The Star Advertiser published on Monday, May 16, 2011 results from a recent simple poll conducted by Ward Research. The results are remarkable. They speak volumes of the public's desperation for relief from traffic congestion and since this is the only project on the table, they barely are going for it. If asked, most would tell you that they want rail so that the other people can use it. Less than 5% of commuters will switch to it. However, the survey missed the opportunity to ask about this.
The 50.6% majority of the 2008 elections has been reduced to 49%. Incredibly, the ratio of Yes/No in 2008 was 1.10 and the ratio of Yes/No in the Star Advertiser survey is 1.09! This is devastating for the Honolulu rail lobby.
Compared to 2008, the pro-rail folks got a pro-rail President. They got Oberstar to fly over Oahu on a helicopter and proclaim it a good project. They spent millions in mass media ads and monthly mailers to households. The Council had multiple junkets to rail cities. Senator Inouye, Congresswoman Hirono, US DOT Secretary LaHood and Federal Transit administrator Rogoff descended to Honolulu last month and promised (again) approvals and monies. They got the union and special interests constantly harping rail everywhere including being on the agenda at almost every monthly meeting at Neighborhood Boards. Result?
Any desirable project with such arsenal of weapons would have had over two thirds of the public supporting it. Rail got only 49%. And, from the same survey, only 12% believe the city's cost estimates!
Has the project reached a tipping point? The project is beyond its tipping point to destruction. The tipping point came in 2010. Let me explain: In order to succeed, mega-projects (defined as any project over one half billion dollars) need a major champion with decision making power and a lot of money. In our case the champion was Hannemann and the money was the Congress.
In 2010 Hannemann was trounced, and the TEA party made it widely known that the US is in deep debt. And they helped change the control of Congress from liberal to conservative. Then Abercrombie revealed that the state had a $1.5 Billion debt. Then Congress obliterated President Obama's high speed rail and cut many new infrastructure projects. Rail New Starts were cut by 20% to just $1.6 Billion in FY11. We are well beyond the tipping point when it comes to new rail projects.
The irrelevant person in all this is our one issue mayor who as recently as yesterday issued an announcement proclaiming that everything is dandy.(1) Let's not forget that jokes are his strength.
The only unfortunate thing is that I and all the anti-rail groups never had the funds and media support needed to present our points on a equal basis. It is very satisfying to see that long before a successful lawsuit we are clearly achieving the stoppage of this disastrous project.
Note (1): MAYOR SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON RAIL PROJECT FINANCING