The desire named streetcar strikes Hawaii: “Light-Rail to Nowhere: Honolulu, Hawaii’s Train Boondoggle” is explored in a new video from Reason.com. As Reason’s Sharif Matar writes in the video’s liner notes:
Hawaii has some of the worst congestion and roads in the country and studies consistently rank its major city, Honolulu, among the worst cities for traffic. The INRIX Index has estimated that Honolulu drivers waste an average of 58 hours in traffic every year during peak travel times.
Yet there’s no reason to believe the Honolulu’s rail project will do anything to improve traffic congestion. In fact, it’s likely to divert resources from more-affordable solutions.
“The one thing about these projects [is that] they are very inviting politically,” says former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano. Along with Cliff Slater of Honolulutraffic.com and University of Hawaii’s Roth, Cayetano has filed a federal lawsuit against the rail project that’s held up construction. They claim the city misled the public about the total cost of the project and didn’t deliver fully on a required review of alternative solutions to a rail line.
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Panos Prevedouros, one of the state’s leading transportation experts, says the rail plan that the feds approved will siphon off state funding for the area’s bus system.
Say, that last sentence rings a bell; as the Cato Institute noted in a 2006 report titled, “The Desire Named Streetcar,” if medium density cities such as, for example, San Jose (in my backyard) want to expand mass transit, why not buy busses? They’re infinitely more flexible than light rail passenger trains, since they can go anywhere there’s a road. But that would be too logical — and ironically, too cheap and easy, compared with the expense of building a light rail system:
A transit agency that expands its bus fleet gets the support of the transit operators union. But an agency that builds a rail line gets the support of construction companies, construction unions, banks and bond dealers, railcar manufacturers, electric power companies (if the railcars are electric powered), downtown property owners, and other real estate interests. Rail may be a negative-sum game for the region as a whole, but those concentrated interests stand to gain a lot at a relatively small expense to everyone else.
So it’s not surprising that the state that gave us all Barack Obama should want plenty of budget-busting crony socialism of their own.