formerly The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu


June 2005 Archive:


June 30, 2005

SFO's BART latest extension failing:

Ridership is way below expectations because riders say it is too slow. The whole thing is a nightmare; they are now expecting average daily ridership of 28,000 for the $1.5 billion extension. To put the ridership in perspective, it is 13 percent of TheBus ridership. They are raising fares and cutting service. On top of that it looks like the entire BART system will be on strike this coming Wednesday.     READ MORE


Tell your friends: Schedule for slide show airing on Olelo:

Following is the schedule for our narrated slide show, "HOT lanes or rail transit?" on channel 52. It will be shown on July 6 at 2:00pm, July 13 at 5:00pm,  July 20 at 11:30pm and July 27, 4:00pm


Mufi muffs it again:

According to this morning's Advertiser, "The Mayor said he believes the time is right to move forward with mass transit to relieve Honolulu's traffic congestion." At the Chamber forum last week, Councilmember Okino allowed that rail would not relieve traffic congestion and Councilmember Garcia said the same thing during the May Chamber forum. But, they said, rail transit would give commuters a choice.

EDITORIAL:  The Mayor needs to level with the voters. First, no city in the United States has relieved traffic congestion by building a rail line. That's a fact that can be easily confirmed by reviewing the data from the nation's leading authority on traffic congestion, Texas A & M's Texas Transportation Institute.   READ MORE  The Mayor has to stop making these grossly misleading statements or soon he may acquire the same reputation for truthfulness that our last Mayor had.


Great MidWeek column by Susan Page:

Susan's column starts with, "I hate the traffic, but I feel like I’m getting a heavy sell job on a light rail transit system. It reminds me of the rug dealers in Times Square. Cheap price, high quality, you need it, special deal, this price won’t last."   And the column gets better ... READ MORE


June 27, 2005

Portland loses money big time:

This afternoon, in response to a request from the afternoon Mike Buck Show on 830AM we researched the Portland's bus and rail costs. In 2003 they had fares of $54 million and operating expenses $266 million. Passengers carried about 50 percent more than ours. We thought you might also like to compare Portland with TheBus. HONOLULU    PORTLAND


Where are the those who speak for the less affluent?

It is very interesting that we do not hear from Ah Quon McElrath, Larry Boyd, and others on this rail issue. In other cities they help the bus riders form unions to protest the inevitable over spending on rail and short changing the inner city bus riders. Here's some greater detail on three community actions against rail lines:



Today's honolulutraffic.com editorial :



June 26, 2005

Today's Advertiser: "The worst-laid plans":

Great story in today's Advertiser about all the botch ups in government operations from Aloha Stadium to the softball stadium-without-a-view. READ MORE   That brings us to the obvious question: You want these guys to build a $3.6 billion rail line correctly? And be on time? And on budget? If you believe that, let us remind you that medical marijuana is still illegal.

Bay Area BART completes a $1.2 billion overhaul:

We sometimes forget that once rail systems are in place, the maintenance begins. This began in 1994, twenty years after the trans-bay system opened. Among other items, BART has completed a ten-year major renovation of the original 430 cars at a cost of $1.2 million each. READ MORE

Seattle Post: Monorail balloons to $11 billion:

"It will cost more than $11 billion to pay for the 14-mile monorail Green Line project and the debt to finance it, according to documents made public yesterday." The State Treasurer said the typical principal and interest payments on a state project amount to double the construction cost of the project.  READ MORE


June 25, 2005

Governor lists 1309 for possible veto:

       The Governor told a group of us yesterday that she was going to list HB 1309, the rail tax bill, for possible veto. She made no promises that she would actually veto it but said she would take into account the various concerns expressed by the business leaders there. Specifically, she said she was opposed to the state receiving any of the HB 1309 funds except those relating to real administrative costs and that she had other concerns but did not say what.

       Today's Advertiser says that she is negotiating with House and Senate leaders on this issue.

