Offering cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu
ARCHIVE FROM AUGUST 2008:
January 21, 2009.
DEIS comments due February 6:
Your DEIS comments are due to the City and FTA no later than February 6 although they will accept materials that are postmarked with that date. They should be sent to the following two addressees:
December 28, 2008.
Miami Herald on transit: "Taken for a ride":
In a just completed investigative series, the Miami Herald details the money problems with Miami transit. You can check the accompanying video at http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/
Part One Five years of the transit tax
County leaders promised to bring Miami-Dade Transit into the 21st Century once voters approved a long-sought sales tax in 2002. But five years and more than $800 million later, the county has spent more than half the new money on routine Transit operations and maintenance.
Part Two Expensive empty buses
The promises that preceded the 2002 Transit tax vote have come up as empty as the Route 82 bus. In January, it served so few passengers that it cost Miami-Dade County taxpapers $30 a ride about 13 times the average cost of a Miami-Dade bus.
Part Three Getting back on track
Miami-Dade Commissioners are set this week to consider various ways to put the county's wayward transit system back on track. They would all cost you more money.
Part Four Tax money inflated salaries, overtime
More money for routine transit operations, including salaries, means less money to buy new buses and rail cars and to design and build new Metrorail extensions.
We hope no one at all aware of City Hall shenanigans thinks it is going to be any different here.
December 14, 2008.
Tollroad News asks: "Will Obama's grand jobs plan stop toll roads?"
Peter Samuel has a very interesting take on the toll roads issue. He makes the point that the Eisenhower Freeway plan in the 1950s was not quite the blessing is appeared. READ MORE
Back at work — the Draft EIS is the issue now:
Everyone is working on the holes in Draft Environmental Impact Statement. We link to the City's website for the DEIS but we have also put online the 19 of the supplemental technical reports that back up much of the DEIS. These reports are not available on the City's website. You will find all of this material on the "NEPA process docs" tab at left.
November 7, 2008.
Cato Institute: "Rails Won't Save America":
The Cato Institute has published Randal O'Toole's carefully documented study, "Rails Won't Save America," about rail transit's costs, emissions, and energy use. Following is the Executive Summary:
"Rising gas prices and concerns about greenhouse gases have stimulated calls to build more rail transit lines in urban areas, increase subsidies to Amtrak, and construct a large-scale intercity high-speed rail system. These megaprojects will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but they won’t save energy or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Although media reports suggest that many people are taking public transit instead of driving, actual numbers show that recent increases in transit ridership account for only 3 percent of the decline in urban driving. Also, contrary to popular belief, rail transit does not save energy.
"Many light-rail operations use more energy per passenger mile than the average sport utility vehicle, and almost none uses less than a fuel-efficient car such as a Toyota Prius. People who respond to high fuel prices by taking transit are not saving energy; they are merely imposing their energy costs on someone else.
"Rail transportation is also much more heavily subsidized than other forms of travel. Where highway subsidies average less than a penny per passenger mile, and subsidies to flying are even lower, Amtrak costs taxpayers 22 cents per passenger mile and urban transit costs 61 cents per passenger mile.
"Even if rail transport did save energy, spending more money on rail will get few people out of their cars. People who want to save energy should plan to buy more fuel-efficient cars and encourage cities to invest in traffic signal coordination, which can save far more energy at a tiny fraction of the cost of building new rail transport lines."
November 3, 2008.
Finally the City admits that traffic congestion with rail will be worse than today:
The two-hour debate this morning on KHVH, the Rick Hamada Show, the panel consisted of Mr. Michael Schneider, Managing Director of Infraconsult LLC, which has an $11 million contract to work on the rail project, Mr. Wayne Miyashiro, Director of the City's Transportation Department, Dr. Panos Prevedouros, Professor of Traffic Engineering at UH, and Cliff Slater, Chair of 'Honolulutraffic.com and Co-Founder of Stop Rail Now. During the two-hour debate (the 2nd hour of which can hear on the podcast) the City's representatives agreed that while the rail transit proposal would reduce traffic congestion somewhat, it will still be far worse in the future with rail that it is today. Here is a four minute clip of that part of the podcast
October 31, 2008.
A Hawaiian Sense of Place #5
This is a rendering by an unnamed architect of the projected rail station at University and King.
October 28, 2008.
These Stop Rail Now radio spots started playing today on six stations:
The first one deals with the billions of dollars we will spend for rail plus the cost overruns, operating losses and debt interest. We will spend ten times more than any other metro area has ever spent for rail. HEAR SPOT INFO SOURCE
The second tells voters not to vote YES as it will enshrine rail in the City Charter. Wait until they hear all the unpleasantness in the Draft EIS once it has been studied. They can always vote YES later. HEAR SPOT
The third one lets voters know that Senator Inouye's federal funds for rail will never reach Hawaii's shores. It will all be spent on the Mainland for rail cars and all the other heavy equipment that rail needs and highway options do not. We need federal funds that will be spent in the Islands. HEAR SPOT
2003 BRT had forecast six percent more riders than rail at one-fifth the cost:
It never occurred to us that the rail forecast for ridership would be less than the 2003 Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) FEIS. Accordingly, in doing some recent research we had to compare riderships of both projects and were totally astonished at what we found. Even more astonishing is that City and Parsons Brinckerhoff, who know these documents completely, did not use the 2003 BRT Project as one of the competitors in the Alternatives Analysis.
