formerly The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu



July 30, 2005

Congress did not approve rail transit yesterday:

      It is understandable that if the media only reads Congressman Abercrombie’s press handouts that they would believe that Congress approved Honolulu’s rail transit project yesterday in the SAFETEA-LU Transportation bill. That is not the case.

      Congress put a place-holder in the transportation bill for a Honolulu Rapid Transit project. Think of Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) and that our former bus company was Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. Ltd.

      The federal government cannot approve rail transit, or any other mass transit option, until the federal Alternatives Analysis process is complete. That has only just begun.

      The various “rapid transit” options including Bus/Rapid Transit, Busways, rail transit and HOT lanes are all still in play.

      Remember that it is all about money and power; it has nothing to do with transportation. Click on Follow the Money. It is always on one of the blue tabs to the left.


July 28, 2005

Editorial: The danger with Bill 40:

      Bill 40 allows the Mayor to go ahead and build the Kapolei to Waipahu segment of the rail transit line under state environmental laws — HRS 343.

      The Mayor will need no federal FEIS approvals, he will merely have the Governor sign off on a hastily prepared state FEIS, bludgeon council members into approving a $500 million bond issue for this segment, and then go ahead and build it.

      Thus, we will be faced with having invested up to a billion dollars of city funds and a totally incomplete and worthless rail line from Kapolei to Waipahu. The public will then clamor for its completion to at least Downtown if not to UH.

      It will be a financial nightmare; it is the same scam that Jeremy Harris tried to use with the IOS portion of the BRT plan; get a foot in the door and it will get finished. All in the name of besting Jeremy Harris.

      If you do not believe it is the Mayor's plan, examine his schedule: READ MORE


July 27, 2005

Seattle Weekly: Monorail "suddenly derailed by the truth":

It was promised for 2007and the latest, before it crashed, was 2011. Never is more likely. Way over budget ... dishonest financing ... promised operating subsidies 100% by fares yet never revealed a fare structure ... design changes led to "larger support columns to serve shorter trains arriving at longer intervals at fewer stations" and with "escalators now excluded." And still over budget. Promised an "environmentally green" rail line but the only "green" was that "flowing out to big businesses and law firms." Has "spent $182 million to date on planning, salaries, consultants, attorneys, overhead, and— its one asset—land. Seattle Monorail Project burns through $1 million a week without a track." "As for getting polluting, fossil-fuel-guzzling vehicles off the street, the monorail's effective relief would be minimal." READ MORE





London Economist: Seattle rail "a financial nightmare."

"IT IS home to Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft (as well as to Ichiro Suzuki, the hippest baseball player in the world). But Seattle's other, lesser boast is that it probably has the worst transport planning in North America." HEY! Come on now; Honolulu certainly has to dispute that. Also: "Monorail planners also over-estimated tax revenues, which have fallen about one-third short of projections." The Economist's caption for the image at right is "In your dreams." READ MORE

Two interesting sidelights: The Monorail Society lists eleven monorails in the U.S. They are all in theme parks, shopping malls, the Las Vegas strip, or are World's Fairs' leftovers. One of the eleven is at Pearl Ridge Shopping Center.

We have in our library a book, The Story of Rapid Transit, that tells us, "monorail promises to work wonders in the near future." It was written in 1901.

July 24, 2005
FHWA Administrator addresses U.S. Chamber:
This is a talk that was obviously not heard by our Chamber of Commerce. She talked to them about, "why the private sector and free markets should be a much bigger part of U.S. transportation in the future" and " Recent research shows that tolling is not only a proven congestion buster, but also viewed by Americans as a viable option for funding transportation needs."   READ MORE

Here's a better way to search our site:

It's very simple: Check the line underneath the Google search window above. All you have to do is see that the dot is in one of the two little round windows, called radio buttons, to designate whether you want to search the whole web or just our site.  


July 23, 2005

Why transportation projects always cost more:

Whenever we are discussing the projected costs of large projects, we should remember that the Journal of the American Planning Association in 2003 published a study, " Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects Error or Lie?" by a team of European scholars. They concluded, "Based on a sample of 258 transportation infrastructure projects worth US$90 billion and representing different project types, geographical regions, and historical periods, it is found with overwhelming statistical significance that the cost estimates used to decide whether such projects should be built are highly and systematically misleading. Underestimation cannot be explained by error and is best explained by strategic misrepresentation, that is, lying. The policy implications are clear: legislators, administrators, investors, media representatives, and members of the public who value honest numbers should not trust cost estimates and cost-benefit analyses produced by project promoters and their analysts." READ MORE


July 22, 2005

Change in next hearings:

The next hearing for Bill 40 before the joint committee on Transportation and Budget will be on August 2 immediately following the 9:00 am Transportation committee meeting. The Council meeting for the final vote on Bill 40 is still slated for August 10 at a time to be posted later.


