seeking cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu


February 28, 2008.

Cato's O'Toole on "Why Government Planning Always Fails":

      The Cato Institute’s Winter Letter for 2008 leads with a new Randal O’Toole essay, “Why Government Planning Always Fails.” Here’s an excerpt with the link to the essay at the end:

      “Transit advocates will point out that the autos driving on congested urban highways often have only one occupant. But that is exactly the point: If modern life is so decentralized that carpooling makes no sense for most commuters, how are giant buses and high-capacity trains going to work? Planners often argue we shouldn’t try to relieve congestion by building new highways because those new roads themselves will quickly become congested. Only a government planner would argue that we should not spend user fees building things that people use and instead spend tax dollars building things that people don’t use!” READ MORE


February 25, 2008.

Council's Executive Matters Committee meets on TODs:

This Wednesday February, 27, at 1:00 PM the Committee will have four bills, numbers 10 through 13, relating to TODs, formally known as Transit Oriented Developments, but to us as Transit Oriented Developers' Subsidies. They will hear a one minute's worth of testimony from as many members of the public who wishes to do so. SEE DETAILS     REVIEW BILLS: #10 #11  #12   #13


February 24, 2008.

Council Transportation Committee to review "steel on steel":

Thursday at 9:00AM, the Transportation Committee meeting in the Committee Room on the second floor on City Hall, will hear from the Chairman of the "Experts Panel" and ask him how they came up with the one option guaranteed to ensure that traffic congestion in the future will be worse than it is today. Dr. Prevedouros, who was in the minority in opposing the Steel On Steel (SOS) option (SOS in nautical parlance is short for Save Our Souls -- appropriate in this case). Dr. Prevedouros has outlined the case for the best alternative in this paper. READ MORE  PROPOSED BILL 80 CD1


Reviewing the weekend's Letters to the Editor:

       Ms. Melanie Gibson in her Advertiser letter of 2/23 invites us to “Look at every other city that opposed a rail system that is now successfully running an efficient mode of mass transportation for the commuter.” We suggest that she look at them herself. She will find that every metro area in the country with rail is suffering a decline in ridership as a percent of population. What that means is that every time there is an increase in population of 100,000 people, 8,000 will take transit and 80,000 will drive their cars. Highway variants, such as HOT lanes, are what are working elsewhere to reduce traffic congestion.

       Jason Lee’s Advertiser letter of 2/23 furthers the discussion of rail transit being an alternative to driving. The train will not get there any faster than congested traffic since the train is so S-L-O-W. However, for Mr. Lee it is somehow beneficial to us taxpayers to provide an alternative way for people to get to their destination in the same time as they would in their cars -- at a cost of BILLIONS of dollars. With this kind of thinking no wonder the country is up to its ears in debt.

       Ms. Hannah Miyamoto, SB 2/22, says that light rail economizes on labor because one train operator can drive 600 people far more than a bus. She is forgetting about the caste of thousands who are needed to operate rail stations, the rail transit police needed for security, and so on, much of which is charged to overhead and does not show up in operating costs. The following four minute video shot at the Fruitvale rail station, the center of the Fruitvale Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) shows this well. It was taken by Tom Berg, author of “Fruitless in Fruitvale” – an excellent title:



John Niles gave an excellent talk of Seattle rail:

On Friday noon John Niles spoke with humor and conviction on Seattle's ongoing problems with their light rail line. John showed us how the Seattle rail line was likely to finish up costing $157 billion if the planners get their way. For the initiated his 45-slide Powerpoint is worth it for the charts and graphs. REVIEW SLIDES


February 19, 2008.