October 27, 2008.
And now a word from Parsons Brinckerhoff:
Parsons Brinckerhoff staff locally are constantly trying to tell us that buses are far inferior to rail. But in other locations here is what they are telling people where they are attempting to sell bus/rapid transit:
"Bus Rapid Transit—The Next Generation of Public Transportation. Around the world, transit owners are turning to bus rapid transit (BRT) to provide communities with efficient, flexible, affordable transportation. From Boston to Beijing to Brisbane, Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) is supporting transit providers with a full range of planning, design and construction management services. Whether in congested urban areas or suburban travel corridors, BRT is attracting new riders by combining the high-performance characteristics of rail with the flexibility and economy of buses. Transit providers are discovering that BRT achieves the excellent quality of service that customers associate with rail—but at significantly reduced cost.
On BRT projects worldwide, system owners have chosen PB to help tailor BRT technology to local needs. To the riding public, BRT looks, feels and performs like rapid transit. Service is frequent, speedy and comfortable. To the owner, BRT is an innovative alternative that can be built faster and with less expense than comparable rail systems."
Click here for the complete publication.
Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) moves to the head of the line:
The U.S. Government Accountability Office last year highlighted the fact that Bus/Rapid Transit had more projects in the New Starts pipeline than either light rail or heavy rail. They also said, on page 18, that:
"The composition of the pipeline—that is, the types of projects in the pipeline—has also changed since the fiscal year 2001 evaluation cycle. During fiscal years 2001 through 2007, light rail and commuter rail were the more prevalent modes for projects in the pipeline. In fiscal year 2008, bus rapid transit became the most common transit mode for projects in the New Starts pipeline (see fig. 5). The increase in bus rapid transit projects is likely due to a number of factors, including foreign countries’ positive experiences with this type of transit system. To be eligible, a corridor-based bus project must (1) operate in a separate right-of-way dedicated for public transit use for a substantial portion of the project or (2) represent a substantial investment in a defined corridor. Furthermore, medium and smaller project sponsors may be expressing more interest in the New Starts program, including Small Starts, because bus rapid transit may serve as a more affordable and cost-effective alternative to other fixed-guideway options."
A very good website to learn more about BRT is www.gobrt.org
This Wednesday Council hears bill on promotional funding of projects:
This Wednesday, October 29, 2008, the Council's Executive Matters Committee will meet in the Council Committee Room on the Second Floor of Honolulu Hale at 1:00 PM to consider Resolution 08-189. The bill is as follows:
RESOLUTION 08-189 – PROHIBITING EXPENDITURE OF CITY MONIES FOR THE ADVOCACY OF A POSITION CONCERNING A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE. Establishing a City policy prohibiting the expenditure of City monies for the advocacy of a particular position concerning a controversial issue.(Committee deferred action 10/1/08)
October 21, 2008.
Hear the Stop Rail Now radio spots that started airing yesterday:
City delivers its glossy brochure across Oahu:
The City paid printing and delivery of its new glossy brochure touting rail to all households that take the Advertiser, the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek. That means that if you get all of these publications, you have three copies of the brochure. Our estimate is that total costs for printing and delivery is in excess of $500,000.
If the information that the brochure presents was even-handed, or even truthful, that might be acceptable. But it is not. We have prepared a brief critique of the brochure featuring its more misleading elements. For example, it says, "“Building rail transit now is the most cost-effective way to avoid even more congestion in the future.” City officials know that their forecasts tell them that we are going to get more congestion in the future with rail so this is not merely a misstatement — it is a lie. It gets worse; read the critique.
In addition, Panos and Cliff were interviewed on the subject of the misstatements and spin in the brochure in her Olelo program, News Behind the News, the video of which you can see here.
October 15, 2008.
Tax collections for rail are way under City projections:
The Advertiser recently covered the tax collection situation and wrote the following:
"Hawai'i's sluggish economy has prompted the state Council on Revenues to make a series of cuts in its growth forecasts for future tax income. Those estimates are based in large part on lower-than-anticipated growth in excise tax collections. For example, in September 2006 the state Council on Revenues expected general excise and use tax collections would grow by 7.3 percent in fiscal 2008 and 9.4 percent in fiscal 2009. Actual excise tax collections in fiscal 2008, which ended June 30, rose just 2.5 percent. Estimated excise tax collections in the current 2009 fiscal year now are projected to rise by less than 1 percent."
October 14, 2008.
Former Governor Ben Cayetano decries City rail promotion:
During a Stop Rail Now press conference yesterday, Governor Cayetano said that, "I have never seen such a blatant public relations that distorts the facts and manages the information." Check out the coverage below by KHNL Channel 8.
Cayetano was commenting on an email message received by Stop Rail Now from the FTA, which said, "It is far too early to tell whether Honolulu's proposed rail project will receive New Starts funding. The project hasn't yet been accepted into the New Starts Program." (Explanation: The New Starts program provides federal funding for capital transit projects that pass a rigorous rating and evaluation process.)
"The FTA has been reviewing the travel forecast, the financial plan, the project justification, and land use criteria, which are all critical in determining whether the proposed project meets the criteria to compete for New Starts funding."