July 16, 2005

The greatest quote ever about a faith-based initiative:

For whatever reason, we just noticed that we failed to put up on our website the great quote from Bob Lanier, before he became Mayor of Houston. He was quoted in Houston Metropolitan Magazine,  November 1990, page 49, when talking about rail transit supporters:

“First they say, `It's cheaper.'  When you show it costs more, they say, ` It's faster.'  When you show it's slower, they say, `It serves more riders.'  When you show there are fewer riders, they say, `It brings economic development.'  When you show no economic development, they say, `It helps the image.'  When you say you don't want to spend that much money on image, they say, `It will solve the pollution problem.'  When you show it won't help pollution, they say, finally, `It will take time. You'll see.'”


July 15, 2005

Can't find something on our website? Try this:

Google calls it a site search. You simply put this in the Google window — site:www.honolulutraffic.com — then add your search terms. For example, say you want to know everything we have written about HOT lanes.  Enter site:www.honolulutraffic.com "HOT lanes" and it will list 21 pages you can open. Try it. We will maintain a small reminder underneath the Google window above. Try it.


Talk about "same old, same old," crew at City Hall:

With all the spin emanating from City Hall these days, a thought struck us and so we examined the old court documents concerning the Oahu Transit Group's $18 million suit against the City for, among other matters, causing OTG to spend over  $1 million for excessive public relations.

We read an excerpt from the suit that says, "Although Jeremy Harris directed the public relations campaign, the City’s Frank Doyle, Chris Parsons, and Joseph Magaldi were involved in its direction … The campaign was run by Keith Rollman ..." Other than Chris Parsons, a former TV reporter whose place has been taken by another TV reporter, Bill Brennan, everyone else is now comfortably ensconced in City Hall.


Mayor wrong on HOT lanes cost — and we may be too high:

Lately, the Mayor and members of his administration have been saying that our allowance of $100 million a mile for the HOT lanes proposal is way too low. They believe that it would cost $2 to $3 billion or over $200 million a mile. We looked into that and found that we may have overstated the cost, not understated it. Here's what we found: READ MORE


Poll shows opposition to rail tax 3 to 1:

A poll by ccAdvertising of Herndon, Va., sponsored by Hawaii’s Grassroot Institute, shows that opposition to the rail tax is 47.3 percent against, 15.1 percent in favor, with 37.6 percent undecided. The question was the first one asked after that of determining whether the respondent was a registered voter. The tax question was, “Do you support the proposed increase in the state excise tax that will cost the average Hawaii family an estimated $450 per year?”

We have been saying that the opposition to the rail tax must be considerable since the newspapers and TV stations have not been running polls on this issue. Now we have the ccAdvertising poll to show how much opposition really exists among voters. READ MORE


July 14, 2005

Professor Prevedouros brings home lessons from Athens:

Panos Prevedouros, UH Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been working in Athens on a new tollway for the last few months. The new traffic situation there includes light rail, advanced traffic signal controls, and a suburban railway. Learn how what he learned applies to Honolulu. READ MORE


Council nonsense: "Bill 40 will allow us to explore alternatives":

            Some Councilmembers are telling their constituents that they are only voting for Bill 40 so that they can "explore alternatives." This is total shibai. The Bill does not allow any alternatives other than rail or some really impractical alternatives such as ferries and helicopters.

        The Bill contains the following language: That the tax revenues may be "... expended for the following purposes authorized by state law: (1) Operating or capital costs of a locally preferred alternative for a mass transit project ... (b) No moneys received from the surcharge shall be used to build or repair public roads or highways or bicycle paths, or to support public transportation systems already in existence ..."

        In practice this means that the funds can only be used for rail transit. We have a traffic problem; we do not have a public transportation problem. Therefore, the solution lies in some for of highway alternative such as HOT lanes. They are not allowed.


July 13, 2005

Lingle on Rick Hamada Show this morning:

Linda Lingle was on Rick's show from 7:00am to 8:00 am this morning. We got the "home rule" and the "reasonable compromise" argument about her failure to veto HB 1309 but she did not spend much time on the issue because as Rick explained, the calls in to the show were "stacked" telling her what a great job she is doing, thanking her for her support on Bill 1309, etc.

           EDITORIAL : We are more than aggravated about this. First,  she was elected on a platform pledging to not raise taxes . Second, one month before Lingle announced her rail decision, she said now was not the time to raise taxes regardless of "home rule" (see below). One month later she proposed raising taxes and said nothing about "home rule" (see below).  And if it was "home rule" she should have left it up to the counties; they have the ability to raise property and gasoline taxes.

           The fact is that traffic congestion cannot be alleviated by public transportation, but only by increasing highway capacity. We have a traffic congestion problem in the Leeward Corridor on state freeways and highways  and improving them is what is needed regardless of what the developers want .

