formerly The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu


  February 28, 2006.

About the cost of rail transit ... :

The Draft of the Oahu Regional Transportation Plan (ORTP) projects that the Kapolei to UH rail transit line will cost $2.57 billion in 2005 dollars. However, the 1992 plan projected a cost of $1.86 billion in 1991 dollars for a Waikele to UH line. Here's why the city estimate is low:

  • Inflation between 1991 and 2005 increased 32.6 percent, which would inflate the $1.86 billion to $2.45 billion.
  • On top of that we have to allow for the additional 8 miles between Waikele and Kapolei at about $0.12 billion a mile, or $0.96 billion.
  • That all adds up to $3.4 billion, or 33 percent greater than the city estimate — and even that is before cost overruns.

In addition the Draft ORTP says, "The City and County will obtain $456 million in federal funds (in 2005 dollars) to assist in the cost to construct the rapid transit system." Whatever happened to Neil Abercrombie's $1.2 billion?  READ DRAFT ORTP

          If you wish to comment on this document you have until March 15th to send it to OMPO, 707 Richards Street, Suite 200, Honolulu Hawaii 96813. Phone 587-2015. A copy should also be sent to the Federal Transit Administration, Region IX, 201 Mission Street, Suite 2210, San Francisco, California 94105-1839.


Just to show that we sometimes agree with the City ...

Here's what our last Mayor wrote in the city's Progress Report #3 when the Bus/Rapid Transit was in favor:

    "At the same time, previous proposals for a grade-separated rail transit system in Honolulu deeply divided the community and would have required massive capital investments. It is increasingly clear that our best path to better mobility on Oahu is to improve our highway infrastructure as much as we can and build on our very successful bus service to improve and expand public transit. With cutting edge technologies and innovative operational systems, we can make big improvements at an affordable cost."

Did you ever think we might get to be nostalgic about Jeremy?


January 31, 2006.

A sensible speech about moving goods and people:

          This is music to our ears. They are talking highways with public/private partnerships for funding, design, and construction. This is the HOT lanes anthem. We will even give it its own special font and font color. Take notice everyone; we have not heard this kind of talk from the U.S. DOT in a long time:

        “Transportation moves America and congestion can put our economy in the slow lane.  … We need a new approach to keep goods and products on the move. …We need to  broaden our thinking . . . change our mindset. We need innovative financing to give a boost to our highway system.  Increased private sector investment and innovative financing is a must to give options to drivers, keep our economy on the move, and get the most bang for our transportation investment. … In coming months and years, mobility professionals and those who need mobility have an opportunity to help shape our nation’s future and move America toward a more prosperous future.   We’re going to take some forward-looking steps along the way.”  Rick Capka, FHWA Acting Administrator, 11/3/05, remarks to U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C. READ MORE


January 30, 2006.

Mayor Hanneman visits Vancouver and Las Vegas rail:

          The Las Vegas driverless monorail extends only 4 miles end to end with average speeds of just 16 mph. It was built with entirely private funding from the resorts along the rail line. The fare one way is $5 and for residents $1. It is more of an extended Disneyland form of transportation than real transit. READ MORE

          The Vancover Skytrain and its bus system have maintained their share of commuters at 11 percent, which is an excellent performance for this foreign city. However, it means that for every 100,000 increase in population, 11,000 will use transit and 89,000 will use other means — the vast majority by car. That is why they have terrible traffic congestion. READ MORE

          Why is the mayor visiting one rail that is not a real transit line and the second in a foreign country. Can he not find successful real transit lines in the U.S. that have reduced traffic congestion? Not really.


January 29, 2006.

TRIP Report spells out Hawaii's highway problems:

TRIP, the national transportation research group in Washington DC published this report some months ago but it is a valuable resource for those interested in the state of our highways. It is titled, Paying the Price for Inadequate Roads in Hawaii: The Cost to Motorists in Reduced Safety, Lost Time and Increased Vehicle Wear. TRIP. April 2005. READ MORE


Bay Area Sierra Clubs oppose BART expansion:

They oppose BART's expansion on the same grounds that we opposed the Honolulu heavy rail line. As they put it,

"They deliver too little and cost too much." READ MORE


More on Portland's traffic congestion effects on business:

While Portland spends its time and money on costly rail lines and ignores highways, the delivery of goods is suffering mightily. Examples given in the report which will cost Portland's consumers are:

  • "Intel has moved their last shipment departure time up two hours for outbound shipments through [Portland Airport] because of increased pm peak congestion. A missed flight affects production across the globe and can result in costly operational changes.
  • Sysco Foods opened a new regional distribution center in Spokane to better serve their market area because it was taking too long to serve its market from the Portland area; others are following suit.
  • Providence Health Systems reported medical deliveries, which have to be rapid and frequent, are getting very difficult on the west side, with routine runs requiring more than four hours. As a result, Providence is planning a relocation of warehousing and support operations at a cost (independent of construction) from $1-1.5 million in 2006/7.
  • OrePac has increased inventories by 7% to 8% to mitigate for congestion delays, which represents a lost opportunity for other investment."  READ MORE


American Society of Civil Engineers' Hawaii Report Card:

Read their assessment of the billions of dollars we are behind in the funding to bring water systems, sewer systems bridges and highways up to par let alone expanding them. Here's two items on our highways:

  • "65 percent of Hawaii's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition."
  • "Driving on roads in need of repair costs Hawaii motorists $289 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — $347 per motorist. Congestion in the Honolulu metropolitan area costs commuters $331 per person in excess fuel and lost time." READ MORE


January 12, 2006.

Need to know about rail transit?

First, rail will cost $4 billion.

Second, it will not take any cars of the road.

At first they said rail would cost $2.7 billion from Kapolei to Iwilei. Then they added a line from Iwilei to UH over the H-1 freeway with a spur to Waikiki. That's an easy $4 billion. The Parsons Brinckerhoff engineers all admitted under questioning at the Scoping Meeting that rail would do nothing for traffic congestion. What else does anyone need to know?


"How should we address the mobility problem?":

The Texas Transportation Institute's 2005 Urban Mobility Report is the nation's leading report on comparative traffic congestion in the MSAs. One four-page section gives a good overview of the various actions that can be taken to reduce traffic congestion. READ MORE


Cato Institute's O'Toole on transit systems:

"A Desire Named Streetcar: How Federal Subsidies Encourage Wasteful Local Transit Systems." by Randal O’Toole, also of the Thoreau Institute, gives an historical overview of "how federal subsidies have encouraged wasteful local transit systems." He says, "To pay for high-cost suburban rail transit routes, transit agencies often raise fares or cut back on services to inner-city areas. The result is that taxpayers often end up paying heavy subsidies for projects that reduce overall transit ridership and often harm transit-dependent families." READ MORE


January 11, 2006.

So much for Portland and 'Smart' growth:


           For years we have been hearing from our city officials that we should follow Portland whose 'smart growth' and the transit oriented real estate development have made it a Mecca. Four of us went there last year to check it out.

          We found it unbelievable with housing policies bordering on silly (see the 15-foot wide 'skinny houses'). The reports all within the last 12 months substantiate what we saw:

          The bloom is off Portland's roses; Inc. magazine now rates it the eighth worst metro area in which to do business. Higher taxes, higher costs and an anti-business mood all were cited.  READ MORE  

          Traffic congestion choking Portland but there's no money for roads. These days Portland spends equally on highways and transit even though only 5.7 percent of commuters use transit. The net result is there is not enough money to maintain the existing highways let alone build new ones. READ MORE

           'Smart Growth' policies drive young families out: The high cost of houses with yards sufficient for children to play in are driving these families across the border to Vancouver, Washington. READ MORE

           Stress and the City: Sperling's BestPlaces survey ranks Portland as the 6th most stressful of the nation's cities. It's in the 85th percentile for suicides and divorces. High unemployment and traffic congestion all had impacts on the stress rating. READ MORE


January 9, 2006.

Deadline for comments on Scoping is due TODAY:

Comments on the Scoping Meetings are due today and we can assume that if the email, or letter, has today's date on it that that should be acceptable to the city. We have already sent our final comments and they are available here: COMMENTS


January 8, 2006.

Deadline for comments on Scoping due tomorrow:

          Comments on the Scoping Meetings held on December 13 & 14 are due tomorrow, January 9.