October 13, 2008.
Advertiser carries new City ad today to educate us:
The City is running a new ad in today’s Advertiser. Among other things it says,
“In Los Angeles — a city that loves its cars — rail ridership is up over 15% … in Charlotte, 34% and in Sacramento, rail ridership has increased 43% in just one year…. (To see the full APTA report go to www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership)”
The trouble is that when you go to the site, you find these “facts” are fiction.
The City also quotes nonsense from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) that “Every dollar taxpayers invest in public transportation generates $6 or more in economic returns.”
It that’s true then taxpayers, let’s get on the bandwagon. Never mind the $4 billion rail line, we cannot afford to ‘invest’ anything less than $20 billion in rail — just think of how much money we will make. Just keep on spending billions and billions and we will all get richer and richer.
Doesn’t it make you feel warm and fuzzy when you read at the end that the ad was “Paid for by City Taxpayers?” The City says it has to spend this money to counter the “lies and misinformation” put out by Stop Rail Now.
October 12, 2008.
Advertiser lays out both sides of the rail issue:
In today's Advertiser, reporter Sean Hao has written "Fact and fiction in debate on rail." Here are some excerpts you might find useful to quote although you should read the whole story to put them in context.
“The [City's Alternatives Analysis] found that even with the transit system, there will be an estimated 57 percent increase in traffic on H-1 during the morning rush hour in 2030 compared with 2003. If the transit system were not built but a few improvements were made to the freeway and bus system, traffic would increase by 64 percent by 2030.”
“No one knows for sure how much the rail system will cost. Recent events including a nationwide credit crunch and a slowing Hawai'i economy only add to the uncertainty … Recently built rail systems, on average, experienced 40 percent cost overruns, according to an April report by the Federal Transit Administration.“
“The energy intensity of heavy rail systems varies substantially from city to city. In some cases rail systems are less energy efficient than the average auto, in part because trains run all day often with fewer passengers in off hours and in the opposite direction of rush-hour traffic.”
"Officially, FTA officials have said it's too early to tell whether Honolulu will get federal funds or to determine how much those funds might be. However, Honolulu is in a strong position to attract federal money because the city plans to pay the majority of the project's costs. Still, Honolulu isn't expected to find out for sure how much federal funding it will get until 2011."
"Meanwhile, the city plans to start construction on the East Kapolei to Waipahu segment in December 2009. The city has argued that a faster timetable will help reduce costs while allowing limited service to launch in late 2012. Critics contend the city's timetable is not realistic and could result in a major burden for local taxpayers, if federal funds don't come through as planned."
October 11, 2008.
New release from FTA on consultant error:
A new study by the Federal Transit Administration covers, among other things, the ridership shortfalls of San Juan, Puerto Rico's new heavy rail system built by Parsons Brinckerhoff. The FTA tries to come to grips with the fact that actual ridership turned out to be only 28 percent of what had been projected. They concluded that:
"The ridership errors appear to be due to a combination of the following factors:
• The travel model specifications may have been too favorable for use of rail over auto and bus choices.
• The assumed flat fare for riding Tren Urbano was significantly less than the actual implemented fare.
• The coded transit network did not adequately represent the private and public bus services that offered the public a competitive alternative to use of rail.
• The predicted end-to-end rail travel times were lower than actual.
• The model over-estimated the amount of intermodal integration that actually occurred at the rail stations (e.g., the model predicted more than 50 percent of all rail riders will arrive at a station by bus rather than walking or driving, but survey data shows the actual number is less than 20 percent).
• In spite of the model’s over-prediction of total rail riders, it under-predicted the number of park-and-ride and kiss-and-ride users--which may have influenced the construction of an insufficient number of parking spaces to satisfy actual park-and-ride demand.
• Population was assumed to grow by 19 percent from 1990 to 2010, but Census data for the 1990-to-2010 periods shows a growth of only 5.4 percent."
OUR COMMENT: In short, the ridership projection took every variable and tweaked it up to the most favorable end of the scale. This is another case where the FTA had total oversight and approval of every step in the Environmental Impact Statement process. Lot of good it did.
As if you had not heard enough of this radio spot, here's the transcript:
City KHVH radio spot, Mike Buck Show, Wednesday, October 8, 5:00-6:00 PM:
"You may have read the story in the Honolulu Advertiser about Portland’s rail transit system, the MAX. After 20 years of operation, the 44 mile steel wheel MAX system eliminates 72,000 car trips from Portland’s streets every single day — and that figure continues to grow. Because of the success, federal transit dollars pour into the city at rates far exceeding the national average for cities its size. According to the Advertiser, Portland’s experience with rail exemplifies the congestion reduction, reduced driving and mixed use developments that rail transit advocates often forecast. The Portland example is significant for Honolulu because of its similarity in city size and its successful integration with buses, bike lanes, and ferry service. Portland also developed innovative ways to stay on schedule and control construction costs, lessons that will benefit Honolulu as we develop our own rail transit system. To learn more visit Honolulutransit.org. Paid for by city taxpayers."
