Offering cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu

Archive from February through June 2009:


date June 27, 2009.

Another look at Councilmember Okino's "strict scrutiny" claims:

We had earlier made the point with the process chart to the left that "strict scrutiny" does not begin until the City applies to go into the Preliminary Engineering process, which we have recently in the last few weeks applied to do. Up to this point, "Project Management Oversight" or "strict scrutiny" has not applied to what we have done.

For the June 10 testimony of City Transportation Director, Wayne Yoshioka, which began at 3:59:20, click here for the video. Councilmember Okino began his rhetorical questioning of Yoshioka at 4:12:10 and focused on the "strict scrutiny" issue. Yoshioka maintains that the City's new financial plan (which no one else has seen) has been under the strict scrutiny of FTA and two outside FTA contractors. We tried to make the point that strict scrutiny does not begin until entry into Preliminary Engineering and that has only just begun. Unfortunately, the public was not allowed to know about the Director's misstatement since Council Chair Apo would not let us rebut the Yoshioka/Okino theatrics.

For a more precise textual version of FTA oversight, see http://www.fta.dot.gov/funding/oversight/grants_financing_104.html for the definition shown below:

"FTA defines oversight as a continuous review and evaluation of grantee and FTA processes to ensure compliance with statutory, administrative, and regulatory requirements. The Office of Engineering, through the Regional Offices, performs oversight of grantee project management that focuses on the management of major investments (New Starts, rail modernization, etc.) in transit projects. This activity begins early in project implementation, usually at the time of preliminary engineering. PMO contractors monitor the large caseload of projects, following guidelines established by FTA. They serve to supplement the FTA technical staff to evaluate grantee project management and technical capacity and capability to successfully implement these major transit projects. They also monitor the projects to determine whether they are progressing on time, within budget, and in accord with approved grantee plans and specifications. Other activities are also involved, such as reviews of whether a given design can in fact be constructed, change order reviews, and value engineering."

It should be noted that the term "strict scrutiny" is a term only found in requirements for sole source procurements in FTA's Full Funding Grant Agreement stage.


date June 20, 2009.

Mayor says that rail requires a full one percent tax hike:

On April 7, 2005, the Star-Bulletin reported:

"Mayor Mufi Hannemann said that a hike of one-half of 1 percentage point in the general excise tax to fund a $2.6 billion rail transit project is not enough.

"We want 1 percent," Hannemann told the Star-Bulletin yesterday.

"Hannemann's comments came the day after the Senate Ways and Means Committee amended House Bill 1309, which originally authorized the counties to hike the excise tax, currently at 4 percent, by up to 1 percent."

OUR OPINION: We want to remind everyone that it is no longer a $2.6 billion project; we are now up to $5.5 billion and that is before cost overruns.

We keep saying that the financial plan, as spelled out in the Draft EIS, does not work. It is about time that the Mayor came clean about it and told us how he intends to fund it. Otherwise we will get it half constructed and then the next round of tax hikes will come.

Of course, at that time the Mayor expects to be the Governor and it will be someone else's concern.




date June 18, 2009.

2nd International Symposium on Freeway and Tollway Operations:

This coming Monday through Wednesday, June 21-24, 2009, Hawaii will host the second of these international symposia. The first was held in Athens, Greece. Among those speaking at the conference are:

Alan Pisarski, who has authored the Commuting in America series, sponsored by the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council. The Commuting in America series are analyses of the decennial U.S. Census Journey-to-Work data. It appears about three years after each census.

Robert Poole, father of the HOT lanes and VEB lanes concepts, founder of the Reason Foundation, and now head of Transportation Studies. The New York Times says of him, "For 17 years, Mr. Poole has been the chief theorist for private solutions to gridlock. His ideas are now embraced by officials from Sacramento to Washington."

Patrick DeCorla Souza, FHWA Office of Innovative Program Delivery, who is head of congestion pricing programs for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

For full details of the conference click here.


A good reason to delay the start of rail construction:

At yesterday's OMPO Citizen's Advisory Council meeting, Tom Smyth, an ardent rail transit backer representing the Downtown Neighborhood Board, explained that he had been researching construction costs and found that bids were coming in 18 to 30 percent lower than last year.

We pointed out that this was a good time to delay the start of construction of the rail line if costs were getting lower. Smyth's findings totally contradicts Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka's assertions that we had to build NOW because of inflation concerns.


Djou/Bainum letter to U.S. Dept. of Transportation available:

A few days before he suddenly died, Councilmember Duke Bainum together with fellow Councilmember Charles Djou jointly sent the attached 11-page letter to the Undersecretary for Policy at U.S. Department of Transportation. It details all the problems with rail and calls for a proper study of the alternatives, particularly at-grade light rail.


New UC Berkeley study rates vehicle energy use per passenger km:

A new study from researchers at UC-Berkeley looks at the total energy and emissions from various transportation modes taking into account all the energy used including construction and maintenance and occupancy. It is another explanation of why we cannot just assume that trains are more energy efficient than cars or vans or buses. As we have consistently pointed out in these pages, a train that is highly directional — full into town in the morning and out of town in the evening — and is fairly empty outside of rush hours is not very efficient.