HONOLULUTRAFFIC.COM  co-sponsors Seattle rail talk:

This coming Friday at noon at the Pacific Club we will hear from John Niles. His talk is "Battle in Seattle: How we are defeating what would be the largest light rail in the U.S.” John is a leader in Seattle’s Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives (CETA) and will speak about how they are defeating the largest light rail system ever proposed in the USA. Sponsored by Grassroot Institute of Hawaii AND Honolulutraffic.com

WHEN: Friday, February 22, 2008 Noon - 2:00 PM WHERE: Pacific Club, Cleghorn Presidential Room COST: $20
WHAT: Pacific Club House Sandwich (roast turkey, smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, lettuce on a 10 grain brain), mixed greens, iced tea and coffee.

Mail checks made out to "GRIH" to the office (1314 S. King Street, Suite 1163 Honolulu,HI 96814), call (808-591-9193) to pay by credit card/give us new credit card information, or e-mail if you already have a credit card number on file.

RSVP: Please let us know whether you can come or not no later than Thursday, February 21, 2008 10:00 AM

Biographical Information:John S. Niles is President of Global Telematics (www.globaltelematics.com), an independent public policy analysis firm inSeattle. His research interests include traffic operations management, homeland security, public transit productivity, transit-oriented development, and travel value assessment.

He is Senior Fellow for Technology and Transportation at the Discovery Institute'sCascadia Center for Regional Development, a Research Associate at Mineta Transportation Institute, and a founding past member of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Telecommunications and Travel Behavior.

Trying to avert construction of a poorly performing, multi-billion dollar light rail subway in thePuget Sound region, he is also technical director for the grass-roots advocacy organization, Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives (CETA).

His M.S. in industrial administration is fromCarnegie Mellon University and he earned a S.B. in mathematics at MIT.


February 18, 2008.

HawaiiReporter.com: "City's Proposed Rail Will Cross Ceded Lands":

HawaiiReporter.com carrries and open letter to the City by Kamuela Lindsey which begins with, "On January 31, 2008, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the State of Hawaii, trustee of the "ceded lands", cannot sell, or otherwise encumber, or hypothecate the "ceded" lands; but instead, must preserve them for the "beneficiaries", native Hawaiians until such time as the reinstated Hawaiian government is formed. (USPL 103-150)

"A perfect example is the state highway fund. Warned last session that the state highway fund is headed for financial disaster because it has been raided repeatedly for more than a decade, both the administration and the legislature blithely turned the problem over to the proverbial task force figuring a group of astute minds could come up with a solution to the ailing highway fund.

Well, after both the legislature and the administration convened task forces of their own, they looked at the problem and pronounced the fact that the state highway fund is going to run out of money by the year 2013, but neither decided to make a recommendation on how to bail out the fund."  READ MORE 


"The Politics of Gridlock" from the Progressive Policy Institute:

This 14-page article from an arm of the Democrat Leadership Council is very important. Here are some quotes:

“The congestion coalition (a small, but extremely influential anti-highway, anti-car, and anti-suburban coalition) [that] has changed the focus of transportation policy from one expanding supply to one of restraining demand and getting people out of cars.”

“It would be easy to underestimate the influence of the anti-auto coalition. Through masterful use of rhetoric and oversimplified analysis, they have succeeded in dramatically influencing not just federal, state, and local policies, but the entire orientation of the transportation debate. Terms and phrases like “smart growth,” “increasing access to choices instead of building freeways,” and “sustainable, holistic solutions” sound great. Yet for much of the movement, these are code words that mask an anti-automobile, anti-highway agenda.”   READ MORE


February 17, 2008.

Advertiser today: “9,100 may find jobs working on the rail”:

That is today’s headline in the Advertiser. The story does not say so, but we hear that not all of the jobs will be with Parsons Brinckerhoff.  However, any coverage of the transit proposals byHawaii’s media is welcome and we are grateful for it. So, at the risk of being called overly picky, we must make some comments on their coverage today.  READ MORE


February 16, 2008.

Please welcome our new members:

Erick Ellgren

James E Kennedy

Jay L. Friedheim

John Brattton

Joseph Speroni

Mike Rethman

Richard Fried

Rick Ralston

Ruth F. Terna

Sandra Puanani Burgess

Stan Morketter


'Experts Panel' met yesterday:

From today's Advertiser: "A panel of mass-transit experts is expected to decide Friday which type of technology to use inHonolulu's planned "fixed guideway."