OUR COMMENT: According to the FTA's 2007 CPAR Report, the Westside-Hillsboro line costs went 72 percent over budget even after allowing for inflation. That is "Innovative ways to control construction costs?" And did you know that only six percent of Portland commuters use public transportation? CHECK FACT And that is a smaller percentage than did in 1980 before they built any rail lines? CHECK FACT And two-thirds of riders use buses and not rail? CHECK FACT
October 10, 2008.
New artist's rendering of HOT lanes with TheBus and TheVanpool:
Buses and vanpools go free on the HOT lanes alternative and have priority. Into town on the Express Bus at 60 mph is the best thing we could do for public transportation. And HOT lanes is certainly the best thing we could do for traffic congestion. And the HOT lanes would only operate in industrial and business areas; it would stay out of all residential areas.
As the Mayor keeps telling us, rail transit is about Quality of Life:
A Hawaiian sense of place #4:
Our artist's rendering of the rail line running along Dillingham Boulevard towards downtown. The artist shows the sound mitigation panels on the sides of the line.
October 8, 2008.
New assessment of rail costs now at $7.1 billion:
We have brought our basic rail cost document up to date to account for the airport spur addition and the opening of the Tren Urbano line, which has some similarities to our the planned Honolulu line. See the complete document for details.
City files a list of "lies and misrepresentations":
Yesterday the City sent out to all and sundry a list of "lies and misrepresentations" that they charged us with at an Executive Matters Committee meeting about a month ago. Even though they promised Chair Kobayashi that they would have a list to her in five days, it took them three weeks. And what they produced was a joke. Here is our document with their list of "lies and misrepresentations" and our responses to them.
October 2, 2008.
New York Times "State and local financing in jeopardy":
Yesterday's New York Times carried a report on state and local bond financing. Here's an excerpt:
"Cities, states and other local governments have been effectively shut out of the bond markets for the last two weeks, raising the cost of day-to-day operations, threatening longer-term projects and dampening a broad source of jobs and stability at a time when other parts of the economy are weakening.
"The sudden loss of credit, one of the ripple effects of the current financial turmoil, is affecting local governments in all parts of the country, rich and poor alike. In New York, a real estate boom has suddenly gone bust. Washington has shelved a planned bond offering to pay for terminal expansion and parking garages already under construction at Dulles and Reagan National Airports.
"Billings, Mont., is struggling to come up with $70 million more for a new emergency room.
"And Maine has been unable to raise $50 million for highway repairs. “We really are in terra incognita here,” said Robert O. Lenna, executive director of the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, which helps that state’s towns and school districts raise money. He said he had worked in public finance for 34 years and had never seen credit evaporate so completely."
September 23, 2008.
Tollroad News surveys the Tampa Expressway:
Tollroad News, the foremost authority on tollroads in the U.S. has an excellent and detailed description of the Tampa Expressway, which is well worth reading in full. Here is an excerpt:
"Tampa's Reversible Express Lanes (EL) are going great. And the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA), its owner, is being showered with awards for the innovative project. The three elevated lanes in the median of the established 2x2 lanes of the eastern part of the Selmon Crosstown Expressway have transformed the peak hour trips of people traveling to inner and downtown Tampa. Queueing and creep made the ten mile commute an average of 30 minutes when there were just two lanes of the old expressway inbound."
Intermediate Court of Appeals to decide today on Stop Rail Now appeal:
Chief Judge Rechtenwald told us at the conclusion of the oral arguments yesterday that the court would give us their decision sometime today.
September 17, 2008.
Intermediate Court of Appeals to hear Stop Rail Now appeal:
In a surprise move, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals has agreed to hear oral arguments in Stop Rail Now’s case against the Honolulu City Clerk in the matter of the number of signatures required to place an ordinance question on the ballot.
The hearing will be held this Monday, September 22, at 10:00 AM on the second floor of the Supreme Court Building and is open to the public.
At issue is whether the Charter requires ten percent of the registered voters as the City Clerk contends or ten percent of those who voted in the last mayoral election, as Stop Rail Now contends.
Earle A. Partington, Stop Rail Now’s attorney, believes that the quick response by the court to the appeal shows that the judges believe that the case has sufficient merit to be taken seriously.
Wikipedia: The Hawaii State Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) is the second highest court of the Hawaii State Judiciary and shares jurisdiction over appeals from lower courts with the Hawaii State Supreme Court. While the supreme court reviews cases over the formulation of law, the ICA reviews cases for errors.
Portland's MAX — vision vs. implementation:
Portland's Cascade Policy Institute has just released a review of the Westside MAX light rail line at 10 years old. It is written by its Executive Director John Charles who, prior to joining the Institute, was executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council for 17 years. During that time he served on dozens of local, state and federal commissions and advisory boards related to environmental protection. He writes:
"TriMet was stating that the Westside MAX would not be just a people-mover; it would change the nature of development in Washington County. A leading promoter of this vision said at the time, “MAX is more than a transportation investment. MAX is part of a conscious strategy to shape regional growth by coordinating transportation investments with land use policies.”
"As such, evaluation of the project would be different than with the Eastside line. TriMet planners admitted that: “The success or failure of the public’s nearly $1 billion investment in the Westside [MAX] will be determined in large part by what happens around its 20 stations. Unlike the East side MAX line, a substantial amount of land around the Westside is primed for development.”