       Real costs are apparently around $4 million annually. We revised our rail cost model and found that this would have a $360 million effect; the shortfall at the end of fifteen years would be reduced to $2.62 billion.


June 23, 2005

Sensible editorial in today's Advertiser:

Given that the Advertiser favors rail transit, their editorial today was quite sensible. It is that the tax be "imposed only when a publicly acceptable, well-thought-out transit plan is in place." READ MORE


June 21, 2005

Our new slide show is up and running:

We prepared a new slide show expressly for the Chamber of Commerce Forum this morning and it is now up on our website. You can access it from HERE or the "Click here" at the top of the page or on the new tab to the left. Please give us any suggestions you have to improve it.  There is also a slightly different version of the slideshow up on the www.votehawaii.com  website with voice over that Peter "My Computer Minute" Kay taped at a meeting last week. See also their blue tab to the left.

Everyone appears to be piling on the rail tax:

Now we hear that the HB 1309 may have constitutional problems. It seems that the State can only legislate general laws applying equally to the counties. The Legislature cannot legislate for an individual county as distinct from all counties. In effect, HB 1309 does that by stipulating different ways that each county may spend the tax revenues.

Building Industry Association cooling down:

The BIA just polled its members and the response was 50% for and 50% against.

New cartoon by Dick Adair today:

Is Dick Adair trying to tell us that this turkey won't fly? Seems reasonable to us.


June 19, 2005

Change of participants for Chamber Forum:

The line up for the Chamber of Commerce Forum on the transit tax issue will be Councilmember Gary Okino and Deputy Transportation Director Toru Hamayasu as rail tax proponents, and Councilmember Charles Djou and Cliff Slater as opponents. It will be in the Mauka Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency on Tuesday next, June 21. Registration is at 7:30am with the program starting at 8:00am and ending at 10:00am. There will be a full breakfast. Chamber members and guests are $20 and non-members $40. The public is welcome. If you intend to go, but are not a member call us at 545-4495 and we will see if we can get a member to invite you at the lower price. CHAMBER POSTER


June 18, 2005

Advertiser: "Transit spending waits for plan."

City officials have a new plan: "The city won't spend any new tax money on mass transit until a specific plan — including the type, financing and route — is in place, officials pledged yesterday." The Council has changed the language of Bill 40 "to address public complaints and encourage 'transparency and accountability.'" The bill now reads that "no tax money can be used until the Council has received an operational, financial, development and route plan for the locally preferred alternative." Read more:  STAR-BULLETI N    ADVERTISER

Elected officials must think we are idiots.  

       There is nothing in the "new" language that was not implicit in the original Bill 40. The city cannot get federal funding without an approved "operational, financial, development and route plan." Once you commit to needing federal funding, which the city has done, then all the other elements are a given.

       The federal government requires you not start spending local money without full acceptance by the feds of the plan (the Final Environmental Impact Statement) including getting the federal funds. The City found this out the hard way when they started building the BRT and the feds pulled the promised funding simply because the city had started spending local money before they had the federal funds.

       The only real change implied by this language change in Bill 40 is they have dropped that bizarre idea of building a starter line from Kapolei to Waipahu without federal funding; but that was bound to be a non-starter since everyone was laughing about it.

       Generally the business community has been against the rail tax increase. period. The Hawaii Business Roundtable testimony for the last hearing said, "HBR will not support any actual increase in the general excise tax unless proper surface transportation plans and cost/benefit analyses are completed to solidly justify a tax, prior to the surcharge taking effect. Such plans and analyses should satisfactorily demonstrate that the design, cost, utilization and ancillary conservation measures of the transportation improvements to be funded by the tax provide sufficient benefits to the community." (emphasis added)

       In other words, do not impose a tax unless you can first justify it. No plan, no tax. period. This is the only sensible way to do it. For example, what happens to the funds if we collect taxes for five years and then find that the feds turn us down? What happens to the money? They give it back? Right.