"The five members of the group, which held its first meeting yesterday, will individually analyze and recommend whether the $3.7 billion system should use steel wheels on a steel rail, rubber tires on concrete, monorail technology, or magnetic levitation. Their reports are due Wednesday and the panel is scheduled to reconvene Friday morning to hear the results. Honolulu City Council members are expected to eventually hold a hearing to review the panel's selection.

"A decision on the type of vehicle must be made before an environmental impact statement for the project can be completed and allow construction to begin. Mayor Mufi Hannemann hopes to break ground on the project in 2009, with the first segment starting service between East Kapolei andWaipahu in 2012.

The initial 20-mile system will have about 19 transit stations betweenEast Kapolei and Ala Moana."

OUR VIEW: First, a major flaw here is that the City Council has yet to choose whether the system will run as an elevated one, or at-grade (street-level), or a mixture of the two. We testified on that yesterday and in that testimony followed the thread of Council decisions on the transit project from Bill 79 establishing the 12½ percent GE tax hike from 4.0 to 4.5 percent, all the way to their Reso. 376 to establish the panel. At no time did they decide directly, by inference or by reference as to whether it would be elevated or at grade. READ TESTIMONY

Second, there is no way that construction will start in 2009 or service begin in 2012. As Barbara Marshall said, "If breaking ground is a bunch of people with shovels in the middle of a field, I think we will," she said. "But as for being prepared to start building anything in 2009, I don't think so." The feds explicitly do not want the City beginning construction before the process is complete and that is not going to happen by the end of 2009. The last time the City jumped the gun during the In-Town BRT process the FTA yanked the Record of Decision precisely for that reason READ RESCISSION LETTER

As for service beginning in 2012, the latest City Financial Plan shows that operations do not begin before 2019 for the 20-mile route and 2020 for the full length 32-mile route. SEE FOR YOURSELF  Table B-4. To begin a shorter route in 2012 they will have to redo the financial plan and that will require some kind of tax increase

Of course, we all know the panel is a setup and they will vote 4-1 for steel wheel on steel rail since that is a) what the Mayor wants, and b) that is the technology where Chairman Tober gained his expertise in cost overruns. His last rail line in Charlotte, North Carolina went double the original cost estimates. READ MORE


February 13, 2008.

We must stop raiding the highway funds:

Dale Evans, Chair of the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance, writes in HawaiiReporter.com about the pending problems with highway funds: "The federal highway trust fund is broke. It is predicted that the account will actually run out in May this year 2008. There are many questions unasked, and unanswered. How will the revenue shortfall be covered? Depending upon the severity of the federal deficit, could the state deficit occur sooner than projected for 2012?"

"It is a fundamental responsibility of government to provide a safe and efficient transportation system to serve people, businesses, especially in times of emergency disasters and national defense. Potholes and traffic congestion make unsafe driving conditions. Deferred maintenance is taking longer and costing more, as construction costs are sky high." READ MORE


February 11, 2008.

Today's ENR: "Developers Bailing on Minn. "New Urbanism" Model":

Today's Engineering News Record carries a story from St. Paul/Minneapolis Pioneer Press which says, "Quaint, pedestrian-friendly city centers that seemed like a good idea five years ago run the risk of tanking along with the real estate market. FromBurnsville toLino Lakes, suburban downtowns are costing some cities millions of dollars, hundreds of hours in staff time and ramped-up voter scrutiny.

"Developers have backed out of deals, refused to fund projects and struggled with empty properties. An investment company last year advertised a clearance sale on condos after the building went into foreclosure. Today, eight of the 37 units remain vacant." READ MORE


February 10, 2008.

