Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Problem with the Rail Solution

What's ignored in the Honolulu rail discussion is that even in places where rail has been successful -- like Tokyo, New York City, San Francisco, etc. -- nobody's ever been able to make a "commuter rail" successful -- because basically you have a system that's unused except an hour each way everyday because there's no reason to go to Kapolei unless you live there.

The winning formula is that you have to have a high density of population throughout the route of the kind that doesn't exist anywhere in Honolulu, no matter how much they try to deceive us that is so. So basically they'll be running empty rail cars most of the day -- which is true even of the rail projects in Seattle, Portland, Sacramento. There's nowhere for people to go -- and during off-peak hours, driving is the fastest, preferable way to get there because there is no congestion problem then.

We only have a congestion problem for a couple of hours each way, everyday -- and the rest of the time, the roads are basically uncongested and underutilized. So the real solution is managing the congestion around those hours -- and not adding more capacity that will be underutilized at all other times -- just as the freeways and highways are presently.

It's a traffic management problem and not a lack of capacity. The preferable solution is ride-sharing -- because that's what the people would be doing anyway, with a rail system. In the age of the Internet (communications), that would seem to be an ideal use of the technology -- to manage a ride-sharing bulletin board.

Honolulu would be an ideal community to do ride-sharing because most of the people are fairly stable. The rail solution is just empty cars moving around so the people at City Council can say, "We're world-class too," of which the rail developers are skilled at exploiting those inferiority complexes and sense of inadequacies.


At March 16, 2006 10:17 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

If you ask Jeeves or Google about successful rail systems, they're unequivocally successful when the density exceeds 10,000 per square mile -- throughout the route.

They specifically warn that commuter rail have never worked and are a proven failure whenerver they've been tried -- even in Tokyo, New York, London, etc.

Even the proponents of rail in Honolulu say it won't solve the traffic congestion. It's time to judge the success of government beyond how much money they can spend (waste) -- and how many high-paying jobs government employees can create for themselves.

At March 16, 2006 10:41 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

I think as we move into the 21st century, it's not enough just to do anything (because anything is better than nothing) as a solution -- and the more expensive, the better, since the federal govenment or some mysterious benefactor, will be paying the bill, and so all we have to do is pad it as high as possible.

When we don't produce something of value -- but just spend the money, then the money is worthless -- because its value is what one can get for it. If one pays more, and gets less -- that is the CAUSE of inflation.

The schools are a perfect example of this. Education needs to be done in an entirely different way -- in which the cost of learning goes to zero, and NOT infinity -- as the current education professionals would like.

At March 16, 2006 1:05 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

This is also the problem of education -- in which there is a greater need for education, the more education one receives -- in a perpetual self-fulfilling demand. Obviously, education has now moved beyond the institutionalized setting -- to where it can actually be best done at home, in more personalized settings, self-directed. The first hint of it is the online courses -- that now enable a person anywhere in the world to attend the courses of the foremost authorities on the subject matter -- directly. The need for all the layers of intermediaries have disappeared. That is the disintermediation of learning, information and communications -- eliminating the middle man. That is also the great problem of the old mass media -- in the possibility of personalized, customized media.

While one can still take the mass approach -- at what level does one target? The lowest level, the middle, or the highest level? -- and when contemplating that, if one goes a little farther, he realizes that the ultimate solution is to personalize and customize the experience. Fifty years ago, people had already developed such learning machines because it was clear what the mass education model was doing and failing. Up to that point, education was moderately successful as it brought the education professionals to that realization -- at which point they became unionized with the higher priority placed on their own job security, even if it meant perpetuating the problems, which in this case, is the perpetuation of ignorance and incompetence to do one’s own thinking for themselves -- but rather, to undermine that capacity and confidence.

Now we live in a time in which most of those on the cutting edge of cultural developments would agree that 95% of the learning one will do in life, will be, and must be done out of formal institutional instruction -- if simply one wants to. Education/information/communication professionals, sensing this also, will try to make themselves even more indispensable to the susceptible, remaining few -- making it even more necessary that one can only learn in their approved, certified conditions.

