Honolulu’s leading rail opponents argue that the public has been hoodwinked into believing that traffic congestion will be better than it is today if the project is built.

They say that if the public knew that the $5.2 billion Honolulu rail project would not improve traffic congestion from current levels, they might have second thoughts about whether the project would be worth the cost. The city itself acknowledges that traffic in the future will be worse than it is today, even with rail.

Well, voters are clearly having second thoughts, as Civil Beat’s poll made clear Monday. Fifty-five percent of likely voters now oppose the project.

But do they believe what some rail proponents have said to sell the project?

To answer that question, Civil Beat asked likely voters on Oahu the following question: “Do you believe that if the rail line is built, there will be less traffic congestion in Honolulu than we have today?”

Fifty-five percent of likely voters said “No.” Thirty percent said they do believe that rail will mean less traffic congestion than today. And 15 percent are unsure.

The automated telephone survey of 1,172 likely voters on Oahu was conducted on Feb. 26 and 27. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent1.

The poll found that a majority of every age group did not believe that rail would reduce congestion and that men and women essentially shared the same view, with 55 percent of each rejecting the idea.

When it comes to party affiliation, Republicans and independents are more likely not to believe the congestion case, with 62 percent of GOP voters and 63 percent of independent voters saying they don’t buy the argument.

As for ethnicity as a factor, it may be ironic that the one group that is most uncertain is Filipinos, many of whom are proud of the groundbreaking member of their group, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who is campaigning for mayor on a kill-rail plank. Twenty-eight percent of Filipinos aren’t sure about the impact of rail on congestion, while 30 percent say it will reduce traffic and 41 percent say it won’t.

Except for voters without a high school degree, the percentage of those who don’t believe congestion will get better than today’s levels is consistent in the mid-50s.

A majority of every income level doesn’t buy the congestion reduction argument, all in the 50s.

Voters who identify themselves as liberal or progressive are the most likely to believe congestion will ease, at 39 percent, versus 32 percent of moderates, 23 percent of conservatives and 24 percent of those unsure of where they stand politically.

The location where voters live2 appears to have no effect on the belief in congestion reduction, with 55 percent of both those who live in the rail corridor and those who don’t rejecting the idea.

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