ADDRESSES: Written comments on the scope of the EIS, including the alternatives to be considered and the related impacts to be assessed, should be sent to both the Department of Transportation Services, City and County of Honolulu, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI, 96813, Attention: Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project, or by the Internet at http://www.honolulutransit.org and Ms. Donna Turchie, Federal Transit Administration, Region IX, 201 Mission Street, Suite 2210, San Francisco, CA 94105 or by e-mail: Donna.Turchie@fta.dot.gov .  
         To email your comments to the City, send them to Alfred Tanaka, acting Director of DTS, at atanaka@honolulu.gov and copy to Toru Hamayasu, Chief Planner at DTS, at thamayasu@honolulu.gov. We would appreciate receiving a copy of your comments at: info@honolulutraffic.com. We will post our final comments late tomorrow. A rough draft of them is here

The basic issues:

          The fundamental issues are that the City and Parsons Brinckerhoff are not defining our transportation problem correctly. It is not a lack of "person-mobility" that is our problem, traffic congestion is our problem. In short, we do not have a public transportation problem; we have a traffic congestion problem.

          If we had a public transportation problem we would not have had a significant decline in the per capita use of it during the past 20 years from 96 rides per capita of population to 77 just before the strike. To make it worse this 20 percent decline occurred during a period when we increased the bus fleet by 20 percent.

          Conversely, during this same period, we have had a 27 percent increase in registered vehicles with an increase of only a minuscule 2.2 miles of new freeways, from 86.3 to 88.5 miles, or less than three percent. (State Data Books 1991 & 2004.)

           And they want to build trains?

          The one proposal that would result in some measure of traffic relief in the Leeward Corridor would be that of HOT lanes (see "Why rail transit never improves traffic congestion" above) and that should be reinstated.

          The biggest problem with the process to date is that there has been a total lack of useful information while near drowning us in useless information. Want to know the approximate projected costs, ridership, and effects on traffic congestion of the various alternatives? "Sorry, we don't know that yet, but look at our pictures."  


January 4, 2006.

Why we must worry about ridership forecasts ...

It is important that those interested in public policy, and how our taxes are wasted, understand how the city's fixed guideway study process is distorted in favor of building rail transit. Here are two views about other places to give some perspective:

...in theory....

The University of Aalborg in Denmark has just finished a 58 nation study of public transportation ridership forecasts, which is published this month in Transport Reviews . It " presents results from the first statistically significant study of traffic forecasts in transportation infrastructure projects. The sample used is the largest of its kind, covering 210 projects in 14 nations worth US$58 billion ... Forecasts have not become more accurate over the 30-year period studied ... For nine out of ten rail projects, passenger forecasts are overestimated; average overestimation is 106% ... Highly inaccurate traffic forecasts … translate into large financial and economic risks. But such risks are typically ignored or downplayed by planners and decision-makers, to the detriment of social and economic welfare." READ MORE

...and in practice:

Scott Rutherford, University of Washington professor of engineering, a six-year member of Sound Transit's Expert Review Panel described to a Portland State University audience on January 10, 2003, what actually went on with transit planning in Seattle, in the early 1990s.  It seems he did not anticipate that the presentation might be taped:

"[Y]ou had to get a certain cost-effectiveness to be able to get funded or at least to get recommended for funding by the then Urban Mass Transportation Administration [now Federal Transit Administration].  So if you didn't have, if you weren't doing your trips for $6 a trip, then you couldn't get funded.  So the 'game' was, you know, if you could keep your cost estimate down and your rider forecast up, they were looking at this cost-effectiveness number, cost per new rider -- and those costs can get waaay out of line.  And so the federal government is saying 'well we don't want to invest in something that has, you know, $30 per new rider', and so what people did was sort of lowballed their cost estimates and goosed their forecasts so that that number comes down to sort of under $10.  I always thought that when I was out there, watching this that, you know, 'someone's gonna go to jail, these people are robbing the federal government of a billion dollars'.  You know, they're defrauding the federal government basically--I mean what else could you say?--they're cheating.  But the thing was that if you didn't cheat, you got nothing.  If you cheated, you might get a billion dollars.  So what do you think people do? I mean, duh!" [laughter]


  January 3, 2006.

Congestion pricing starts in Stockholm today:

The capital of Sweden today launched a congestion pricing scheme for the city center with a cordon procing operation quite similar to that in London. The primary objectives of the trials are to reduce congestion, increase accessibility and improve the environment. READ MORE


Reminder about the war against the automobile:

          Back in 1977, Dutton published a book by B. Bruce-Biggs called, The War Against the Automobile . In particular, chapter 6 should be required reading in our schools. Among other things he details this war going back to the 1950s.   READ MORE  

          In November, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial titled, War against the car. They discuss how our public schools are infected with the irrational nonsense that the automobile is one of the worst enemies of mankind. READ MORE


January 2, 2006.