       Our financial analysis of the plan as so far stated by the City shows that we would finish up at the end of the fifteen years of tax increase being $3 BILLION in the hole even if there were to be no operating or capital cost overruns. How much would you like to bet on that outcome? SPREADSHEET

       Is this culture of obfuscation and misdirection something so deeply embedded in City Hall that no one can get rid of it?


June 18, 2005

Slater on Fred Hemmings Show tomorrow:

The Fred Hemmings & Debbie Lauer Show, KHNR 97.5 will feature Cliff Slater from 7:00am to 9:00am tomorrow, Thursday, June 16.


June 14, 2005

Ed Hirata & Cliff Slater, Chamber Forum, June 21:

City Dept of Transportation Services Director Ed Hirata and honolulutraffic.com's Cliff Slater will discuss the pros and cons of rail transit and HOT lanes at a Chamber Forum this coming Tuesday, June 21, at 8:00am (registration 7:30am) at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Mauka Ballroom (in the parking building). The public is welcome.

London Economist covers congestion pricing:

The latest Economist has two articles on the future of congestion/road/value pricing in Britain. Discusses a move beginning in 2014 to substitute congestion pricing for gasoline taxes as the way to finance highways. Two really great articles. ARTICLE 1     ARTICLE 2


June 13, 2005

Pritchett does it again:

See cartoon in conjunction with our story below, "City rail plan will be $3 billion short."

June 12, 2005

Community Meeting:

6/21/05, Tuesday, 7:00 pm, WAIKIKI RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION will host a Town Hall type meeting at the Waikiki Community Center to discuss the City Council Bill # 40, and House Bill #1309.  The  meeting is open to the public. Also posted on our "Upcoming events" tab at left. Use this POSTER for your workplace or building, where appropriate.


June 10, 2005

Chamber is now out there all alone:

Now that the Hawaii Business Roundtable has declared its opposition to the rail tax, the Chamber is the only general business organization that still favors the rail tax. But stay tuned, this may change. See our "Chamber flops" tab to the left.

City rail plan will be $3 billion short:

The Mayor has told us that the 1992 plan will form the basis of the new project. Also:

  1. We know that the estimate for the Kapolei to Iwilei segment is estimated by the City and state to cost $2.64 billion.
  2. We can make an approximate estimation of the Iwilei to UH addition at about $1 billion, which brings the total project cost up to $3.6 billion.
  3. We know that, in practice, the federal New Start funds will be limited to $500 million.
  4. We know that the City’s 1991 estimate of rail transit’s operating losses was $45 million annually, over and above TheBus, and, allowing for inflation, that would be $56 million today.
  5. We know that the ˝ percent tax hike will yield $148 million annually before the state takes its 10 percent cut, or $133 million net of that.
  6. Run all that through a spreadsheet and, allowing for revenue growth, inflation and interest, it shows we will be close to $3 billion short when the 15 year tax authorization is up. SPREADSHEET

June 10, 2005

Recent New York Times piece on tolls:

The Times reports, "people say they like the fact that there are no toll booths, and they can virtually guarantee being on time -- for a child's soccer match, job appointment or doctor's visit. Average peak hour speeds on the 91 Express lanes were 60 to 65 miles an hour last year, versus 15 to 20 m.p.h. on the free lanes, according to federal officials ...' said Caleb Dillon, an X-ray technician in Riverside whose commute is an hour each way, ''I'm not a rich guy, but I like having the option of saving time when I really need it.''

The tolls have also succeeded in doing what no amount of cajoling and public service announcements could do: get people to car-pool. The 91 now has the highest occupancy per vehicle of any major road in California, state officials said. The new tolls rely on radio technology to debit an account instantly, and they are priced to ensure maximum flow of traffic." READ MORE

Check our "Upcoming events" tab flashing on the left


June 9, 2005

San Diego shows the way:

A recent study by SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments, shows how professionals go about polling stakeholders in their transportation planning. It is quite instructive to compare this with the amateurish, slanted polls that we get. 