"The agency boldly promoted this vision, garnering national attention. For example, Newsweek magazine gushed in May 1995: Portland is “building transit first, literally in fields, in the hope development will follow.” (That should sound familiar to Oahu residents).
Charles then spells out what actually happened when good intentions and hubris clashed with the reality of consumers in the marketplace.
This article is must reading for anyone believing that Transit Oriented Development offers us anything of value.
September 17, 2008.
The City has spent around $500,000 promoting rail:
The expenditures shown in HawaiiSunshine.org which they obtained from city sources are from January through July 2008 and partial expenditures for August. The total is $436,000. Allowing for outlays at the same rate through today, the total should now exceed $500,000.
September 15, 2008.
Tax Foundation: How Honolulu property tax bills will rise:
In this week's Tax Foundation Weekly Commentary, Lowell Kalapa discusses the admission by DTS Director Wayne Yoshioka that the rail transit operating losses will be funded by property taxes. Kalapa discusses the implications of this admission.
Boston's Big Dig is cheaper per capita than Oahu's rail line:
The Boston metro area is in total fiscal turmoil over the Big Dig debt overhang whose final cost, before interest, has finally settled at $14.9 billion. The initial projected cost was $2.4 billion.
The feds funded $4 billion, leaving Boston's citizen's with $10.9 billion to fund locally. The population of Boston is six million so that means the cost per citizen is $1,800, although now the state is taking on much of the debt.
This has wreaked havoc on Massachussett's and Boston's government finances as told by the Boston Globe, which says, "Big Dig payments have already sucked maintenance and repair money away from deteriorating roads and bridges across the state, forcing the state to float more highway bonds and to go even deeper into the hole."
On the other hand the cost of Honolulu's full rail line is about $6 billion in 2008 dollars, including the Airport spur but without allowing for cost overruns. The city says they will get $900 million from the feds leaving $5.1 billion to be funded by local taxpayers (any cost overruns would be totally funded by Oahu taxpayers).
Our population is 920,000, which means the local cost for every man, woman and child on the Island will be $5,500, which is three times that of Boston's Big Dig.
On top of that will come the questions of how much the City will get from the feds in reality and what is the likelihood of cost overruns.
This financial impact on the community, businesses included, will be so devastating that we should all ask of rail's supporters, such as the developers, construction unions, and engineering firms, whether rail is worth the financial risk to their own members and businesses? See some comments we had last year on this issue.
We should remember that last year Senator Inouye said that a $1.2 billion dollar upgrade to our sewer system could bankrupt the City. What will a $6 billion rail line do?
September 14, 2008.
The biggest lie of the debate, "We studied HOT lanes":
To counter such nonsense we have prepared a nine-page brief, the Executive Summary of which begins:
"The term “studied” in the National Environmental Protection Act process means that the City will, “Rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives,” and “Devote substantial treatment to each alternative considered in detail including the proposed action so that reviewers may evaluate their comparative merits” and “Include reasonable alternatives not within the jurisdiction of the [City].” By no stretch of the imagination did the City undertake such a process.
"The Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) on High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes proposal, or Managed Lanes Alternative (MLA), was not objectively studied. Rather, the MLA was setup as a classic “straw man,” rigged to make the MLA look ineffective in comparison to rail transit."
This brief is worth reading to see how far the City has been willing to go to keep HOT lanes out of contention.
For those of you who read your newspapers online:
Think Tech's Jay Fidell is taken for a ride:
Recently we took Jay Fidell along with others on a ride along the proposed elevated rail line and he wrote about it in his August 24th Advertiser blog. Here is an excerpt:
"I had the extraordinary experience of riding the “rail” bus with Cliff Slater and Mayoral Candidate and Engineer Panos Prevedouros on Saturday. I was so moved by the experience that I am driven to write about it.
"First,going West from Ala Moana to Mapunapuna, Panos talked about the critical need to synchronize the traffic signals. This is not high-tech. He also showed us the path and capacity of the HOT lane he is proposing, which at some points in the downtown area is below the street, and that’s an interesting engineering and traffic management challenge. He is confident it can be done and that it will work.
"But nothing compared to the engineering challenges we saw going East on the way back, where starting on Dillingham he gave us an engineering tour of the proposed rail line as it comes back into and through downtown and to Ala Moana Center and then terminates at the University.
"We just followed the City’s map to see where the proposed line is supposed to be going, how high and wide it would be and where the stations were. It was a real eye-opener, a revelation for everyone on the tour. We had no idea of what is going to happen to our City ….
"There’s more. I could go on, but never do the tour justice. Why don’t you contact honolulutraffic.com and see if you can get on the tour yourself and see what I mean. Whatever your disposition, it’ll change the way you think."
September 12, 2008.
September 10, 2008.
Rail funds in doubt as Trust Fund goes broke:
Engineering News Record reports that, "With the balance in the Highway Trust Fund dropping much faster than expected, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has directed her department for the first time to restrict highway-aid reimbursements to state departments of transportation and urged Congress quickly to approve an $8-billion infusion for the trust fund's highway account. Peters said on Sept. 5 that if nothing changes, the highway account will show a zero balance as early as Sept. 30."
Hawaii will be impacted by both restricted federal highway reimbursements and potential defunding of rail transit projects.