Congestion pricing is snowballing downhill:

The realization that while highway construction can mitigate traffic congestion, the only certain cure is congestion pricing. Here are three more stories just in the last few days (see also the BBC story further below):

The Melbourne Australia Age last Saturday

Scotland's Scotsman Daily last Friday.

Seattle's Seattle Times last Tuesday


Another reason why rail transit here will be unlikely:

The following is from Innovation Briefs, a Washington publication for transportation insiders:

"New Starts" Projects Facing A More Rigorous Competition For Funds — The House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee has often expressed dissatisfaction with the Federal Transit Administration's rating and evaluation process for New Starts. The process, the committee claimed, was not rigorous enough to weed out marginally cost-effective projects and failed to function as an effective resource allocation mechanism. On several occasions, the subcommittee directed the FTA to adopt a more disciplined approach to managing the program The agency complied with the committee's directives to some extent. According to the General Accountability Office (GAO), "the combined number of "recommended" and "highly recommended" projects declined sharply from 27 in the fiscal year 2003 evaluation cycle to 14 in the fiscal year 2004 evaluation cycle, to 10 in the fiscal year 2005 evaluation cycle, while the combined number of "not recommended" and not rated projects rose from 6 to 18. The agency also issued revised procedures for project evaluation, reflecting the committee' desire for a more rigorous process But it was only in the new authorization bill (TEA-LU), that Congress was finally able to put its own stamp on the New Starts program."


December 30, 2005

Our draft comments now available:

These comments on the Scoping Meetings will be submitted by January 6, but they are still in draft form so please do not quote from them as we are still fact checking. We just thought they may be useful for you to get them early. READ COMMENTS


OMPO admits ridership forecast is "intuitive"?

In its "Planning in Motion" pamphlet, OMPO forecast total transit ridership to be 360,000 for 2030 if we were to build a rail transit line. That is 80 percent more than it is today. That is an absurd forecast and so we asked OMPO's Gordon Lum to see the calculations. He refused citing an exemption from the Information Practices Act, that it was document that " must be confidential in order for the government to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function." W e appealed to the Office of Information Practice and the final conclusion was that OMPO's ridership forecast was "intuitive" and therefore there was nothing for us to see. Fair enough. We always knew they pulled these numbers out of thin air. Now they have admitted it. READ MORE


BBC News yesterday: "Navigating future for road charges":

A good look from the UK at what the future might bring in congestion pricing. Since Hawaii is the only state cut off from highway contact with any other state, this report tells how it might operate here. READ MORE


Reminder: Deadline for Scoping comments is Jan 6:

         Your comments on the City's scoping efforts — the narrowing down of the options to the few that will go into the Alternatives Analysis. You did not have to actually attend to meetings in order to comment; all of the City's presentations at the Scoping Meetings on December 13 and 14 are now up on the City's transit website, www.honolulutransit.com.


December 22, 2005

"A Future Free From Gridlock, For a Price":

         Today's Washington Post discusses the "Toll Lane Network Swiftly Taking Form" in DC and in other cities. Says the Post, it represents "a radical shift in the way highways are financed and operated and promise to transform the way drivers in the Washington area and the nation travel."

            "If you look at the full potential of this for the region, I think it's the biggest thing since Metro," said Ronald F. Kirby, transportation planning director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "These are very significant and could be just the beginning. We haven't had highways of this magnitude in 20 or 30 years."

           The shift to the private sector and to express toll roads mirrors efforts across the country to find new ways to pay for roads and manage traffic as congestion in the nation's urban areas increases and the effectiveness of the interstate system, which turns 50 next year, deteriorates. READ MORE

"Unsound Transit" in today's Wall Street Journal:

Seattle Post staff writer Ted Van Dyk discusses Seattle's Sound Transit efforts at a failed monorail and a "cost-ineffective" light rail proposal in the Opinion Journal. He says of Seattle, "Local governance has come to resemble that in those old movie Westerns -- the ones where the powerful get what they want, public officials eat at their trough, and townsfolk eat dust and pay the bills." Little does he know. We are suggesting that Seattle officials be sent to Honolulu for post-graduate studies. READ MORE


December 20, 2005

New York's transit strikes; HOT lanes don't:

         As is usual with transit strikes, officials change the rules to allow shared-ride taxis and require autos to have four occupants, people change their behavior and life goes on.

