Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chronology of Mufi's Rail (Update 1)

Here is the rail update at the conclusion of 2010.

2004: Rail will cost $2.7 Billion and 1% GET charge is needed.

2005: OK fine, 0.5% tax will do it – we’ll get $450 Million from the FTA.

2006: Rats! The Alternatives Analysis had to spoil it. Rail will cost $4.6 Billion.

2006: Rats! Cliff Slater noticed that the 2000 Bus Rapid Transit also planned by Parsons Brinkerhoff for the Harris administration had higher projected ridership than rail. So... with rail we pay 3 times more to get less.

2006: City will have Feds give it as much as Los Angeles and New York City: $750 Million.

2007: This state is run as a banana republic. As such, it starts collecting people's taxes to build a system that has no environmental approvals.

2007: Smoke and mirror events begin in earnest paid by taxpayers. Neither Leeward Community College nor UH-Manoa get any stations.

2008: Hannemann gives a helicopter ride to Oberstar who then says that Feds will give $900 Million. Hannemann declares that “the train has left the station.”

2008: Senator Inouye says that if we lose the EPA lawsuit for sewage treatment the $1.2 Billion bill “will break the back of the city.”

2008: Council support is shaky. Back room deal-making results in a route via Salt Lake.

2008: DEIS comes just two (2) days before the General Election and referendum or rail promising a ridership of 97,000 in the opening year! (No modern light rail in the US, even in cities 5 times bigger than Honolulu, carries more than 38,000.)

There is no time to review the DEIS but Inouye advises that people only need to read the summary. Fed share is now claimed to be $1.2 Billion.

2008: Public is deluged with city, union and Hannemann campaign “Light Rail” commercials, emails and letters, and a 50.6% “victory” is obtained.

2008: More political maneuvering and the route goes back via the airport. Warnings that it violates Federal Aviation Administration rules are ignored.

2009: Construction will start at the end of the year. (Isn’t it still 2009?)

2009: Rail is insolvent – Inouye joins the rail party. Feds are now claimed to pay $1.55 Billion.

2009: We lost the EPA lawsuit and appeal. We are now $1.2 Billion in the hole. But ignorance is bliss.

2009: Desperate for good news. Hannemann: “Rail creates 10,000 jobs!”

2009: UH Economic Research Unit: Rail might create up to 2,000 jobs in its peak year. (Given that all rail technology and materials need to be imported, I estimate that Local Jobs will be no more than 1,000 per year.)

2009: In November Hannemann declares that he is willing to wait a month or two to iron out some details; 6 months later his iron is not working.

2010: City steals $300 Million from future TheBus capital investment to balance TheRail budget.

2010: Four years after the Alternatives Analysis and three years after the start of tax collection this proposal has no environmental clearance, no cultural resources clearance and no robust budget.

2010 (May): FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff makes a strong anti-rail, pro-Bus Rapid Transit speech before the Boston Federal Reserve.

  • "... last year we conducted a study at the request of a number of legislators that asked us to look specifically at conditions of our largest rail operators. That report takes on particular significance in our department since one of the legislators that requested that report was the then-Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. The report revealed a backlog of deferred maintenance at our seven largest rail operators of no less than $50 billion dollars."
  • "...the majority of transit trips taken in America are still done by bus. In fact, Americans take 21% more bus trips than rail trips. But when it comes to replacement, the costs associated with replacing rail eats up three quarters of the $78 Billion backlog."
2010: The cost is up to $5.4 Billion not counting the expensive Airport Runway avoidance. Hannemann really needs to get off this train.

2010: Hannemann did get off the train and run for governor, and lost in the primary. At the same time the author came third in the race for mayor to replace Hannemann. City prosecutor Peter Carlisle won the 3-way race with 39% of the vote. He immediately went to meet with the FTA to declare his commitment to the rail project.

2010: Outgoing Governor Linda Lingle releases an independent financial analysis of the project by IMG. It concludes that (1) construction cost will likely be $1.7 Billion more than the city's advocacy estimate of $5.4 Billion; and (2) based on a 30 year outlook, the total annual project cost will be $310 million per year (best case) and nearly $500 million per year (worst case.) For comparison, the FY 2005 entire CIP budget for Honolulu was $300 million*.

2010: Carlisle is "not worried" about the report and he dismisses it. However, the pro-rail Star Advertiser urges caution for the first time since 2004: "
The release last week of a financial analysis commissioned by Linda Lingle during the waning months of her administration added another fear factor to the already scary $5.5 billion price tag for the 20-mile elevated rail project."

(*) Note I use FY 2005 because that was a clean and normal year for Honolulu with no special assessment for sewers and budgeting for rail.