A new spotlight on rail funding

Gov. Linda Lingle threw a wrinkle into the O‘ahu rail transit debate by releasing a study critical of rail finances on her way out the door.

The $350,000 analysis by Infrastructure Management Group Inc. concluded that transit tax revenues could be 30 percent below city projections, costs could be $1.7 billion higher than estimated and ridership assumptions may be overly optimistic.

If the study is even partly right, it would mean the $5.5 billion project would need additional local taxes beyond the half-cent excise tax for transit already being paid by Oahuans. There are also concerns about federal support for its $1.5 billion share holding steady after the dramatic Republican gains in Congress.

Mayor Peter Carlisle has said construction could start as early as March if the state approves the project’s environmental impact statement soon, and Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie has indicated he’ll approve it without regard for the financial issues.

The new financial analysis isn’t necessarily a show-stopper; Carlisle, Abercrombie and the City Council deserve a chance to review the numbers and weigh their credibility.

But they owe it to O‘ahu taxpayers to put politics aside and make an honest assessment. It would be foolhardy to plunge ahead without being able to answer up front and with some certainty how much it’ll cost and how we’ll pay for it.

Crossing our fingers and hoping for the best just doesn’t cut it on a project of this magnitude.

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23 Comments on “A new spotlight on rail funding”

  1. el guapo Says:

    C’mon, this was a no-brainer. This kind of project always cost more than expected and never brings in enough revenue. The old and new administrations *always* owed us an honest assessment. This report does not change anything, Lingle just wasted $350,000 to buy a brighter spotlight and tell us things we already knew.

  2. Doug Carlson Says:

    Dave, let’s hope the few journalists still employed in this town have it in them to report on an essential feature of this report — the anti-rail activist who helped write it. Civil Beat broke this angle last evening. This report’s conclusions were pre-determined from the start. http://bit.ly/gG4XWL

  3. Jim Loomis Says:

    If you truly wanted a solid, objective analysis of the city’s transit project, would you hire a “consultant” who is known to have a long history of anti-rail bias and considered a hack by transportation professionals? Lingle’s final act should be remembered as a sly deception and a fraud. How’s that for a legacy!

  4. Guido Sarducci Says:

    So sayeth the paid pro-rail activist, Doug Carlson. His conclusions are pre-determined from the start, as well.

  5. zzzzzing Says:

    Abercrombie saying he’ll approve the EIS without regard for the financial issues really sunk my corn flakes this morning. What an uncaring ∫å߆å®∂.

  6. Jim Loomis Says:

    zzzzzing, Neil’s point — in fact, THE point — is that the governor’s only legal role in this whole business is to review the EIS and make sure all the t’s were crossed and all the i’s dotted. Nowhere does the governor have any official say-so for anything else connected to the project. Lingle’s extra-curricular meddling cost us taxpayers $350,000 and all we got was a useless and hopelessly biased “study”. That’s what oughtta sink your Corn Flakes!

  7. ppcc Says:

    Doesn’t matter who wrote it, the only issue is whether it provides the most HONEST and accurate assessment for the TRUE costs and ridership figures for Oahu’s rail project. The SA article stated a copy of the report was sent to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, so feel free for you, Carlisle, Yoshioka, Parsons, etc. to make an OFFICIAL rebuttal statement (not just writing posts in Dave and other people’s blog) against the Governors report and submit it to LaHood, FTA AND all Hawaii residents to review. As I have metnioned to you previously, when Parsons wrote the EIS for former mayor Harris’ bus rapid transit system, Parsons was in direct agreement with the rail consultant Rubin that for Oahu, rail was inferior to an express bus system. Now Parsons are claiming rail is superior to an express bus system. Parsons has ZERO credibility for them to turn 180 and try to convince Hawaii residents and the FTA that the “experts” at Parsons believe rail is superior to an express bus system tailored for Oahu’s weekday and weekend commuters. Also Parsons has a serious credibility issue now that their 4 mile Las Vegas elevated monorail is bankrupt to the tune of 1/2 to 1 BILLION dollars and bond ratings used to pay for the rail in Feb have been changed from “C” to “D”.

    Like the SuperFerry and Oahu’s trans Pacific shipment of trash from Oahu to Washington State, Mufi’s rail project was a failure from the get go for the reasons I and others have already outlined to you a thousand times before.

  8. Michael Says:

    Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure the project was flat from the beginning. Maybe they should have planned in 3D. All this planning to find out that the cost will exceed by billions has already cost millions. Hawaii would have saved millions and for 2 cents I could have told you so.

  9. Doug Carlson Says:

    Guido, the essential point you’re missing about Lingle’s study is that it became instantly worthless with the revelation that it was written by an avowed anti-rail activist. I’m not writing an “objective” blog; I’m advocating for rail based on the years of study and analysis contained in the FEIS. You can call Rubin’s black sheep of a study white if you want, but that doesn’t alter its debilitating bias one bit.

  10. Richard Gozinya Says:

    “…he’ll approve it without regard for the financial issues.”

    Yeah,what could possibly go wrong with that approach? After all, it’s only money and we can easily raise taxes to cover any of those pesky financial issues.

  11. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    The primary problem with the Anti-s on this issue is that they don’t grasp two core international economic & environmental issues: 1) Quickly-approaching Peak Oil plus increased investments in foreign wars to provide the petroleum to pump into prviately-own internal combustion vehicles most of us now use in the United States; and, 2) Climate changes due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions which cannot be reversed.

    I’d rather pay increased taxes to support a rail system which I’ll rarely use IF it means that 1) we keep our troops out of war zones, and 2) we can do the right thing for our grandchildren’s great-grandhcildren seven generations from now.