On the other hand, those systems such as the New York and London subways, which carry heavy traffic in both directions, and at all hours, are highly efficient. It is another case of the devil being in the details.

The following is from a review of the study by Probe International:

"Taking the train to work is better for the environment than driving an SUV—right? Well, that depends.

"For example, if an SUV—one of the worst energy performers—is carrying two passengers, it suddenly becomes just as (in)efficient as a bus carrying eight people. If the car is carrying 3 or 4 passengers, then it’s actually BETTER than a low-occupancy bus. Or, a commuter train about 1/3 full emits as much NO as a bus with 13 passengers or a sedan with one.

"These are some of the findings from a recent study by researchers at the University of California. As part of the study, the researchers analyzed occupancy rates and the amount of emissions based on all factors—including construction, manufacturing, operation and maintenance—to determine the environmental impact of transportation.

"Typically, when politicians and advocacy groups examine the environmental effects of a particular mode of transportation they consider only operational emissions—known more commonly as tailpipe emissions. But this cuts out a number of other factors that should be considered when looking at the environmental impact on the various methods of transportation.

"While the CO2 emissions per person from an SUV are far greater than from trains and buses, they are even higher when the construction and maintenance of the highway, the manufacturing of the car and the mining of materials used to build the car are also included. But these factors also alter the emission levels when applied to train systems and airplanes."


date June 15, 2009.

Los Angeles Times editorial lauds HOT lanes:

It is rare for a major daily newspaper to sing the praises of highways but this editorial does. Among other things it says what should be obvious:

"The toll lanes will provide people of all incomes with a choice they don't currently have. It's true that choosing to pay the toll will be easier for people of means, but it's senseless to argue that even low-income people are better off having no choice at all.

Read the Editorial


date June 14, 2009.

Video now available from the last Council Meeting:

The City Council spent a little more than an hour hearing testimony and discussing Bill 16 as it related to rail transit. As we discussed below in our July 11 post, the $1.1 billion for rail was approved with no proviso regarding first completing the environmental process.

The Bill 16 segment of the video begins at 3hrs: 26 mins : 16 secs. and ends at 4 hrs: 35 mins: 15 secs.

Public testimony, mostly in opposition, began almost from the beginning and lasted for 33 minutes.

The last testimony was that of City Transportation Director, Wayne Yoshioka, which began at 3:59:20. Councilmember Okino began his rhetorical questioning of Yoshioka at 4:12:10 and focused on the "strict scrutiny" issue. Yoshioka maintains that the City's new financial plan (which no one else has seen) has been under the strict scrutiny of FTA and two outside FTA contractors.

We tried to make the point that strict scrutiny does not begin until entry in Preliminary Engineering and that has only just begun. Unfortunately, the public was not allowed to know about the Director's misstatement.

Click here for the video.


ThinkTech Hawaii produces 25-minute video on rail:

This ThinkTech video produced by Jay Fidell reviews the positions of four major Hawaii organizations that are opposed to the City's elevated rail project.

Pearl Johnson of the League of Women Voters, Donna Wong of Hawaii's 1000 Friends, Bob Loy of the Outdoor Circle, and John Brizdle of HonoluluTraffic.com cover the major flaws in both the Project and the way the City is mishandling the environmental process that is supposed to protect the public from environmental disasters.


date June 11, 2009.

Council passes $1.1 billion budget for rail with no proviso:

Yesterday, the full City Council approved the $1.1 billion to construct the 6½-mile Kapolei to Waipahu rail line including borrowing $917 million in General Obligation Bonds for fiscal year 2010 to fund it. The City's latest financial plan shown in the Draft EIS did not call for any bond borrowings in 2010 and only $473 million in 2011.

The measure passed 5-3 (it would have been 5-4 had Duke Bainum been there) and there was no proviso that the Mayor first get a federal Record of Decision (ROD) that the City had completed the environmental process. Even had the proviso passed, it would still have not assured us of federal funding. We will only know that, in writing, when  we have a federal Full Funding Grant Agreement, which is years away.

Notable in the proceedings was the difference between how Barbara Marshall acted in Council versus her replacement Ikaika Anderson. He voted for every tax, fee and fare hike in the budget and for the rail funding and construction with almost no questioning of the Transportation Director.  

Marshall was noted for her incisive questioning of the Director. Given the fact that the City had produced no new financial plan, that what the Mayor wanted voted on did not match the existing financial plan, and there was no proviso for a ROD, it is almost certain that Marshall would have voted against the bill. That would have meant that it would have failed 4-5.

At the end of the public testimony, Transportation Director Yoshioka decided to testify last, which meant that no one would be able to rebut whatever he said. He said that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had performed "strict scrutiny" on the financial plan and hat they had used "strict scrutiny" over every aspect of the rail process to date.

The fact is that, as can be seen from the FTA's own chart to the left, Project Management Oversight only begins with the City's application to go into the Preliminary Engineering (PE) process. We are not in the PE process and that only applied to enter it about three weeks ago. When he was through we tried to rebut what he had said but Council Chair Apo would not allow us to do so and kept talking over us to ensure that the public watching Olelo was unaware of the true state of affairs.


date June 10, 2009.

Councilmember Duke Bainum dies suddenly:

We were working closely with Duke up to the time of his sudden death from an aneurysm. He will be sorely missed. This is an absolute tragedy for his wife and two young children and our condolences go out to them.


date June 9, 2009.