          As far "compromise" is concerned, we are still waiting to hear what the other side of the "compromise" was. It takes two to compromise, otherwise the word is "caved."  

            9/30/03 Star-Bulletin : "Gov. Linda Lingle skirted the issue [of county tax increases] earlier this year, saying that while she supported home rule and allowing counties to be responsible for their own tax policy, she didn't think "now was the time to raise taxes." 10/28/03 Star-Bulletin:  "Gov. Linda Lingle unveiled a proposal to build a $2.6 billion light-rail transit system ... to help solve Oahu's traffic congestion ... she stressed yesterday that the plan will mean higher taxes."


Back to the Council:

While no dates or times have been set exactly, Bill 40 will be heard some time around 7/27/05 (approx.) 2:00pm, Joint Transportation/Budget Committee, final reading and 8/10/05 (no time available) Full Council, Final reading.


July 12, 2005

BART: SFO Chronicle spells out what we may be in for:

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial gives us a flavor of what we can expect: " … political pressure … pot of money ... a nightmare another work stoppage in view … health-care and pension deficits … riders should be furious … ridership down … public anger... READ MORE


Lingle rolls over on 1309:

Standing at a press conference yesterday surrounded only by Democrats, Lingle announced that instead of vetoing 1309 unless the legislature passed satisfactory language amending it, as she had said she would. She instead let the bill pass on assurances from leading Democrats that they would amend the bill next year.

EDITORIAL: It is quite puzzling as to what happened behind closed doors. The Democrats gained by avoiding a vote on 1309 the outcome of which seemed doubtful, Republican elected officials obviously did not get anything since none were at the press conference. So what did Lingle get out of it? Puzzling. Normally when one sees a prominent lone member of one party holding a press conference surrounded by only the members of the other party it is to announce that the loner is switching parties. Puzzling. We really feel sorry for our Republican friends today; they feel so betrayed.

However, the rail process has many years to go before the first shovel goes into the ground and so we move on to the next phases of the process. We will lose a lot of battles along the way, as we did last time, but in the end we will win the war — also as we did last time.


July 11, 2005

Special Anti-tax Meeting tonight at Convention Center:

A special open town meeting is being held on Monday, July 11, 2005, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hawaii Convention Center, Room 308, to discuss the implications of the General Excise Tax increase, the impact of Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of HB 1309 and the Special Session of the Legislature on Tuesday, July 12, 2005. The town meeting on Monday is being hosted by state Rep. Galen Fox, R-Waikiki, Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, and Honolulu City Council Member Charles Djou.


These legislators should have voted against 1309 but did not:

These legislators are either in districts that have nothing to gain, and lots to lose, or are Republicans who should not be voting for a tax increase under any circumstances. Call or fax and ask them to vote against any attempt to override the veto or change the language.



We rebut Mayor Hanneman's op/ed in yesterday's Bulletin:

We list the Mayoral Errata in this piece we sent to the media a little while ago. If the Mayor keeps this up he is going to get a reputation for loose talk on a par with our last Mayor. READ MORE


Houston Metro's "stray current" worrying Medical Center

KTRH News Houston: "Texas Medical Center officials want answers from Metro about the light-rail line's "stray current" and what damage it might do as it runs through the hospital complex. The train line is apparently seeping electricity which seems to have damaged some nearby structures elsewhere along its route. St. Luke's Hospital is building a new medical tower just 25 feet from the rail line, and the hospital's vice president, Mike Reno, says engineers are running tests to make sure the stray current won't cause serious damage. A recent draft report from the transit authority raised concerns that the stray current could be eating away at various metal structures along the line, possibly even damaging underground utilities and pipelines. Metro has estimated that fixing the problem could cost nearly $3 million."

For more on Houston METRO's electrifying problems, Google —  "Houston Metro" problems — it gives you 8,780 pages back. Enjoy reading about the "Wham Bam Tram."


New honolulutraffic.com handout available:

The title is, " Why rail transit never improves traffic congestion." It is formatted for a four page 8½" x 11" handout and covers our contention that we have a traffic problem, not a public transportation problem and that any relief has to come from a highway option — such as HOT lanes. READ MORE  Call us at 285-7799 or email at info@honolulutraffic.com for copies, or if you prefer to print your own call New Tech Imaging on Queen Street, ask for Cindy, and order from her at 532-6566.  

July 8, 2005

Governor vetos HB 1309:

The Governor has announced she will veto HB 1309, the tax bill. Our first word on that was from HawaiiReporter.com . There is talk of a special session of the Legislature to amend, rewrite or write anew HB 1309.