  12. Michael Says:

    According to Governor Abercrombie, he is willing to take responsibility of any error that happens on his watch, starting with education. lingle did not and hit an iceburg. Seems according to Governor Abercrombie, it is not how much money spent but how wisely you spend the money. 50 dollars for an o-ring used on an Aircraft. Is that wise?

    Seems this is becoming a Mainland as we are still Hawaii. Limit the amount of people who can live on an Island and then worry about transit’s mass. Build a parking lot where once stood trees. NO!

    EIS is for the balance of nature. Upset Mother Nature and we have a Greenhouse effect. EIS deals with the Environmental Impact Study if Rail is built. Rail is a novelty idea to make this the Mainland. Come to Hawaii to see Disneyland.
    What happened to the Grass Shacks and hula skirts?
    Come to Hawaii and ride 20 miles of Rail and walking gets you there faster. Rail is not even Made in Hawaii.

    As far as future writers, What will there be to write about Hawaii? This is The Mainland. Why worry, Mainland has already sent their trash to Hawaii via the ocean currents.

  13. WooWoo Says:


    You’re laying it on pretty thick. All of your statements attempt to portray Rubin as the guy that wrote the report.

    What can you tell us about Infrastructure Management Group? What can you tell us about CB Richard Ellis? Could it be that these two organizations are completely legitimate? And how, pray tell, is the entire report irrelevant because of Rubin’s presence, but somehow Parson’s financial estimate is legit?

    Please, Doug. I know you are just trying to make a living. But I don’t come here to read paid advertising. I come here to read honest opinions. I disagree with many of the regulars here on many issues, but I respect them for their opinions. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on any issues you are not getting paid to work on.

  14. zzzzzing Says:

    Jim Loomis, I’d rather us eat the $350k than the $3.5 BILLION (and counting) ANYday, Corn Flakes or not. I still say that Abercrombie is an uncaring ∫å߆å®∂, and should do more than rubber-stamp the EIS for this Failroad. I have my serious doubts that he’s even reading the darned thing. I hope it comes back to bite him so hard that it’ll make Linda Lingle’s ‘legacy’ look like sainthood!

  15. Michael Says:

    EIS is so that Hawaii does not become one big parking lot.

  16. Doug Carlson Says:

    WooWoo, I gotta laugh, man…. You get hung up on my relationship with the rail project but can’t detect anything bogus about “the Rubin problem.” As I said in my blog today, this study was a stinker the moment he stepped into it — and who cares who the rest of the players are? Too many cooks spoil the broth, especially when one of them was cookin’ the outcome from the start.

  17. David Shapiro Says:

    Doug, I’m sorry, but it seems silly to contend that the state study is “instantly worthless with the revelation that it was written by an avowed anti-rail activist” while arguing with WooWoo’s suggestion that your views are equally of little worth because you’re paid to promote rail. What’s good for one is good for the other.

  18. Doug Carlson Says:

    Dave, I can’t believe you’re missing the point. Rubin and my positions are not alike in any respect whatsoever. I’m a pro-rail consultant who promotes the system and counters the misinformation spewed out there by the anti-railers. Rubin is an anti-rail activist who was hired to work on an allegedly INDEPENDENT AND OBJECTIVE study of the system! What’s so hard to understand? Rubin being on the team would be like you covering Capitol Hill in Washington for Gannett as an anti-government anarchist determined to bring down the Hawaii congressional delegation. You didn’t do that, right? You would have been fired if you’d tried that, right? Surely you can see why this study was flawed from the start.

  19. Michael Says:

    If the wrinkle was a fault, it would be hers. Rail won’t be built till after (if) lingle gets in the Senate. With her Republican party in majority she will bring this up. Showboating above Senator Inouye, if he is still in. Akaka Bill will be brought up since she supports the bill or so she says.

    Oahu will be a table top with a toy train running in circles. Hawai’i, I was.

  20. David Shapiro Says:

    Doug, I’m sure he sees himself as a consultant who counters the misinformation spewed out there by the pro-railers. Yin-yang. I just want to know if we’re raising enough money to pay for the thing and what the Plan B is if needed. It’s a fair question and it’s disappointing to see the new mayor and the old minions flying out of the box with dilatory name-calling, as usual.

  21. james Says:

    Given the past flip flop by Parsons on which transportation flavor of the month is suitable for our island, it does seem that Mr. Carlson is in a pickle. Shouldn’t the EIS consultant have been free from bias as well? Obviously they weren’t, and that’s a know fact given their past reports on the subject. Anytime someone comes out swinging so fast and hard to discredit something that actually might have some worth and insight to it, you really have to wonder why they are so quick to try to discredit it. Esp. when they are paid to do so. Many transit projects cost more than people thought they would. It’s a fact, and this report is just saying that there’s a good chance that Hawaii’s train will follow that lead. It isn’t rocket science. And it’s most likely to happen. So how about talking about what we are going to do about it rather than just flatly deny that it isn’t going to happen? Seriously…. bunch of kids running this thing.

  22. zzzzzz Says:

    @Cap, I’m with you on being willing to pay more taxes for those reasons.

    But the connection between keeping our troops out of war zones and a higher GET is a lot more tenous than if the tax were on fossil fuel consumption, e.g., taxing gasoline and diesel-generated electricity.

    There’s also no inherent reason why a tax to keep our troops out of war zones, and do the right thing for our grandchildren’s great-grandhcildren seven generations from now, has to be for a train.

  23. Doug Carlson Says:

    Sorry, Dave. It’s not yin-yang. You don’t put strongly partisan people on a study group that’s supposedly “independent” any more than your newspaper would hire an avowed activist to report “objectively.” I stand by my previous post here, the substance of which you’ve ignored.

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