Councilmember Cachola tells Mayor the rail finances are getting out of hand:

In a letter sent four days ago to the Mayor with copies to Councilmembers and Neighborhood Boards, Romy Cachola expresses his concerns about "the dire state of our economy" and how it is affecting financing the rail line that keeps getting more expensive with every report the City issues.

Tomorrow the Council will likely vote to authorize the borrowing of $917 million in City bonds. As Cachola points out, that is going to cost taxpayers between $37 and $55 million annually just in interest costs.

Cachola is recommending that the City delay borrowing the bond funds and not authorize construction expenditures yet but still keep the planning and design going until such time as we have a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the federal government.       


Tomorrow is City Council final vote on first six miles of rail:

First Bill 17 authorizes the Mayor to borrow $917 million using City General Obligation Bonds.

Bill 16, the Capital Budget, comes in three versions and the relevant excerpts are shown below. The first one below authorizes the Mayor to go full steam ahead and build the first six miles.

The next version Bill 16, CD2, FD1, Version A, cuts out the bond borrowings, the construction moneys and some of the design moneys but leaves the land acquisition and planning moneys intact.

The next version Bill 16, CD2, FD1, Version B, leaves all the funding intact but includes a proviso requiring the Mayor to first receive a Record of Decision from the federal government that the City has completed the Environmental Impact Statement before proceeding beyond the planning and design stages.

Either one of the last two versions would be acceptable to us although Version A would be preferable.

For further details on tomorrow's Council Agenda and what we believe the Mayor is trying to accomplish see yesterday's post below.





date June 8, 2009.

U.S. Dept. of Transportation defines transportation subsidies by mode:

Somehow this study, Federal Subsidies to Passenger Transportation produced by the USDOT and the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics in 2004, has not surfaced before. But we are very grateful that it finally did as it is most important.

It is fascinating in that it finally defines for us the subsidies per 1,000 passenger-miles for each mode and we find that automobiles and vans make a net contribution (a minus subsidy) and every other mode is subsidized.

This is totally the opposite of what we normally hear from the anti-automobile crowd.

While this table is produced by the Heritage Foundation it uses the exact same data from Table 3 in the study for 2002. The full study is linked above.

The Heritage review, Federal Transportation Programs Shortchange Motorists is also available.



This Wednesday's Council Meeting spending $1.1 billion on rail:

Starting this Wednesday at 10 AM, the City Council meets on a variety topics, the most important of which for our purpose are the following in chronological order on the Council Agenda:

Bill 17, Authorizing the issuance of $917 million in bonds to build the 6-mile rail line from Kapolei to Waipahu.

Bill 15, authorizing expenditures in the Operating Budget.

Bill 16, authorizing among other matters in the Capital Budget, the construction of the 6 mile rail line.

Failing any other explanation, which has not been forthcoming from the pro-rail faction of the Council, we believe that the City is preparing for Plan B in the event that the Mayor is unable to get approval of the EIS and the subsequent Record of Decision.

Plan B would be to go ahead and build the first six-mile segment bypassing the federal process and using the State environmental process under Hawaii Revised Statutes 343. This Council is overwhelmingly likely to vote for this expenditure with no proviso that the Mayor first receive a Record of Decision.

The City no longer has a viable financial plan because their forecast for GE tax collections has been totally invalidated by the effects of the economic downturn. The net result is that we are going into this process with no idea of how we are going to finance the whole line, or pay back the bonds that will be authorized on Wednesday.

The Council lineup at the moment appears to be Councilmembers Bainum, Djou, Cachola, and Dela Cruz favoring the inclusion of a proviso. Councilmembers Apo, Okino, Garcia, Tam, and Anderson are opposed to its inclusion.

We urge you to contact your Councilmember by phone, fax or email and let them know what you think of this situation. You find all the information you need on the Councilmembers' homepage. DO IT NOW!


date June 6, 2009.

Yoshioka spins again in Advertiser letter yesterday:

In a letter to the Advertiser yesterday, City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka criticised a story by Reporter Sean Hao and said:

"The truth is that federal support for Honolulu's rail project is quite strong, and there have been no indications whatsoever that federal funding for the project is in jeopardy. In fact, the newly confirmed head of the agency, Peter Rogoff, has met with Mayor Hannemann several times, personally toured the project corridor, and voiced strong support for the project during his Senate confirmation hearing before Sen. Daniel Akaka on May 13."

First, there is nothing yet in writing anywhere to indicate that there are any rail funds to jeopardize. We are in the very early stages of the federal process and the feds will not tell us what the funding will be, if any, for at least three years.

As for Rogoff's comments during his confirmation hearings, get the transcript and audio on Senator Akaka's site. Read the words carefully.

AKAKA: "Can you offer some assurance that the FTA will devote the appropriate time and attention to the rail transit project in Honolulu?"

ROGOFF: I agree with you we are reaching a make-or-break point on the Honolulu project…in the 1990's and we went through the very unfortunate exercise of reallocating funds already appropriated to Honolulu to other cities. We must not let that happen again.