It also shows how popular HOT lanes are in the San Diego area across income groups because it gives people choices about being on time for appointments, picking up children from day care, etc. THE WHOLE STUDY    EXCERPT ON TOLLS


Strange testimony by Business Roundtable:

When we reviewed today the written testimony submitted by the Hawaii Business Roundtable we found it differed completely from the verbal testimony given by Carl Takamura, its Executive Director. He gave the impression that the Roundtable was essentially supporting Bill 40 by saying, " if this bill is necessary for the Council and the City Administration to have the widest possible array of alternatives to look at, then we think that’s what should happen.”

HBR's written testimony on the other hand, stated flatly that they "HBR will not support any actual increase in the general excise tax unless proper surface transportation plans and cost/benefit analyses are completed to solidly justify a tax, prior to the surcharge taking effect. Such plans and analyses should satisfactorily demonstrate that the design, cost, utilization and ancillary conservation measures of the transportation improvements to be funded by the tax provide sufficient benefits to the community.   HBR further believes that these funds must be directed solely for transit solutions to avoid the permanent embedding of the tax and subsequent diversion of funds from the original intent."

We wonder what HBR's members think about that?


June 8, 2005

Council hearing on tax bill on Olelo today:

Monday's Council hearing on the rail tax bill, Bill 40,  is on at 2:00pm today on Channel 54. The full Council hearing  will also be aired at 7:00pm this evening although the hearing on Bill 40 will not come on until about 11:30 pm.

Council punts on rail tax bill:

Monday's Council meeting was quite interesting. Instead of the usual well scripted Kabuki play, Nestor Garcia, as Transportation Chair, said that he was "leaving the bill on the table." That was obviously a surprise to everyone because they were scurrying around reading Roberts' Rules, asking procedural questions of Council Services and querying each other about what was going on. We were all waiting for the question, "Is there a scriptwriter in the house?"

But, in the end, it settled down to the bill being referred to the next Council hearing on July 6. That also moves the second reading in the Transportation/Budget meeting to mid July.


June 3, 2005

"Bus ridership still down"

Mike Leidemann, Advertiser Transportation Writer, reported in yesterday's paper that TheBus management still hopes to build back ridership to what it was before the strike. 

  OPINION: If you look carefully at the Advertiser's graph you'll notice that even before the strike, bus ridership was in  decline.  If you allow for the growing population it means that TheBus is continuing to slide in riders per capita as it has been doing for the last 20 years.

Council Transportation Committee Chair Nestor Garcia's answer to that is to try to find the money for 400 more buses. He might note that the last time bus ridership was this low was in 1977 with 66.6 million riders yet only 350 buses. Today, we have 525 buses, up 50 percent from 1977, yet ridership is down from then. Clearly all that 400 new buses will do is drive up already escalating bus operating losses. The Council needs to take a hard look at alternatives that might reduce losses. READ MORE

Bay Area transit in decline; airport extension failing:

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that: "For all the well-intentioned, politically and environmentally correct rhetoric about luring more people aboard the Bay Area's network of trains, light rail, buses and ferries, the availability of public transportation around the region has dipped over the past five years."

The report also covers the $1.5 billion extension to San Francisco Airport: "BART's 8.7-mile extension southeast from Colma to San Francisco International Airport and Millbrae is a good example of this boom-and-bust phenomenon. The extension, which opened in June 2003 after 15 years of planning, fighting and construction delays, was a popular project among Bay Area residents and promised strong ridership.

But despite providing a direct link to the region's largest airport and rapid transit service deeper into San Mateo County, the extension has drawn far fewer riders than anyone anticipated. San Mateo's transportation agency, which promised to cover the costs of running the extension, has feuded with BART over how to cut those expenses. Service has already been reduced, and San Mateo is considering closing two stations on weekends. Last week, BART decided to slap a surcharge on trips to San Mateo County stations beginning in January." READ MORE

Council member Rod Tam raises concerns with rail tax:

Council member Rod Tam has offered a floor amendment to Council Bill 40. He is proposing that the tax,

    "shall be levied beginning January 1, 2007, but only if the following has occurred prior to that date:

    (1) The council has received from the director of transportation services an operational, financial, development and route plan for the proposed transit system;

    (2) The council has approved by resolution a locally preferred alternative as part of the Alternative Analysis and Draft EIS; and

    (3) T here is a commitment of federal funds.