         Shared ride taxis in N.Y. are illegal but in a strike they become mandatory. No one seems to recognize that if shared-ride cabs were legal all the time, as they are in Washington DC, that people would be less reliant on strike-prone public transportation. READ MORE

          And we should never forget that HOT lanes do not strike.


December 18, 2005

Today's quote from Adam Smith:

"The proud minister of an ostentatious court may frequently take pleasure in executing a work of splendour and magnificence, such as a great highway, which is frequently seen by the principal nobility, whose applause not only flatter his vanity, but even contribute to support his interest at court.   But execute a great number of little works, in which nothing that can be done can make any great appearance, or excite the smallest degree of admiration in any traveller, and which, in short, have nothing to recommend them but their extreme utility, is a business which appears in every respect too mean and paultry to merit the attention of so great a magistrate.   Under such an administration, therefore, such works are almost always entirely neglected."
Adam Smith.


December 17, 2005

Today's quote:

"Transit agencies typically keep the public at bay by having only two phases for their projects: The first phase when it is just too early to give the public all the facts, and the second phase when it is too late to stop the project." — Earnest Fitzgerald .


December 16, 2005

HOT lanes and rail to cost the same (they say):

According to Toru Hamayasu, City head planner, the City had developed no costs for rail and HOT lanes even though they had dismissed our reversible HOT lanes on grounds of cost (see discussion in our 12/14 editorial). It turns out that he may be telling the truth; OMPO developed the costs instead. Of course, Toru would not know that. Right.

          Gordon Lum, OMPO's Executive Director, told me that their numbers were $2.5 billion each for both the HOT lanes from Waipahu to the Keehi Interchange (±10 miles) and alos the elevated heavy rail line from Kapolei to UH (±25 miles). Naturally we asked to see the working for those calculations but Gordon told us that their consultants, Kaku Associates (Dick Kaku), had just given them the number; there was no backup for it. He also said OMPO merely passed it along to both Toru Hamayasu and the State DOT and neither party had a problem with the magnitude of these numbers.

          We then talked to Dick Kaku to see if he could justify the numbers and he said everything that he had was passed along to Gordon Lum's office. Gordon denies they received anything.

          It's all quite clever: Since State Office of Information Practice requests can only be for documents that state agencies have, then OMPO does not produce the documents that that it never received from Kaku Associates and cannot ask Kaku Associates because they no longer have them. OMPO's hands are clean and nothing is produced. Quite cute.

         First, regardless of the truth of all this, the estimates of rail costs are astoundingly low (the state estimate was $2.7 billion before the addition of Iwilei to UH) and HOT lanes costs are astronomically high (nine times the cost per mile of the Tampa elevated lanes) .

         No surprise here. Unwelcome alternatives are always dealt with the same way by transit agencies. The question is whether they will be able to get away with this nonsense. Stay tuned.


And now the news for all you monorail fans:

From KESQ, LAS VEGAS Las Vegas Monorail ridership declined again in November -- to a daily average of less than 26-thousand people. That's about half what administrators projected when the 650 (M) Million dollar system started operating in July 2004. The monorail took in a little under 76-thousand dollars a day in ticket revenues and carried a little more than 773-thousand riders last month.

          Promoters had hoped the monorail would attract 19 million to 20 million passengers a year, or more than 52-thousand a day. Analysts say it needs to bring in about 123-thousand dollars a day to break even. Ridership peaked in July 2005, but has declined since then.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


December 14, 2005

Our first editorial on the scoping process so far:

Parsons Brinckerhoff provided us with a major disappointment. If you have any sense, you go to a scoping meeting wanting to know about the benefits and costs of the various alternatives — however roughly defined. Nothing at all of this nature was presented; just pretty pictures. We are being grossly misled in the process so far. For details: READ MORE


Scoping meeting held; little learned:

The Scoping meeting held by Parsons, Brinckerhoff last night at the Blaisdell provided little information beyond that contained in the handouts and online documents provided earlier.

However, the newspaper reports today of the transit meeting summed it up fairly. It made a pleasant change from those reporters who just rehash the City's PR handouts. The following excerpt from the Advertiser’s Karen Blakeman was interesting:

    “Wayne Miyashiro [local attendee being interviewed] said he had looked at the city's charts showing how traffic congestion would increase through the year 2030, and asked the Parsons Brinckerhoff representatives whether a public transportation system would ease the problem. He was shocked, he said, when two different presenters told him congestion would not decrease.