It's confirmed: Rail to run down Ala Wai Boulevard:
The original plan for rail in Waikiki was that it would run from the Convention Center down Kalakaua Avenue until it meets Kuhio and then down Kuhio to near Kapiolani Park. That has changed and it will now run from the Convention Center down Kalakaua a short distance until before the bridge where it will angle left onto Ala Wai Boulevard and run down Ala Wai until about the Ohua Avenue area.
One insider tells us that there were so many objections to the Kuhio Avenue alignment from visitor industry officials and residents alike that, "Moving the spur to Ala Wai might be an attempt to defuse the noise issue. The Kuhio corridor acts like a wave guide, ducting noise upward as it reflects off the paved street. We live on the 23rd floor and we hear every car alarm, siren, motorcycle, beeper, etc like it was in our front room. If the rail goes down Ala Wai the condo buildings will act like a sound wall, reflecting all the noise mauka and away from the hotels."
This could get interesting since it appears there may be even more objections to the Ala Wai Boulevard alignment.
Is Vancouver’s TransLink a Model Fit for Honolulu?
Great article by Dale Evans in the Hawaii Reporter. It starts with, "TransLink is an un-elected agency with direct taxing powers, responsible for major regional roads and public transit in South Coast British Columbia."
This article has great relevance for those considering the usefulness of a transit authority for Honolulu.
TV Debate marred by Mufi's Mob
It was unfortunate that the Mayor allowed his supporters to continuously disrupt the debate with derisive hoots and laughter when the opposition candidates were trying to explain their positions. The Mayor well knows that it is difficult to take someone seriously when their explanations are greeted with laughter.
Nevertheless, those who could listen through all this noise found this one of the more interesting debate formats that we have seen and Channel 9 should be congratulated on a fine performance.
The most significant question and answer that was totally overlooked by the press was when Dr. Prevedouros asked his question of the Mayor, "Your own city studies show that traffic congestion in the future, with rail, will be far worse than it is today. Is that true? Yes or No?" The Mayor totally dodged this because he knows full well that the answer is "Yes" but the viewers do not know that traffic congestion will indeed get worse with rail and therefore he could duck and dive on the issue and get away with it. It is unfortunate that the media this morning ignored his avoidance of a very simple yes or no answer to the question since they do know the significance of it..
For those able to listen through the antics of Mufi's Mob there was a lot to learn about the candidates. Clearly, Dr. Prevedouros is a comer, he handled himself extremely well especially considering that he had to handle all the derision that the Mob could throw at him. For example, the Mayor thought he would skewer Panos with a complex question about which City agencies handled what aspect of disaster situations and Panos' answer showed a complete mastery of the issue. Ann Kobayashi showed a new side to herself being far more aggressive than we have ever seen her before. The Mayor got through it but while there were no KO punches, he was clearly not the winner even on points.
Channel 9 was a clear winner in the way they presented and handled the whole show. The one exception was that they should have controlled Mufi's Mob better once they realized the Mayor was not going to do it. Then again, they most probably did not expect that a sitting Mayor would allow such behavior which he could so easily have controlled. That was a mistake on his part because many will see the Mob's behavior as a reflection of his governing style.
September 6, 2008.
Stop Rail Now to appeal to Supreme Court on merits:
The Supreme Court this week rejected Stop Rail Now's appeal on the extraordinary writ being sought; the Court did not address the merits of the issue. Sometime early this coming week when Judge Sakamoto's final ruling is released, attorney Earle Partington will file an appeal for the Justices to review the merits of the case.
We have consolidated Stop Rail Now NEWS section into ours:
To economize on time we have consolidated just the news section of Stop Rail Now but left the rest of that site as is. The Stop Rail Now site is still the best place to go if you are just starting with the subject.
September 5, 2008.
Council Committee discusses taxpayer funds used for rail advocacy :
On Wednesday afternoon the Council's Executive Matters Committee discussed a bill restricting the use of taxpayer funds for advocacy of a pro-rail position without the opposition being given time to rebut it. The City's position was that the opposition (Stop Rail Now and Honolulutraffic.com) was putting out so many "lies and misrepresentations" that the city had to respond to this "misleading and false information" "with the truth." He added that "most of the statements are not true." Cliff Slater responded that all Honolulutraffic.com's information was footnoted and sourced and if anyone is lying it is the city.
Fortunately, all of this is on video and since it is a two hour tape we have provided a time line below:
0:24 — DTS Director Yoshioka begins testimony on bill 01-189 regarding rail transit advocacy.
1:08 — Corporation counsel begins testimony.
1:32 — Cliff Slater begins testimony.
1:40 — Council begins discussion and with legal counsel.
2:08 — End of proceedings on
September 2, 2008.
More about signatures
We will hear from Judge Karl Sakamoto on the number of signatures needed at 10:30 AM in Circuit Court Room #17.
September 1, 2008.
Abercrombie tells all:
So you think that the City is only going to build the 20-mile line? See and hear Abercrombie speaking to (shouting at?) Kapolei Rotary. Reveals for the first time that it is not going down Kuhio in Waikiki. We hear they have moved it to Ala Wai Boulevard.
August 31, 2008.