Now it is critical that we communicate with House legislators:

HB1309 passed in the Senate along nearly straight party lines with all the Democrats but Sen. Tsutsui voting for and all the Republicans against. In the House it was a different matter. The result was 32 for (some with reservation) and 19 against with a split vote. Democrats Berg, Chong, Carroll, Green, Hiraki, Luke, Nishimoto, Saiki, Tanaka, Wakai and Waters together with Republicans Moses, Stonebraker, Halford, Finnegan, Thielen, Mayer, Marumoto, and Pine voted against. However, despite having taken a No Tax Increase Pledge, Republican Galen Fox voted for, as did Corinne Ching.
Our supporters should now look to persuading those House members who voted against HB 1309 to stay opposed. In addition, we must persuade those who voted for it that it was mistaken and they should change their vote next time. Stay tuned.

July 6, 2005

Great turnout yesterday and great TV coverage:

We had at the peak at 8:00AM yesterday about 60 people yesterday rallying against the rail tax. Both last night and this morning great coverage by Ch. 2 and Ch. 8. This was the best coverage we have had so far; maybe this is a turning point.

Addition to the environment page concerning energy

Congressional Budget Office testimony by Alice Rivlin concerning the lack of energy savings with building rail transit. READ MORE


July 5, 2005

Don't forget: The rail tax bill in Council tomorrow 10:00AM:

The Council consideration of Bill 40, the rail tax bill, is on the Agenda tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10:00AM. We would like as many supporters as can get there. If you are going to testify, you need to SIGN UP HERE .


Another Open Letter sent to Chamber members:

The Chamber is getting quite annoyed with us as we let their members know information of which they may be unaware. READ MORE


July 4, 2005

Don't forget: Rally tomorrow 7:15am in front of City Hall:

We will be rallying in front of City Hall, this Tuesday, July 5th, from 7:15 to 8:15 am to bring attention to voters that Bill 40 is coming before the City Council the next day, Wednesday July 6th. We will have signs or bring your own


TheBus ridership is declining while operating costs are spiraling up:

For those interested in how TheBus is doing over the years for ridership trends and operating costs we have prepared a short summary of the situation. READ MORE


Winner: The biggest "no rail tax" sign out there so far:

This sign on Kahikili Highway measures 6 feet by 3.5 feet and the owner has put it there to remind voters there is a tax hike in their future. If anyone actually gets to talk to Donovan, please let us know. We understand from his constituents that he is being a little shy these days.


July 3, 2005

Straightening out the City's disparaging remarks:

During the recent Chamber debate we said that the operating cost increase of bus and rail combined was $57 million more than the bus alone. City officials said they had a different calculation but did not say what. This has been the City's latest response, "We use the same data source as Cliff Slater but we come up with a different answer." But they never divulge what they come up with. Maybe it's worse than ours? Anyway we have recalculated the data again and find that we made a small error. We now show it as $59 million. For the benefit of our more detail oriented readers (and the City) we have put it up on the website.  READ MORE


Rally on Tuesday 7:15am in front of City Hall:

We will be rallying in front of City Hall, this Tuesday, July 5th, from 7:15 to 8:15 am to bring attention to voters that Bill 40 is coming before the City Council the next day, Wednesday July 6th. We will have signs or bring your own.


Please attend City Council hearing on Wednesday:

The City Council will be voting on Bill 40 on Wednesday, July 6, at 10:00am. If you are going to testify you need to SIGN UP HERE . We would like as many as possible to attend this Council Meeting.


Dale Evans writes to the Governor:

In this most interesting letter Dale points out to the Governor that our primary traffic congestion problems are on the freeways and main arterial highways that are the responsibility of the State, not the City, and suggests actions the Governor might take. READ MORE


July 1, 2005

Bob Poole, Reason Foundation, on traffic signals:

"Dropping the Ball on Traffic Signal Timing"   "We all know what a huge burden traffic congestion is, costing commuters $63 billion a year in wasted time and fuel—let alone its other costs to regional and urban economies. Too often, though, we focus only on the freeways, ignoring the huge fraction of all travel that takes place on arterials and other local streets. And here is where traffic signal timing can make a big difference.

         Proper traffic signal timing on major arterials is the low-hanging fruit in the battle against congestion. According to the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the benefits of investing in signal timing are about 40 times the cost. Yet most urban governments are dropping the ball. According to the first-ever National Traffic Signal Report Card, released in April by ITE, 68% of the 378 responding traffic agencies said they have no documented management plan for traffic signal operations, 71% don’t have adequate staff to monitor traffic conditions, and 57% don’t conduct routine (every three years) reviews of traffic signals. Overall, the Report Card gives traffic agencies a grade of D-.

         The Report Card also estimates what it would take to run high-caliber traffic signal systems, with up-to-date computer hardware, regular timing updates, and proper maintenance. Their national total is $965 million a year; that’s less than one percent of the $104 billion in federal, state, and local funds spent on highways in 2000. You can find the report at www.ite.org/reportcard . "