Today's Advertiser: "Transit system likely won't improve traffic":

The Advertiser wrote: "The transit system is expected to reduce daily vehicle trips by 45,000 on O'ahu in 2030. That would have a significant impact if the system were running today. However, by 2030 there will be nearly 600,000 more vehicle trips a day on O'ahu than in 2005. The impact of the transit system will be overwhelmed by the impact of more drivers.

"Rail critics say the project is too costly given its limited impact on rush-hour traffic.

"'Even if you just accept the city's numbers, we've got vastly increased traffic congestion,' said rail opponent Cliff Slater, 'If you have no increase in capacity on that highway and you build 60,000 new homes ... on the 'Ewa plain, then what else can it be other than far worse, given that we're not going to see hordes of new people going on the rail line?'

"Mass-transit ridership is expected to account for 7.4 percent of all trips in 2030, according to the city.

"The project is expected to cost taxpayers $3 billion or more via a half-percentage-point surcharge levied on nearly all O'ahu transactions. That could equate to several thousand dollars in added taxes for the typical Honolulu household during the 15-year life-span of the tax surcharge." READ MORE


The environmetal process in review:

We have prepared a list of all the documents in National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process with links to each of them. They may be found on the last tab on the left as "Process documents."


February 6, 2008.

Hear Revenue Commissioner Skancke say there's no rail money:

On Channel 9 KGMB last night Commissioner Tom Skancke of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission . Skancke is on the commission which found that the government wastes a lot of time and money on projects. What is really worrisome is that there are so many projects the federal transportation fund is running on empty.

"The federal government does not have the money. Our highway trust fund will be bankrupt in May or June of this year," Skancke said. That means projects like the $5 billion Oahu transit system will have a tough time getting any more federal money.

"I can tell you need additional capacity on the H1 freeway. As a transportation consultant I can tell you that highway is in trouble both in a performance point of view and a maintenance point of view," Skancke said.

"Hawaii used to get two times what our tax payers put into the highway trust fund so it means that there is no money to get one time or even less than that. The money will just stop," said Dale Evans, Chairman of the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance.

He also asked lawmakers to look at ways to raise private money for projects and to look at using toll roads. Otherwise it's back to talking about raising the gas tax. READ & SEE MORE


Lessons from history: The day we were shocked:

On August 3, 2003 our headline read "Privatization study ignored." We then went on to say, "We are shocked — absolutely shocked" that the City had failed to disclose the 30-40 percent potential savings from privatization that PB Consult had provided in a backup study as part of the FEIS for the In-town Bus/Rapid Transit program.

The Parsons Brinckerhoff study concluded, “With regard to competitive contracting, experiences in Houston, Denver, San Diego and Los Angeles indicate that the biggest advantage of competitive contracting is savings in operating costs. In most cases, savings of 30-40 percent were realized by the private contractor, because of its ability to provide the service more efficiently.” From the Primary Corridor Transportation Study, Preliminary Working Document, Technical Paper on Privatization Options. Page 5-1.

Why on earth would the City leave such a harmless statement out of the FEIS?

Here are the consultants' original papers from the study:

Readers are invited to submit their views on why this study was suppressed and also why it was produced in the first place.


February 1, 2008.

Experts panel chooses fifth member:


Ken Orski: Transportation funding Commission's report summary:

Ken produces Innovation Briefs monthly. Here is his brief summary of The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission's report on what the nation should do to meet the shortfall in highway and transit funding. "It is a short summary of the Commission’s recommendations and our comments. Our brief overview is not intended to replace a more thorough examination of the report which runs well over 100 pages. Those who wish to read the report in greater detail will be able to access it on the Commission’s website www.transportationfortomorrow.org. Our aim in presenting this short preview is twofold: (1) to provide a somewhat more in-depth coverage of the Commission’s report than will be found in the pages of the daily press and in the wire services reports; and (2) to provide our readers with a fair and balanced view of the Commissions’ recommendations — a view that reflects not only the "official" majority Commission position, but also the views of the three dissenting commissioners and our own independent judgment." READ MORE