HOT lanes on the "HOT seat":
The Advertiser's HOT Seat today features a recap of Cliff Slater's appearance on it from last Wednesday. Three main contentious issues emerged and as he had suggested that readers go to Honolulutraffic.com for answers, we link them quickly to these issues below:
1. That traffic congestion will get worse with rail. SEE MORE
3. That public transportation is losing market share to the automobile locally and nationally. SEE MORE
August 29, 2008.
Potential condemnation notices are out.
Today's Advertiser says the city has sent notices to landowners likely to have their properties affected by rail transit but have not released any names. If you hear of any such notices please let us know at: email@example.com.
Note the large sign at Hawaiian Rentals at Beretania/McCully — "Our transit works — it doesn't cost $4 billion"
August 28, 2008.
Prevedouros demolishes the no-room-for-buses argument:
Dr. Prevedouros takes out his camera onto the streets and shows that even in the rush hour there's plenty of room for more buses along the main bus corridors despite the endless city radio spots telling us that there is no room. See video at panosforprogress.com.
Latest on signatures:
We believe we will hear by this coming Wednesday the final word on the number of signatures needed.
August 27, 2008.
Panos skewers City spin
Mayoral Candidate Panos Prevedouros skewers the city over its misleading radio spots. See panosforprogress.com
August 26, 2008.
Stop Rail Now off to Supreme Court
Stop Rail Now files petition for writ of mandamus in Hawaii Supreme Court to order the City Clerk to place our question on the November ballot.
August 23, 2008.
Reason reviews study finding that HOT lanes are fair to lower incomes:
One of the long-held arguments against congestion pricing or HOT lanes is that they're not fair to low-income users. They are, in a word, “Lexus lanes.”
Reason says, "With social equity a common theme in discussions of congestion pricing and transportation finance, this new UCLA/USC study finding that tolling impacts low-income residents less than tax-based road improvements couldn't be more timely. The full study is available here.
"The question these people always ignore, when considering whether toll roads and toll lanes are “fair” is: Compared to what?
"The main source of highway funding in America is the gasoline tax—a regressive tax if ever there was one (meaning it takes a larger percentage of a poor household’s budget than a wealthy household’s). But as Schweitzer and Taylor point out in their study, in most California urban areas, local transportation sales taxes have become the other major transportation funding source, and those taxes are even more regressive.
"By contrast, congestion-based tolls are a model of fairness. First, they are optional—you only pay if and when you choose to use tolled lanes (unlike sales taxes you cannot legally avoid if you buy just about anything). Second, they are proportional to use: the more you use, the more you pay. Third, they respect the ability of people of any income level to make sensible choices. A working mother at a modest-paying job with two kids in day care will have occasions when a $5 toll saves her $10 or $20 in late fees.
"Most people—of all income levels—welcome having such choices, and public policy should make more such choices available to them."
August 22, 2008.
Two years of Council Committee hearings now on line:
Now online with recorded video are all the Council and Council Committee meetings from February 2007 on. At last we get something for all the taxes we pay. This may well turn out to be a treasure trove.
Revealing testimony by DTS Director:
City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka testified on Wednesday about the proposed City Charter amendments. This videod part of his testimony showed some light on some rail issues. Below are shown the times when the issue occurs during the video.
2:19:30 to 2: 24:00 Reveals that the city is only expecting average speeds of 25 mph for rail.
2:24:00 to 2:32:00 Reveals that operating and other costs will be paid by property taxes
2:32:00 to 2:41:00 Miyashiro ties himself in knots trying to explain the Kapolei to Waipahu first segment to open in 2012. He says they will not consider operating losses until the whole line is finished in 2019 because until then, he says, they will still be in the “construction phase.” Assumedly, they will capitalize the losses as startup costs. As Romy Cachola explains to him, “The more you try to justify this proposal, the more I have to disagree with you.”
August 21, 2008.
New York plans anti-groping campaign for transit:
CBS TV reports on an anti-groping campaign. Some 63 percent of women riders report being groped in NYC's rail transit cars. They say,
"For years countless women have had to put up with sexual harassment on the subway, from lewd comments to groping on a crowded train.
"Now the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is about to launch a new campaign to crack down on the problem.
"A packed train can be a nightmare for women.
"If guys get too close and start rubbing up against you it's just gross," subway rider Nicole Saulter said.
"You'll feel them pushing up on you with their lower part of the body and they'll stay there," Ivy Soto added.
Mayor Hannemann tells us that rail transit is a Quality of Life issue. However, if you Google Rail Transit and Crime, you sure would not think so.
You will read about Portland's "East Precinct Sgt. Kim Preston's comments at the meeting are quoted in The Oregonian. He said, "The MAX has been a living nightmare for us. I would not ride it at night -- and I'm armed all the time. There are massive fights, guns displayed, stabbings, people being threatened and bullied."
Randal O'Toole's Anti-Planner has crime on transit facts with links to sources on his website.
August 20, 2008.
Today's WSJ: "Could bike lanes cause pollution?"
As the Wall Street Journal article reports today, "Blame Rob Anderson. At a time when most other cities are encouraging biking as green transport, the 65-year-old local gadfly has stymied cycling-support efforts here by arguing that urban bicycle boosting could actually be bad for the environment. That's put the brakes on everything from new bike lanes to bike racks while the city works on an environmental-impact report."
