the city’s mass transit scam
On December 13, the city and Parsons Brinckerhoff, their consultant, held a
scoping meeting where they compared all the various transit alternatives they
had either accepted or rejected for further consideration in the formal alternatives analysis to take place later in
There were pretty pictures but absolutely no detail about
the costs and benefits of the various alternatives. This happened despite,
specific requirement from the Federal Transit Administration that the city
develop “transit patronage, capital cost, and operating and maintenance
policy that the City “provide complete information
… [and] full public access to key decisions”[ii].
- State policy declaring that, “Opening up the
government processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only
viable and reasonable method of protecting the public's interest.”[iii]
Normally when one
is comparing the cost-effectiveness of various projects, the fundamentals we have
to know are the benefits and costs. Only then can we examine the trade-offs
among them and make an intelligent judgment as to which ones among the
alternatives are worth pursuing
How can any intelligent person even begin to make an appraisal
of what is preferable without knowing what the benefits are likely to be, or the cost of them?
Think about it: Suppose you are offered 20 different houses
to buy and you want to narrow that down to a few to go look at. Each of the
houses offers you different benefits and costs. One is a four bedroom in
Mililani but it is a one-hour plus commute. Another is in Kailua and, while the commute is better, it’s
more expensive and has no yard for the kids, and so on. You get the point.
Now imagine that your Realtor®
shows you pictures of these 20 houses but refuses to tell you either their
locations or other benefits, or even their costs. You would go, “Huh?”
That is just what our reaction was at the city’s scoping
meeting. Where are the benefits? Where are the costs? Where are the numbers?
Response: “We don’t have them yet.” Us: “Huh?”
For example, they
had eliminated the HOT lanes idea on grounds of cost but denied they had
developed any costs. Go figure.
Essentially, this response from both city and state agencies
and their consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff
is the first of two in the well-known Consultant’s Two Phase Response: The
first phase when it is just too early to give the public all the facts, and the
second phase when it is too late to stop the project.
This way of dealing with the public is a variant of the
mushroom strategy. Keep them in the dark, cover at regular intervals with bull
excrement and anticipate a bumper crop of ...
Now all of this may strike you as cynicism getting the better
of me. If so, go online to the City’s website www.honolulutransit.com for all the information
they have presented on this issue. See if you can find anything about benefits
and costs. Then, for balance, check
the responses of those critical of the process at www.honolulutraffic.com.
The only hint of reality at the meeting was that, when
asked, Parsons Brinckerhoff’s engineers at the meeting said that the rail
transit alternative would not relieve traffic congestion.[iv]
This coming Friday, January 6, is your last opportunity to register your comments on the scoping
meeting and have them included in the formal
process the city will submit to the Federal Transit Administration.[v]
You can submit your “Huh?” to the City at their website.
It is going to be interesting to see if the state, the city
and Parsons Brinckerhoff get away with this blatant disregard of the voters’
rights to information. They must be
told to either divulge the information
they have developed, or reveal that
gained from others, or, if they
really do not have the information, go
back, develop it and then have a real scoping meeting.
Anything else and it will be too obvious to the public, what
some of us already know, that this process is not about traffic, but rather it
is about power and money.
Hanneman promised us that the transit selection process would be transparent,
we did not understand at the time that what he really meant was that we would
be able to see through all his shenanigans.
Cliff Slater is a
regular columnist whose footnoted columns are at: www.cliffslater.com
“During systems planning, the analysis of alternatives focuses on identifying
fatal flaws and a preliminary analysis of cost-effectiveness … Three types of
information are particularly important for
evaluating cost-effectiveness: transit patronage, capital cost, and operating
and maintenance cost.” PTMTPP. Part
I. p. 2-9.
“In a democracy, the people are vested with the ultimate decision-making power.
Government agencies exist to aid the people in the formation
and conduct of public policy. Opening up the government processes to public
scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of
protecting the public's interest. Therefore
the legislature declares that it is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy—the
discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies—shall
be conducted as openly as possible.” Hawaii
Practices Act (UIPA) http://www.hawaii.gov/oip/uipa.html
[v] There have been two separate dates given by the City, the
6th and the 9th January. To play it safe, use the 6th.