There is no strong support here at all. Akaka asks Rogoff if he will devote time and attention to the rail project. What is Rogoff going to say? No? Then Rogoff says that the project is "reaching a make-or-break point." We agree with that. Rogoff then says that we must not let "funds already appropriated" go to other cities. That's innocuous enough since there are no "funds already appropriated."

Yoshioka, Honolulu's own whirling Dervish, keeps spinning and spinning and spinning.


date June 4, 2009.

Video clip of Djou/Yoshioka clash on the proviso issue:

Next Wednesday, June 10, the full City Council will meet to vote on next year's budget. The most important expenditure in the budget is $1.1 billion, funded with City bond borrowings, to build the 6½-mile rail line from Kapolei to Waipahu.

The Budget Committee on May 18 considered a proviso requiring the City to complete the Federal Environmental Impact Statement process before beginning construction. It was voted down 3-2 with only Charles Djou and Duke Bainum voting for it.

The proviso that Bainum and Djou were defeated on was,

“No funds shall be encumbered, contracted or expended for Land Acquisition, Construction,Inspection, Equipment, and Relocation until the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issues either: 1) Record of Decision for the DEIS, and any Supplemental DEIS, if required; and /or 2) Letter of No Prejudice.”

The environmental process is considered complete when the feds issue a Record of Decision (ROD). On November 5, 2008 Mayor Hannemann said, “I have always said that we won’t begin construction without a Record of Decision.”

So why is the Mayor, and his minions in the Council, objecting to a budget proviso requiring that he not begin construction until he gets a ROD when that is what he has continually promised? See our six-minute video clip of the Djou/Yoshioka clash late in the evening of the May 18 Budget Meeting.

Note that all a ROD requirement does is ensure completion of the federal environmental process — it has nothing to do with funding.

And this begs another question: The financial plan in the Draft EIS does not work because of actual and projected shortfalls in GE Tax collections by the State Council on Revenues (see the table below). The feds cannot approve the present unworkable plan yet the Mayor is making no attempt to shore up the plan by increasing taxes. Why?

Why is he objecting to the proviso and why is he not remedying the financial plan?

The only conclusion we can come to is that he fears he will not get the federal Record of Decision in time for his personal political agenda and, in that case, is prepared to forgo the federal process and funding altogether and instead go with a local environmental impact statement and local money. However, If he builds the first segment outside the federal process he jeopardizes getting any federal funds.  

Below is a six-minute video clip of the Djou/Yoshioka clash late in the evening of the May 18 Budget Meeting. Note that when they discuss the proviso, or the first part of the proviso, they are referring to the one shown in quotes above.


date June 2, 2009.

Latest Council on Revenues Forecast for GE tax collections:

The Council on Revenues released their forecast of Statewide GE tax collections last week. We have taken the percentage changes year-to-year as a proxy for prospective changes in City GE Tax collections for future years through 2015. From 2016 through 2023 we used the city own forecast changes from the Draft EIS. Using these data we calculate that the GE tax collections will be $1.1 billion less than what the City is forecasting in its latest Draft EIS financial plan.


Calculations of City collections of the ½% GE tax increase

Fiscal year

Our calculation

City forecast

$ diff.


Mills. $'s

% change

Mills. $'s

% change

Mills. $'s













































































































Council on Revenues forecast made 5/29/09 for 2009-2015 and City Draft EIS forecast

percentage increases 2016-2023. Note that the COR forecast is statewide and is 

only an approximation of City tax collections.

See http://www.state.hi.us/tax/cor/2009gf05-28-with0601-Rpt2Gov.pdf


date May 29, 2009.

Erratum: The following entry was in error in saying that the City comments did not include the EPA's six-pages.

The EPA's complete comments on the Draft EIS not given out by the City:

The 1389 pages of comments on the Draft EIS that was supposedly complete somehow missed the detailed six-page attachment provided by the Environmental Protection Agency Here is one excerpt from the missing six pages.

date May 27, 2009.

We are all going to have fun with this:

We have just noticed that the Hawaii Department of Health now stores online all kinds of Environmental Impact Statements going back to the 1970s. Click here.

Below are the main transportation FEISs from the past which may be compared to the current Draft EIS available on our tab to the left, "NEPA process docs."  


FEIS 1982 Rail transit program

FEIS 1982 Rail transit program — Comments and Responses

FEIS 1992 Rail transit program
FEIS 1992 Rail transit program Appendix B
FEIS 1992 Rail transit program Appendix C. 


Here's an example of the kind of fun you can have: Below are the ridership projections for the rail line from the 1982, 1992 and 2008 EIS's. Note that the ridership forecasts decline over time despite increases in rail line length and despite larger populations for the year being projected.

The logical outcome for the ever ongoing Parsons Brinckerhoff rail studies is that when they do the 30th study in 2200 it will be for twice the current population, a 150 mile line length and 20,000 daily riders. And, somehow, they will justify it — they always do.


Length of

rail line

Year projected for

Projected daily


8 mile



15.9 miles







date May 26, 2009.

Advertiser headline: "State competes for rail funding":

The sub-hed is "Repairs to largest, oldest systems could trump Honolulu line." Today's Advertiser gives us their take on the FTA report that we covered on our May 11 post. Take note of the sidebar to the article titled, "The Process."


date May 22, 2009.

