lawsuit, Part II — Improper segmentation:

One of the major violations of environmental law committed by the City in the Final EIS has been to study only a segment of the “Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor” instead of the entire corridor. Thus the City has also excluded any study of what they call the "planned extensions," the future additional eight miles of rail line connecting East Kapolei to Kapolei proper and Ala Moana Center to UH Manoa and Waikiki and their cumulative effects on the corridor as a whole. As the courts have already ruled, "When several foreseeable similar projects in a geographic region have a cumulative impact, they should be evaluated in a single EIS." For a full discussion of this issue go to Part II — Improper Segmentation.


dateMay 26, 2011.

Our attorneys warn the City about continued construction:

Last week our attorneys warned the City that since they have not complied with NEPA they must not undertake any construction that would jeopardize the adoption of other alternatives at a later date. They also required the FTA to ensure that the City complied with that requirement. Here is the link to the letter.


dateMay 16, 2011.

Our comments on today's Advertiser poll:

I was asked by the Advertiser to comment on their poll. I said that it is rather strange poll, for example :

  • 49 vs. 45 percent believe we should proceed with rail.
  • 88 vs. 11 percent agree that rail will cost a lot more than currently estimated.
  • 49 vs. 44 percent believe it will not be worth it.
  • 53 vs. 40 percent agree that the reduction in traffic it is not worth the cost.

I said, "Now please make sense of that."

I also said in the email that, "The fourth question implies that there will be traffic reduction, whereas the city says in the Final EIS that 'traffic congestion in the future with rail will be worse than it is today.' Had the Star Advertiser in the past ever told their readers this fact, the percentage in agreement would have been far higher."

The latter statement was translated by the Star Advertiser as, "Slater also contends the final environmental impact statement indicates that traffic congestion is expected to get worse with the project. The city says his claim is based on selective information."

Let's see how "selective" I was.

The full and exact quote is, “You are correct in pointing out that traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail, and that is supported by data included in the Final EIS.” (Page 1252 of Appendix A, Final EIS, response to Cliff Slater, Chair,, on his comments to the Draft EIS, from Wayne Yoshioka, Director, City Department of Transportation Services, in

It's enough to make you cry.


dateMay 14, 2011.

The likely scenario — we should be in court by October or November:

The Federal Transit Administration now has 60 days to respond to our Complaint. During that time it must also assemble its draft of the Administrative Record, which includes not only documents already public but also any internal documents involving the Project, including even internal emails.

Once the Administrative Record is agreed to, we then have 45 to 60 days to reply to the FTA’s response to our complaint and file our motion for summary judgment based on that record. The FTA then has 30 days to respond to us and file its own motion for summary judgment, that is followed by us having 15 to 30 days to respond and then we are in court, say, October or November this year.


Judge Tashima appointed to handle our Complaint:

On Thursday, Judge Leslie Kobayashi was assigned the case. On Friday, Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway declared that, "All of the judges in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii having recused themselves from this case, this case is reassigned from Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi to Judge A. Wallace Tashima for all further proceedings."

Our senior attorney, Nicholas Yost, tells us that he is delighted to have such a highly regarded judge handle the case. Judge Tashima is a senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, headquartered in San Francisco.


We finally file our Complaint in federal court:

On Thursday, we filed our complaint against the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, various executives of the Federal Transit Administration, and the City Transportation Director.

Plaintiffs are, former Hawai‘i Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano, the Small Business Hawai‘i Entrepreneurial Education Foundation, Judge Walter Heen, former chair of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party and former Trustee of the Office of Hawai’ian Affairs, Dr. Michael Uechi MD, Hawai‘i non-profit corporation Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, UH Law Professor Randal Roth, and Cliff Slater.

In the Complaint we have listed the "Violations of Law" on three statutes, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Properties Act (NHPA), and Section 4(f) of the U.S. Transportation Act of 1966:

Count 1: defining the purpose and need so narrowly as to preclude consideration of all reasonable alternatives

Count 2: failure to consider all reasonable alternatives (nepa)

Count 3: failure properly to analyze the environmental consequences of alternatives (nepa)

Count 4: improper segmentation (nepa)

Count 5: failure to identify and evaluate use of native Hawaiian burials and traditional cultural properties (section 4(f))

Count 6: arbitrary and capricious evaluation of the project’s use of section 4(f) resources (section 4(f))

Count 7: improper project approval (section 4(f))

Count 8: failure to account for effects on historic properties (nhpa)

Prayer for relief: We ask the court to rescind the Record of Decision (ROD), declare the Final EIS, 4(f) evaluation, and ROD as legally inadequate and find that the Defendants have violated these statutes and also the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). We ask the court that the City and the Federal Transit Administration revisit the environmental process and this time follow the law. We also ask that the City take no action that would have an adverse environmental impact, or take no action that would limit the choice of alternatives.

You may visit the Complaint and determine for yourself whether you believe these claims are reasonable.


dateMay 9, 2011.

Wednesday's Council Meeting fraught with danger — for them:

This Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 PM the City Council will address Bill 40 to authorize a multi million dollar bond issue. Should City Councilmembers pass Bill 40, they will be taking a huge risk with taxpayers’ money for no apparent reason.

If they pass the bond issue, they will authorize the City Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars moving utilities around and acquiring property when there is a huge risk that rail may never happen and this money will all be wasted.

The latest Draft Financial Plan is little different from the one the FTA said was insufficiently robust to allow entry into Final Design. The FTA could block this despite all the efforts of Sen. Inouye.

Or, either it will not be agreed to by the new Republican Congress, or the U.S. House/Senate Conference Committee will significantly reduce or eliminate the federal funding.

Or, the lawsuit will prevail and not only put the City Administration back a couple of years, but most likely result in a transit outcome that would not be an elevated heavy rail line through the center of town.

Do our City Councilmembers really want to waste hundreds of millions of dollars needlessly and irresponsibly when all they have to do is wait until the FTA issues a Full Funding Grant Agreement? They will have a tough time talking their way out of that much waste.