Editor’s note: Rail opponents Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Walter Heen gave Civil Beat permission to publish as a separate article their comment on our Fact Check regarding rail stations that would be more than 10 stories high.

Hatchet job #2 on our op/ed is false

Civil Beat’s second FACT CHECK is the second in their hatchet job of our op/ed that appeared in the August 21 Star-Advertiser.

We had written that,

“Some of the stations would be 10 stories high.”

Civil Beat concludes that,

“Bottom line: The claim about multiple stations being 10 stories high is categorically false.”

In response to a query from them we had sent Civil Beat the following:

“The ten stories came from the planned extension to UH discussed in the FEIS but not detailed in the plans. That line is planned to go over Ala Moana Center along Kona Street.” (emphasis added)

In its fact check, Civil Beat discusses a “possible extension.” It is not a “possible” extension. That is simply wrong. It is not a “possible” extension to UH. It is a planned extension and is so referenced in the Final EIS. That we have to go to the Draft EIS for the plans is because the city provides no details of the upper Ala Moana Station in the Final EIS even though the UH and Waikiki lines are “planned” according to that document.

“The planned extensions are included as illustrative projects in the ORTP (OahuMPO 2007) and are anticipated by RTD to be completed at some time in the future prior to 2030 as separate projects that would receive detailed environmental review.” (FEIS 2-41) (emphasis added)

The FEIS also states:

“The UH Mānoa extension would connect to the current Project at Ala Moana Center and then veer mauka to follow Kapi’olani Boulevard to University Avenue. It would then turn mauka to follow University Avenue over the H‑1 Freeway to a proposed terminal facility on UH Mānoa’s Lower Campus (Figure 2-8).”

One of our complaints in our lawsuit concerns this segmentation of the corridor. We wrote the following on June 9, at http://www.honolulutraffic.com,

“One of the major violations of environmental law committed by the City in the Final EIS has been to study only a segment of the “Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor” instead of the entire corridor. Thus the City has also excluded any study of what they call the “planned extensions,” the future additional eight miles of rail line connecting East Kapolei to Kapolei proper and Ala Moana Center to UH Manoa and Waikiki and their cumulative effects on the corridor as a whole. As the courts have already ruled, “When several foreseeable similar projects in a geographic region have a cumulative impact, they should be evaluated in a single EIS.”

Thus it is only reasonable for us to go to the Draft EIS, for the rail height of 85 feet over Ala Moana Center, which with an additional 20 feet for the platform and its roof, makes a total of 105 feet, or over ten stories by Civil Beat’s own definition.

The Pearl Highlands station in the Final EIS shows a rail line height of 50 feet, which would result in a station of at least 70 feet. This is a reduction from the station height of 95-100 feet shown in the Draft EIS. To achieve this lower height the City increased the grade angle of the rail from 2.5 percent to 5.7 percent. Engineers have told us that such a grade would never be built; that it is pure shibai. What would happen is that in Preliminary Engineering, or later in the Final Design phase, they will revert to something like the original 2.5 percent.

The UH Lower Campus station needed for the “planned” extension to UH is also a contender for the ten story group because the railway would pass 25 feet above H-1, and the adjacent UH station would be way above the Lower Campus below. Again because of segmentation — which we consider a violation of federal law — the city has not yet made those drawings available to the public.

One of Civil Beat’s apparent errors is to assume that what the City shows in its plans do not have a public relations component. Such plans change as the project progresses, just as the projected costs change, the ridership forecast changes, and the revenue projections change. It is called, “boiling the frog.”

For more detail on how this evolutionary process works see Hamer’s “The Selling of Rail Transit” and, more importantly, the work of Dr. Martin Wachs, Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA and presently head of Rand Corporation’s transportation practice, who wrote, When Planners Lie with Numbers for the American Planning Association Journal [pdf] in 1989. Here is an excerpt:

“The most effective planner is sometimes the one who can cloak advocacy in the guise of scientific or technical rationality. Rather than stating that we favor a particular highway project or renewal program for ideological reasons or because our clients stand to gain more from that project than from alternatives, we adjust data and assumptions until we can say that the data clearly show that the preferred option is best.”

In short, we are quite satisfied that our statement, “Some of the stations would be 10 stories high,” is an accurate description should this project be actually fully built.