Budget Meeting video available:

The Olelo video of the Council Budget Committee meeting of Monday, April 18, is now available. For our purposes the most important issue was that of the first part of the proviso being suggested by Councilmember Duke Bainum to be added against the $1.1 billion expenditure for the 6-mile "Train to Nowhere." It reads as follows:

“No funds shall be encumbered, contracted or expended for Land Acquisition, Construction, Inspection, Equipment, and Relocation until the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issues either: 1) Record of Decision for the DEIS and any Supplemental DEIS, if required: and/or 2) Letter of No Prejudice.”

As you will hear from Wayne Yoshioka, Director of the Department of Transportation Services (DTS), he keeps reiterating that the proviso is unnecessary because the law forbids the City to expend the funds prior to the issuance of the Record of Decision. He is right if he is only talking about federal law. However, if the Mayor decides to take an end run around the federal  process then the ROD requirement is moot because there is no requirement for a ROD in the State Environmental Law process.

This is the real reason that Yoshioka did not want any proviso language in the Budget mentioning the Federal Transit Administration or a ROD, and why the Budget Committee voted the proviso down.

Click here for the video.

4:41:15 to 5:20:15 Testimony on Bill 15 the Operating Budget.

7:00:15 to 7:51:00 Testimony on Bill 16 the Capital Budget.

10:38:30 to 10:45:00 Discussion between Councilmember Djou and Director Yoshioka over the proviso.

The discussion ends with Djou's remark on being questioned by Yoshioka as to why he was pushing the issue, "Because we don't trust you, Mr. Director."


date May 21, 2009.

Budget Bill with no rail spending restrictions passed:

The following was our testimony to the Council during Monday's Budget Committee hearing on Bill 16 for the Capital Budget:

"It would appear that you are about to approve all the funding that is necessary for the Mayor to build the 6½-mile rail line from Kapolei to Waipahu — the “Train to Nowhere.”

“And you seem willing to do it with no requirement that you are first assured that you will get federal construction funding for the project.

“The only reason we can think of that you would do this is to allow the Mayor to make an end run around the federal environmental process and its funding and let him just build the Train to Nowhere solely with City taxpayer funds.

“Now, if this isn’t the case, why don’t you just tell us taxpayers the reason for it? “

There, of course, was no response to our question. The meeting ended with Bill 16 getting a favorable vote. It will now have a final hearing before the full Council on June 10.


date May 16, 2009.

Budget Bill with no rail spending restrictions hearing on Monday:

If you read the opinion piece below, "Will the Mayor forgo federal funds?", you will know that the current plan among the majority of City Councilmembers is to pass the Budget Bill on Monday. It will have $1.1 billion in construction funds to be used at the Mayor's sole discretion together with the authority to sell nearly $1 billion in bonds. None of this will require assurances that we will get federal funds.

If the Mayor thinks he is not going to get federal funds, he will go ahead and use the $1.1 billion to build the six-mile East Kapolei to Waipahu line — "The Train to Nowhere" — and leave taxpayers holding the bag.

Those opposed to this kind of reckless abandonment of restrictions on one person being able to spend this kind of money at their sole discretion will want to testify before the Council Budget Committee this coming Monday at 9:00 AM.

For full details, view the Budget Committee Agenda.


date May 14, 2009.

OPINION: "Will the Mayor forgo federal rail funds?":

Read Cliff Slater's opinion piece to understand why the City is about to pass the Budget Bill this coming Monday allowing the Mayor to spend the money without any prior assurances that there will be any federal funds available for it. .


date May 11, 2009.

U.S. DOT finds the top 7 rail lines need $50 billion in repairs:

More than one-third of the trains, equipment and facilities of the nation's seven largest rail transit agencies are near the end of their useful life or past that point, the government says. Many have components that are defective or may be critically damaged.

A report by the Federal Transit Administration estimates it will cost $50 billion to bring the rail systems in Chicago, Boston, New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington DC, into good repair and $5.9 billion a year thereafter to maintain them. 

Those seven systems carry 80 percent of the nation's urban rail transit passengers, or more than 3 billion passenger trips a year. They also include some of the oldest subways and commuter railroads. Some of their facilities date back more than a century.

"In a period of rising congestion and fuel prices, these services and the infrastructure and rolling stock that support them, are critical to the transportation needs and quality of life of the communities they serve," the report said.

"At the same time, this infrastructure is aging and the level of reinvestment appears insufficient to address a growing backlog of deferred investment needs," the report said.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of 11 senators who requested the report, said older transit systems have received a declining share of federal rail transit aid as newer systems have come online. In 1993, the seven largest rail transit systems received 90 percent of federal modernization funds, compared with 70 percent today.

OUR COMMENT: Notice that Dick Durbin is requesting the report; he, and the other ten senators, will use it to press for a greater share of transit funds for the seven largest system and especially Chicago. It means there will be even more heated competition for the small amount of funds allocated to rail transit and that means less chance of Honolulu getting all of the $1.4 billion in rail funding that it is counting on for its financial plan.


date May 9, 2009.

Star-Bulletin, "Hawaii's poor roads cost taxpayers twice":

Today's Star-Bulletin reports that, "Hawaii's poor roads cost taxpayers twice." This came from a brief review of a very important study on the nation's "rough" roads by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and TRIP, the national research organization on road conditions.