    In the even any one or more of the above have not taken place prior to January 1, 2007, the surcharge shall not be established or levied."

He is hinting that unless this language, or something like it, is adopted he may vote against the bill.  Nestor Garcia has already said that Tam's proposed amendment is unacceptable.

OPINION. This is an interesting twist and we shall see what comes of it on Monday afternoon at 2:00 pm at the full Council hearing of Bill 40. Come to testify.
"Persons wishing to speak are requested to register by 2 p.m. using the On-Line Council Speaker Registration form available at www.honolulu.gov/council/agendas.htm, or by sending a fax indicating your desire to speak, along with your name, phone number and subject matter to 527-6910 or by calling 523-4490. Testimony is limited to three minutes and shall be presented by the registered speaker only. Written testimonies may be faxed to 527-6910 or you may e-mail your testimony by going to www.honolulu.gov/council/agendas.htm for the e-mail contact; however, you are requested to register to speak if you wish to provide oral testimony."

Great coverage lately on radio talk shows:

We are getting great continuing coverage on the rail tax issue on The Mike Buck Show on 830AM-KHVH in the afternoons, The Rick Hamada Show on 830AM-KHVH from 6-9 am in the mornings, Hemmings & Kim on FM 97.5 from 7-9 in the mornings, and Katsumi Tanaka's show on 1210AM-KZOO from 7-9:00am.

Next scheduled appearances of our members are: Paul Smith, 8:30-9:00am, Wednesday, June 8 &  Cliff Slater 8:30-9:00am, Tuesday, June 7, both on 1210AM-KZOO

Galen Fox resigns as House Minority Leader:

Fox's resignation yesterday was clearly a result of a very Un-Republican act of voting for a tax increase after taking the "No New Taxes" pledge. He was the first casualty of the rail tax.

Slater speaks to Ala Moana Rotary yesterday

Cliff Slater gave a PowerPoint© presentation to the Ala Moana Rotary yesterday, which was very well received.


June 1, 2005

Federal Highways Administrator lauds HOT lanes:
The head of FHWA in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said,  "American drivers are eager for better service on highways in the form of HOT lanes or "High Occupancy/Toll" Lanes. In HOT lanes, low occupancy vehicles are charged a toll, while High-Occupancy Vehicles (HOVs) are allowed to use the lanes free or at a discounted toll rate. HOT lanes create an additional category of eligibility for people wanting to use HOV lanes. People can either meet the minimum vehicle passenger requirement, or they can choose to pay a toll to gain access to the HOV lane. Either way, they have choice.
Research in Minnesota shows that when asked whether new capacity should be financed through tolls or increasing the gas tax, respondents favored tolling three to one. And a number of states are actively considering HOT lanes, including on the Capital Beltway in Virginia.
Building HOT lanes can be a public private partnership.
Our reauthorization proposal would allow states to better leverage their transportation dollars by taking advantage of innovative financing, such as private activity bonds, and other public-private partnership options."

  The environmentally degrading aspect of rail transit:

Our citizens need to understand some of the more environmentally degrading aspects of rail transit. Using the 1992 plans, which the City has said they would use and bring up to date, the size of the stations are 280 feet long, sprawl over both sides of every street they run on together escalators, elevators and stairs on each side of the street. Station heights vary from 50 to 75 feet above street level depending on the type of station. To get to UH the rail line goes over the H-1 freeway at University with the rail lines 65 feet above University Avenue and the trains themselves much higher than that. Since we do not have the electrical capacity to supply the 60 million kilowatt hours of electricity needed annually for the trains, we will have to build a new generating station. It goes on. For further detail, study the "Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu Rapid Transit Program, July 1992" and the "Track Plan and Profile Drawings, Appendices A & B," all available at the City's Municipal Library.