Undoubtedly, there is a clear clash of visions for the future. One produces a lot of problems at escalating high costs -- while the other virtually eliminates that problem for society henceforth. The story of evolution is that societies that survive, choose the latter option; those that simply hope to perpetuate a static vision of society for all time -- can be witnessed in the stone images of Easter Island, where all the graven images are perennially identical, but all the traces of the people who once lived there, have otherwise completely vanished.

At March 16, 2006 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I just can't help but think of Boys and Their Toys...BIG shiny ones when I think of a rail system in a place like Oahu or LA...

At March 17, 2006 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you think Governor Lingle supports rail, then?

At March 17, 2006 8:10 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Her vote was a vote of confidence -- that the county governements ought to have the right for self-determination -- and given that responsibility, would rise to the challenge of it.

There's a (bad)tendency to think that only the governor or only the president micromanages/decrees everything -- rather than a more modern understanding that everybody has to do their thing properly for any society to work.

We're not a kingdom anymore.

At March 17, 2006 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. I'd say she supports rail more than your/her "right of self-determination" smokescreen would suggest:

At March 17, 2006 3:38 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...



Controversy sells newspapers, so perhaps Jerry Burris was just trying to help The Advertiser's bottom line with his latest column: "What's behind the tax squabble?" (March 12).

In the column, Burris tried to link Gov. Lingle's call for Mayor Hannemann and other elected officials to keep their word about the city collecting its excise tax increase with her re-election campaign.

The issue is not election-year politics, as Burris would have readers believe. The issue is, and always has been, the right of counties to make their own decisions and handle the consequences that ensue — something the governor has consistently supported for more than 20 years.

When Gov. Lingle had to determine last year whether counties would have the authority to address traffic congestion by raising taxes, she allowed Honolulu and the other counties to have that option, in keeping with her belief in "home rule."

As the former mayor of Maui, she knows firsthand the importance of this fundamental right of self-determination.

She also said at the time, and the mayor and legislative leaders agreed to support her position, that the city should collect any tax increase.

So when the city opted to hike the excise tax, it also had the responsibility to collect that tax. Legislative leaders pledged in a July 11, 2005 letter to the governor to publicly support a law requiring the city to collect the tax and the mayor agreed that his administration would work with the governor's team to make that happen.

The legislative session is half over and the bill has not been heard in the House. The mayor has been publicly silent, other than to continue saying he thinks he shouldn't have to collect the tax increase he advocated.

It is certainly understandable for the governor to remind the mayor and legislators about their public commitment to make certain that the city, not the state, collects the city tax increase.

It is important to understand that Gov. Lingle's support of home rule does not mean she favors tax hikes. The polar opposite is true. Even people with only a cursory interest in state government know that one of the governor's top initiatives this year is using a sizable portion of the budget surplus to provide tax relief — especially for low-income and middle-income residents.

If Burris wants to find some controversy to report on in his next column, perhaps he could focus on Democratic lawmakers who oppose easing the tax burden on our residents.

Hawai'i's people are among the most taxed in the nation, to the point where some welfare recipients still owe state income tax. How can that be fair?

Something has gone terribly awry when politicians are against cutting taxes at a time when Hawai'i has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, the state economy is booming and the budget surplus keeps growing. Now that's controversy!

Lois Hamaguchi
Communications manager, Office of the Governor

At March 17, 2006 3:41 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Personally, I think she was just trying to see how far she could trust those guys to keep their word.

At June 02, 2006 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might also want to consider looking into additional opportunities in the field of ridesharing and car sharing.

If you're going to festivals or conferences, SpaceShare builds custom rideshare systems. Encourage festivals, conferences or other events to use their system to share rides at SpaceShare and you'll get a ride from neighbors who like the same music or go to the same conferences as you. If you ask a conference/festival to have a ride share system, with one call you might help dozens or hundreds of people skip a drive.

For city-to-city carpooling, sites like craigslist and can also be practical no matter where you live in the world or US.

You can also look into car sharing programs, if you are a resident, in places like San Francisco with companies and organizations like Flexcar and City carshare. Other major US and European cities have similar schemes.

It really seems greening up transportation isn't that hard, especially with ride-share and car-share opportunities...


Post a Comment

<< Home