    Lawrence Spurgeon, who was manning one of the presentation booths for Parsons Brinckerhoff, said although public transportation will provide an alternative to sitting in the gridlock, trying to decrease the number of cars on H-1 was a losing proposition. "Every time we pull one car off," he said, "another will replace it."

The Star-Bulletin’s Crystal Kua noted that reporters were not allowed to see the public comments and that one person had described to her that the meeting had the air of a high school science fair with “display boards of information lined up around the room.”

Kua reported that Bob Loy, director of environmental programs with the Outdoor Circle, as saying that, “We’re uncomfortable that it’s not the kind of process that would really allow for a good free public conversation about this issue and how it should be handled. It seems to have been designed in a way to limit public interaction and the ability for the public to create any kind of synergistic conversation that could result in a community conversation.”   READ MORE  IN THE ADVERTISER     READ MORE  IN STAR-BULLETIN


December 13, 2005

Reminder: The Scoping meetings are today and tomorrow:

        Come to one of the meetings and learn why the HOT lanes will not be included in the Alternatives Analysis. We will comment on this after tonight's meeting.


December 10, 2005

Reminder of Scoping meetings this Tuesday and Wednesday:

        They are December 13, 5:00 to 8:00 pm in the Pikake Room at the Blaisdell Center and December 14, 7:00 to 9:00 pm at Kapolei Middle School Cafeteria. Please be there to get a full explanation of the process. The City says that those requiring special accommodation should call 566-2228. Those unable to attend the meetings will be able to provide input through the project website www.honolulutransit.org  In particular, read http://www.honolulutransit.org/pdfs/scoping_info.pdf    This is the relevant section on how you should address your comments.


Telecasts of Highway Users Alliance Meeting:

          The Hawaii Highway Users Alliance held its first general meeting on our roads and highways recently. The keynote speaker was Brennon Morioka, Deputy Director of the State Department of Transportation, on "The People of Hawaii Deserve Better Roads: A Statewide Strategy for Improving Road Infrastructure." He was followed by a panel of local experts from the General Contractors' Association, Grace Pacific, Cement & Concrete Products Industry, Hawaii Asphalt Paving Industry, and Federal Highways Administration, who then discussed the issue.           

          The meeting will be telecast on Channel 54 at the following times:
12/11/05 Sun 11:00am ; 12/16/05 Fri 4:00 pm ; 12/19/05 Mon 7:00 pm ; 12/24/05 Sat 9:00 pm


December 5, 2005

Innovation Briefs sums up the highway funding crisis :

         Ken Orski, a highly regarded Washington professional in transportation policy matters, summarizes the emerging fiscal crisis for highway funding in the current Innovation Briefs:

            "Clearly, new highway capacity is needed, and it looks like much of it will be in the form of toll roads and toll lanes rather than toll-free facilities. At the November 2005 "Transportation Finance Summit" sponsored by the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), speakers agreed that interest in tolling is rising. Riding on this wave of enthusiasm, IBTTA has called on state and local governments to include tolling as an option whenever new roads or upgrading of existing roads is contemplated.

              It looks like its call may be answered. There are indications that not only are transportation officials receptive to tolling, but so is public opinion. Surveys in jurisdictions where new toll projects have been proposed or implemented suggest that when people are confronted with a choice of higher gas taxes or tolling, they choose tolls as the more acceptable alternative. Looking at the rapid pace of change in attitudes toward tolling, it is quite conceivable that by the end of this decade, toll facilities will become the primary means of expanding highway capacity." READ MORE


Also from Innovation Briefs:

"New Starts" Projects Facing A More Rigorous Competition For Funds:   The House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee has often expressed dissatisfaction with the Federal Transit Administration's rating and evaluation process for New Starts. The process, the committee claimed, was not rigorous enough to weed out marginally cost-effective projects and failed to function as an effective resource allocation mechanism. On several occasions, the subcommittee directed the FTA to adopt a more disciplined approach to managing the program The agency complied with the committee's directives to some extent. According to the General Accountability Office (GAO), "the combined number of "recommended" and "highly recommended" projects declined sharply from 27 in the fiscal year 2003 evaluation cycle to 14 in the fiscal year 2004 evaluation cycle, to 10 in the fiscal year 2005 evaluation cycle, while the combined number of "not recommended" and not rated projects rose from 6 to 18. The agency also issued revised procedures for project evaluation, reflecting the committee' desire for a more rigorous process But it was only in the new authorization bill (TEA-LU), that Congress was finally able to put its own stamp on the New Starts program."


