Letters to the editor – 1/14/15

Better rail

Former mayor Mufi Hannemann makes some good points in his column “Key Rail Strategies Are In Order,” criticizing HART for the escalating costs of the rail project, along with his call for ending the state’s 10 percent cut of the rail surcharge. Mr. Hannemann overlooked, however, his key role as mayor in forcing the selection of steel wheels on steel rails (SWSR) as the only system technology to be considered. I am sure he recalls that the City Council voted for a fixed-guideway system and never delivered five positive votes for SWSR. If he had allowed the open competition among the four rail technologies that his Department of Transportation Services briefed throughout 2006 and 2007, we might have a different financial situation today.

Presenters for a Japanese urban magnetic levitation system briefed city officials on maglev’s operational and cost superiority to other systems, but the supplier was denied a chance to submit a proposal after 2008. If maglev had, in fact, been allowed to compete and had been selected, 20 percent would have been saved on construction costs for the 20-mile guideway (i.e., about $500 million); the guideway would have been less physically imposing at 21 feet across compared to 30 feet for SWSR; operations and maintenance costs of 25-30 percent less would have saved another $1 billion-plus over 30 years; and the system would have been a little faster, more reliable, safer, smoother and much quieter than steel wheels.

If rail is to be “done wisely and judiciously,” the city should get out of its contract with the (financially failing) Ansaldo systems supplier (likely to be purchased by a Chinese or Japanese company in 2015); cease further construction of the SWSR guideway; request proposals from urban maglev developers (currently in four nations, including the United States), and begin conversion of the existing guideway for maglev operations, with the remaining 18 miles or so to be constructed solely for maglev. So I ask: Is there enough political will to do rail right?

Frank Genadio

Good stuff

Thank you for the double holiday treat: the quiet surprise of seeing our first lady as a lovely model on Yu Shing Ting’s Style pages. And now MidWeek begins the new year with a cover story of the Iges, a humble couple whom most of us knew very little about. What beautiful timing, and beautifully written by Dan Boylan. Warmest wishes for success in their new year’s new job.

And at last someone is saying it, and no one more eloquently than Patrick Buchanan: “Hollywood Playing with Fire” in angering enemies of the United States. Freedom of speech can at times be bastardized for ratings and profits. Freedom isn’t license, and Buchanan rates a Pulitzer prize for reminding us.

Ruth Freedman

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