The highlights of the study are that among cities of  500,000 population or greater, Honolulu had the second highest percentage of rough roads. Further, for "Additional Vehicle Operating Costs Due to Rough Roads in 2007 in urban areas with populations of 500,000 and above, including cities and surrounding suburbs," Honolulu's roads caused its motorists $688 annually in additional costs per car, the highest in the nation.

We all know about our rough roads from experience, however, it is well to contemplate that a city that cannot fix potholes is hardly likely to be able to maintain a highly complex elevated third-rail transit system.

The Star-Bulletin quotes Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, as saying that, "roadways have been neglected for 10 years and that we are paying for it now. There wasn't a lot of money going into road maintenance. ... Once the road starts to deteriorate, it accelerates."

What a nonsensical excuse that is. The Mayor has been in office for 4½ years and in the process has doubled property taxes, among others, yet we still can't fix the potholes? Or coordinate the traffic lights? And we going to maintain a $5.5 billion rail system?


date May 7, 2009.

Cursory view of comments by organizations:

What is surprising is that while the City has constantly talked up the benefits to property owners of having elevated rail transit run by their businesses; it is quite clear that landowners are quite leery about the prospect. Some are quite hostile. They are less concerned about prospective increases in value than they are about decreases.

Of the approximately 40 organizations (including federal and state ones) listed below, there is little or no enthusiasm for elevated rail.

Considering all the hype we have had from the City about this wonderful vision, it is all quite surprising. Review the comments yourself under the "Draft EIS Comments" tab to the left.


List prepared of all comments by organizations:

We have prepared a list of the principal organizations making comments on the Draft EIS and it may be found under the "Draft EIS Comments" tab to the left.


date May 6, 2009.

City releases all of the Draft EIS comments:

The City has now released all 1,389 pages of Draft EIS comments and you may link and download.


Rail transit stations as "narrow football stadiums":

A few days ago we quoted Kamehameha Schools as likening the City's rail stations to "narrow football fields" and said that they were more like "narrow football stadiums." Yesterday one of our correspondents sent us a series of photos of the Dubai elevated rail line that is now under construction. Lo and behold the "narrow football stadium" turns out to be not as great an exaggeration as some had thought:



date May 5, 2009.

Kamehameha Schools appears to want no part of elevated rail:

The Draft EIS comments by Kamehameha Schools (formerly Bishop Estate) is a 20-page document that must be read carefully — between the lines, so to speak. After reading it, you will end up convinced that KS wants no part of elevated rail.

Amongst other matters, it asks for,

• A better and more complete economics impact analysis  in the EIS by an independent urban economist, noting that 30 percent of businesses along the Salt Lake City rail route closed because of disruptions during construction. And in Vancouver, 40-60 percent declines in business were experienced.

• A more detailed study of the impacts of parking in the neighborhoods surrounding each of the stations. • Disclosure of how the homeless use elevated rail in Miami, increasing crime and litter resulting in lower property values. • Disclosure of the economic losses of the “visual blight” that elevated rail causes.

• Provide 360 degree visuals for multiple cross sections of the rail line with particular emphasis on stations.

• Analysis of elevated rail’s impact on property values with the suggestion that they may decline rather than increase.

• Requires more information on acquiring and compensating for properties taken, including partial takings, and compensation for goodwill lost.

• Provide a study by independent economists to determine the beneficial and adverse impacts of building an elevated rail line.

• Provide a detailed study of why at-grade light rail would not be preferable.  


date May 4, 2009.

City's latest newsletter misleads about energy saving from rail use:

The City's latest rail transit newsletter (not yet up on their website) says that, "Electrically powered rail transit will reduce the amount of energy our island uses for transportation. Rail utilizes 25 percent less energy per passenger mile on average than cars and 40 percent less than trucks, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Transportation Data Book."

That is because the Data Book does not disaggregate energy usage by rail system but only shows a weighted average. Where the City attempts to mislead us is by including New York's highly energy efficient subway systems in a weighted average. Since New York is 61 percent of all rail use in the U.S., this totally distorts any understanding of what we would experience in Honolulu.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy has measured the energy use of rail by system and finds the following:

“Because of the inherent differences in the nature of services, routes available, and many additional factors, the energy intensity of transit rail systems can vary substantially among systems. The charts below show that for 2000, light rail systems varied from 1,600 Btu per passenger-mile to over 8,000 Btu per passenger-mile; energy intensity for heavy rail systems ranged from 2,200 to 6,200 Btu per passenger-mile.” See quote and tables

The average energy usage among modern rail lines is 4,400 Btu per passenger mile while cars, as actually used in practice with a typical 1.15 people per car, use 3400 Btu per passenger mile according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. For confirmation of car usage see the 2008 DOE Energy Data Book. Table 2.13.


date May 3, 2009.

Advertiser — transit tax coming up short:

While Sean Hao's story in Sunday's Advertiser shows that the City's tax collection's this year will be significantly short, it does not cover the outcome if the rail tax collections continue to fall short according to the Council on Revenues' latest projections. Through 2015 that shortfall is likely to amount to $238 million. And, if from that point on, we use the City's own projections of annual percentage increases in collections, they will be short $760 million by the time the tax sunsets in 2023. For details see the table below that we produced for our March 13 posting:


Calculations of City collections of the ½% GE tax increase in millions

Fiscal year

Our calculation

City forecast

$ diff.