December 4, 2005

Confused about "boardings," "linked-trips" and "commuters"?

It is important to know the difference between boardings, linked-trips and commuters when transit numbers get thrown about. For example, we often hear that TheBus has something like 200,000 daily riders. However, they are really talking about "boardings" — the number of people who board transit vehicles. "Linked-trips" allows for transfers between buses and since 29 percent of bus riders transfer, it means that 200,000 boardings is only 155,000 linked-trips. People usually make two linked trips for a return journey, so you can divide linked-trips by two, to 78,000, to arrive at the number of people using transit daily. Roughly half of these are commuters, or 39,000. This roughly corresponds to the 34,000 people who said they commute by TheBus in the 2000 U.S. Census for Honolulu.


Confused about TheBus ridership?

We keep hearing that TheBus ridership is trending up. Wrong. Ridership for fiscal year 2005 ending June 30 this year was 63 million. That is the lowest ridership (strikes aside) since 1976, shortly after the City socialized the bus system and began subsidized service all over Oahu. Strange to think that only 33 years ago HRT Ltd.'s bus system was privately owned and profitable — and paid taxes! Check facts here:   1993 to 2004  riders    2005  riders HRT's Profit


Coverage in the Hawaii Auto Dealer magazine:

Better late than never department: We missed this article that was published a couple of months ago. READ MORE  


December 2, 2005

FTA spells out the "New Starts" process:

At the recent APTA Conference, FTA laid out their requirements in the "New Starts" funding process. It all starts with the basics as was shown in the following slide:

        Information for Decisionmaking: A coherent story that answers key questions

  • What is the problem?
  • What are the reasonable alternatives?
  • What are their costs?
  • How well do they address the problem?
  • What are their environmental impacts?
  • Are they worth the investment?
  • Can we afford them?
  • Who gains?   Who loses?
  • What are the trade-offs?
  • Where are the large uncertainties?

          This is a sensible approach. However, what we have to do, as stakeholders in this process, is to first ensure that "What is the problem?" is answered correctly. If this basic question is not defined correctly then the rest of the process will lead to a wrong outcome — almost by definition.  

           Obviously, our transportation problem is excessive traffic congestion and relief from it is what we and the general public are all expecting.

          This is not how the City is defining our problem.

          Instead, the City sa ys we " need to improve mobility for travelers facing increasingly severe traffic congestion in the study corridor; a need to improve transportation system reliability; a need to provide accessibility to new development in Ewa/Kapolei as a way of supporting policy to develop the area as a second urban center; and a need to provide improved transportation equitably to all travelers."   READ MORE  

          There is no discussion of relieving traffic congestion for motorists, rather they talk about providing options for "travelers."  Let the City know what you think the problem is: YOUR COMMENTS


December 1, 2005

Who says FTA doesn't know what's going on:

The following is a slide from an FTA PowerPoint presentation made in September at the APTA Annual Conference:


Why do we build New Starts projects?   Top 10 Reasons we’ve heard…

  • Our mayor just went to _____ and loved the _______ they had there.
  • We have this great right-of-way just sitting there….
  • People have a negative impression of our bus system.
  • If we build it, they will come.
  • Our funding lapses if we don’t hurry up and build something.
  • Then we can get a professional baseball team!
  • How else are people going to get to the airport?
  • We are the 2nd fastest growing ____in the ____.
  • Our area/project is really unique.   Like, really unique.
  • When it comes to transit, size really does matter.
  • Bonus 11th reason!:   Significant travel markets in our priority corridor are experiencing declining travel speeds, and our LPA is better than any other alternative in serving these markets, given reasonable funding assumptions READ MORE


City releases outline of the alternatives:

This morning the city posted a newsletter on its transit website, www.honolulutransit.org, detailing the various alternatives under consideration. Essentially they appear at first glance to be various rail alternatives together with various HOT lane and busway alternatives. READ MORE


Reason Foundation's HOT lane update:

Ten years ago, Reason Foundation's Robert Poole conceived the idea of HOT lanes to efficiently use empty HOV lane space. Today there are four HOT lanes projects in existence in the U.S., four more under construction, three approved for construction, 15 more proposed and 39 now being studied. That is what you call HOT. READ MORE