What Anderson has done has been to make the case that bike lanes slow down the auto traffic which makes them pollute more than they would otherwise and this is in no way offset by the increased numbers of cyclists.
He has forced a requirement of an environmental review and a judge ordered a halt put on all bike-plan activity two years ago until the review is completed and that is not expected for another year. He could win.
August 13, 2008.
Channel 2: "What's The Truth About HOT Lanes?"
Last night Channel 2's Andrew Pereira covered the HOT lanes proposal. He wrote, "The idea of high occupancy lanes or HOT lanes to solve Honolulu's traffic congestion has been repeatedly shot down by Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Those who support the concept say commuters are not being told the truth. Unlike public roads, drivers who use HOT lanes, or managed lanes as they are also known, pay a toll that goes up or down depending on the amount of traffic." Video also available.
August 3, 2008.
Democratic Leadership Council pushes HOT lanes:
This is really old news but unknown to us. It's just nice to have allies everywhere. The article is on the joint website for the Democratic Leadership Council and the Progressive Policy Institute.
August 2, 2008.
SFO Bay Area to get a thousand miles of HOT lanes:
Tollroads News carries a fascinating article about HOT lanes plans in the Bay Area. Here's the first paragraph to whet your appetite:
"Illustrating what anti-toll politicians on Capitol Hill like House transport chair James Oberstar (Dem MN) are up against in trying to stem the tide of tolling, the major institutions of the San Francisco Bay Area this month have agreed, without any serious dissent, to progressively implement tolling on about 1270 lane-km (790 lane-miles) of high occupant vehicle (HOV) lanes on Bay Area expressways - or as they say over there - in the carpool lanes of area freeways. In addition another 440 lane-km (275 lane-miles) would be built. This will create the largest network of HOT lanes (High Occupancy and Toll) lanes in the US."
WSJ polling article, "When Voters Lie":
In light of the recent Advertiser poll, this is an especially interesting Wall Street Journal article which finds that people tend to be more honest with polls that are using computer generated voices than those using a live questioner. A well known example of the computer generated voice poll was the one taken two years ago by the Grassroot Institute, which was widely criticized at the time, but now seems to have been unjustified.
August 1, 2008.
Revision of our elevator pitch:
An elevator pitch is one that allows you less than 30-seconds to describe your point of view/proposal. Ours is simply this:
"Believe it or not, Honolulutraffic.com and city officials agree that we would have to spend over $4 billion in local taxpayer funds to build a rail line. We also both agree that the net result would be future traffic congestion far worse than it is today. We believe this is nuts; city officials disagree. Do you have any questions?"
We thought this cartoon might help to put matters in their proper perspective. For the visually challenged it reads, "Just between ourselves, your obsession that the rest of society is mad is probably true ... but they are in charge."
Reason's Poole discusses Greenhouse Gas reduction report
McKinsey's Calm Look at Greenhouse Gas Reduction — Everyone seems to have a pet solution for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since many of the proposals for transportation call for drastic restrictions on driving (as measured by vehicle miles of travel-VMT), everyone in transportation has an interest in learning which GHG reduction measures are cost-effective and which are not. In that context, I want to call your attention to a major study by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, released in December 2007: Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost? It involved a number of academic researchers plus inputs from various corporations and environmental groups.
Here is the central conclusion. While U.S. GHG emissions are projected to increase from 7.2 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2005 to 9.7 gigatons by 2030, there is realistic potential to decrease the 2030 total by 3.0 to 4.5 gigatons using abatement options whose marginal cost is no more than $50/ton. And almost 40% of the total could be achieved at "negative" marginal cost-i.e., they would pay for themselves over their lifetimes. The five "clusters" where most of the reductions would come from are (in order) electric power, buildings and appliances, energy-intensive industry, carbon sinks, and transportation.
Although transportation is the smallest cluster (with reductions ranging from 0.3 to 0.7 gigatons/year by 2030, depending on which of three scenarios were implemented), it's clearly an important element. The two key themes are increasing average vehicle fuel efficiency and reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The three largest contributors to transportation GHG reduction would be cellulosic biofuels, inproved fuel economyfor autos, and improved fuel economy for light trucks.
As in any such study, the results depend considerably on the assumptions made. One of the most important background assumptions was "no material change in consumer utility or lifestyle preferences." Holding consumer utility constant "would imply no change in thermostat settings or appliance use, no downsizing of vehicles, homes, or commercial space, traveling the same mileage annually [as was assumed in the government reference case]. In other words, the reductions in GHGs projected in this study do not require the hair-shirt kinds of measures favored by many environmentalists and urban planners: major land-use changes to compel high-density living and transit use, etc. Rather, it posits that we can retain current middle-class expectations and aspirations while still reducing significantly the carbon-intensity of our lives.
And these results are even more impressive when you finally get to page 45 and learn that throughout the study, the assumed long-term price of oil was only $59 per barrel. (Remember, most of this work was done during 2007, well before the recent escalation in oil prices.) As the report notes, "If the long-term price of oil were higher, these options would become even more attractive." I'm hoping McKinsey will put out a second edition, re-doing the calculations with something like $120/barrel.
That's about all I have space for, but I urge you to download and read this important report-or at least the section dealing with transportation. You can find it at: www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/US_ghg_final_report.pdf.