Mills. $'s

% change

Mills. $'s

% change

Mills. $'s

2007 $48




2008 $169




2009 $160 -5.5% $188 16.8% -$28
2010 $161 1.0% $198 5.3% -$37
2011 $169 4.6% $207 4.5% -$38
2012 $174 3.2% $214 3.4% -$40
2013 $185 6.0% $228 6.5% -$43
2014 $196 6.2% $242 6.1% -$46
2015 $204 4.0% $253 4.5% -$49
2016 $214 4.7% $265 4.7% -$51
2017 $221 3.4% $274 3.4% -$53
2018 $230 4.0% $285 4.0% -$55
2019 $242 5.3% $300 5.3% -$58
2020 $249 3.0% $309 3.0% -$60
2021 $259 3.9% $321 3.9% -$62
2022 $272 5.0% $337 5.0% -$65
2023 $143 5.0% $261




$3,295   $4,056   -$761

Council on revenues forecast made 3/13/09 2009-2015 and City Draft EIS forecast percentage increases 2016-2023.


Miami Metrorail "woefully over-promised" — again:

At present the only fully grade-separated elevated rail transit line in the 50 states is the Miami Metrorail, which the Miami Herald dubbed Metrofail since it only achieved 15 percent of its projected ridership. In addition, it went 33 percent over its construction forecast and 42 percent over its operating costs (See US Department of Transportation's 1990 Pickrell Report).

You can read the following in yesterday's Engineering News Record:

"But the Friday ceremony also served as a reminder of how voters were woefully over-promised by county leaders earlier this decade. [The $526 million, 2.4-mile rail line -- running from Earlington Heights station to the Miami Intermodal Center next to the airport] project may well prove to be the only major Metrorail expansion produced from the tax.

"In 2002 Miami-Dade County officials said the half-cent tax would deliver 88.9 miles of new rail lines crisscrossing the county as part of the People's Transportation Plan. The county also promised new buses, improved traffic signalization and roadway improvements.

"Instead, nearly three-fourths of the $900 million collected for new projects has been spent on inflated salaries, bloated staff and maintenance of existing operations. There is scant evidence the county will be able to do much more than the 2.4-mile connector, which starts construction Monday."

OUR COMMENT: If Hawaii is to build an elevated rail line we might first review the history of the other one — the Miami Metrofail.


Houston's Katy Freeway Managed Lanes now open:

One of the unique features of the new I-10/Katy Freeway will be the Katy Tollway/Managed Lanes - the first multi-lane electronic tollway in the nation with full design standards that will operate within the right of way of an interstate highway providing multiple entrance and exit locations to drivers. Check the Katy Freeway Managed Lanes website.


UH Economics Dept.'s UHERO forecasts 80 percent fewer jobs than City:

On April 21, Associated Press reported that, "The University of Hawaii's Economic Research Organization estimates that far fewer jobs will be directly created by Honolulu's rail transit project than the city predicts."

"The city says an average of 10,100 jobs will be created for nine years, and that 4,200 of them will be directly involved in construction. But the research group contends that the actual number will be no more than 2,000."


Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate raises objections to rail:

The Honolulu Advertiser reports today that, "Kamehameha Schools is asking the city to move a planned station from its property at the intersection of Halekauwila and South streets to Mother Waldron Park, which is about 300 yards in the diamondhead direction ... Kamehameha, in documents recently filed with the state, has expressed concerns about the size of the elevated train stations, which will be 50 feet wide by up to 300 feet long. The 21 planned stations also will be three stories high or higher."  

The Advertiser also quotes them as saying, "Given that the planned stations are elevated concrete structures approximating the size of narrow football fields, while they provide a service, they also provide unique and substantial challenges," Kamehameha Schools wrote in a March addendum to a master plan for the Kaka'ako area.

OUR COMMENT: "Narrow football fields" has a nice ring to it, but "narrow football stadiums" might better convey the actual sense of the structures' imposing size.


date April 20, 2009.

Rail transit operating cost projections understated:

We took another look at rail's operating cost projections in the Draft EIS and compared them to the only other modern elevated rail lines in the U.S. — the Miami Metrorail and the San Juan Tren Urbano. The City is forecasting one half of the per passenger cost of these two.  READ MORE


date April 19, 2009.

Outdoor Circle reemphasizes its opposition to the rail plan:

In today's Star Bulletin, Betsy Connors, President of the Outdoor Circle, has written an op/ed that again reaffirms its opposition to the City's rail plan and how the Draft Environmental Impact Statement misleads the public about the environmental impacts of elevated rail in town. They conclude:

"In the end we are left with the conclusion that in its nearly 100-year history, The Outdoor Circle knows of no other proposal that holds the potential to degrade the landscape of Oahu and change the character of our communities as greatly as the Honolulu transit project. We believe it will be the most visually disruptive project in the history of Hawaii."   READ MORE


date April 18, 2009.

Architects produce video opposing elevated rail:

The Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects have recently produced a ten-minute video showing the elevated Miami Metrorail and the elevated sections of San Francisco Bay Area BART system. Also shown are some of the  recent at-grade light rail systems with emphasis on the new Phoenix system. The main purpose of the video is to show the financial and environmental advantages of at-grade light rail compared to the City's elevated heavy rail system.

METRO magazine notes EPA concerns:

METRO, a major magazine serving the nation's urban transit industry yesterday took note of the EPA's concerns with the Honolulu rail project, which we had first revealed for our April 1, post, as follows:

"EPA questions Honolulu rail route"

"HONOLULU — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urged officials to change the route of a planned commuter train to avoid displacing a small neighborhood and asked why alternatives to an elevated rail line were not reviewed in the project’s environmental impact study. For the full story, click here."


date April 15, 2009.

Advertiser: EPA wants rail route change:

Today's Advertiser reviews the EPA's comments that we posted below on April 1. The big issues are the City's failure to study street-level light rail, or BRT on an exclusive right-of-way, and EPA's wish to see the Banana Patch neighborhood left in place. These could lead to an FTA requirement for a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was required in each of the earlier transit EIS processes. This could lead to a significant delay in getting to the Final EIS stage.


date April 14, 2009.

Tax Foundation outlines likelihood of GE tax increase:

The Tax Foundation's weekly analysis of tax matters makes the following points:

"If taxpayers think they have just had it up to here in taxes as they prepare their 2008 federal and state income tax returns, the legislature has another surprise for them.

"Just like the state, the counties are hard pressed for money and are reluctant to raise property taxes in the midst of the current recession. On the other hand, the transient accommodations tax revenues that the counties currently enjoy are a very tempting target for the state to take back in its efforts to fill the state budget gap. To this latter proposal, the counties are crying foul! How dare the state take back the TAT revenues that have been earmarked for county use, especially, the counties argue, since that money is supposed to be used to provide services to visitors such as maintenance of the beaches and parks and providing public safety for the visitor industry.

"As a result, the legislature is floating a proposal that would authorize the counties to impose a county retail sales tax. Unlike the state’s general excise tax which is levied on both goods and services and at all levels of transactions, the retail sales tax would be imposed only on tangible personal property or goods, and then only when they are purchased for final consumption. Although no rate is currently specified in the proposal under consideration, discussions have focused on a rate up to one percent." READ MORE 


date April 13, 2009.

Outdoor Circle: "Visual impacts must be acknowledged":

A letter of concern from the President of the Outdoor Circle in yesterday's Advertiser.

"From the day the city announced its plan for the Honolulu transit system The Outdoor Circle has been pressured by all sides to take a position. But to avoid a knee-jerk reaction, we have dutifully participated in the process in just about every way possible.

"In the end we have concluded that in its nearly 100-year history, we have seen no other proposal that holds the potential to degrade the landscape and change the character of our communities as greatly as this project. While its ability to ease O'ahu traffic is debatable, its negative impact on the visual environment cannot be denied.

"The Outdoor Circle believes the city has substantially downplayed the visual impacts the project will have on our communities and our quality of life. Nor does its draft environmental impact statement offer acceptable mitigation for the harm this project will inflict.

"We believe the final environmental impact statement must acknowledge the mountain of negative impacts this project will create and present effective mitigation plans. If this is not done the city should abandon the proposed above-ground system and replace it with an alternative that will not be as destructive and divisive as the current proposal."

Betsy Connors, President, The Outdoor Circle

OUR COMMENT:  As we have said from the beginning of this project at the end of 2004, one of the biggest problems with rail transit is the visual and noise blight that would be the result of building an elevated rail line along the waterfront and through town. Virtually all of the environmentally concerned organizations in Hawaii have take positions in opposition to an elevated line. See Part II of our Draft EIS comments.


date April 6, 2009.

Advertiser — "Honolulu hiring for rail transit division":

The sub-hed for today's Advertiser story is, "Proposed jobs will be some of highest-paying posts at Honolulu Hale."

The story goes on to say, "The proposed new rail jobs come with an average salary of nearly $85,000 plus benefits. The 44 jobs include one full-time executive assistant position that pays $148,764 a year and five additional executive assistant positions that have an average annual salary of $129,636, according to Mayor Mufi Hannemann's budget request."

"The rail jobs will be some of the highest-paying posts at Honolulu Hale, where the mayor earns $136,428 a year, City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle makes $129,312 a year and city department heads make $118,344 year."

OUR COMMENT: These are the administrative jobs that often are not included in operating costs. The question to ask here is whether all these jobs are included in the current City estimates of operating losses for TheTrain — or is it going to be another add-on like the Transit Police, which every rail line has but which does not seem to be discussed for this one.


Historical note: "Mayor ends rail transit":

"Mayor Anderson said that predictions indicating that the rail system would be heavily used might have been in error."

Read the full story in the New York Times.


date April 1, 2009.

The EPA comments on the Draft EIS:

We have obtained the Environmental Protection Agency’s eight pages of comments to the FTA on the City’s rail transit Draft EIS. The EPA rated the Draft EIS as EC-2, Environmental Concerns, Insufficient Information. EPA is concerned about the lack of information on many aspects of the proposed rail line, but we were particularly struck by this one,

    “While we believe that most of the alternatives eliminated prior to the DEIS are documented sufficiently, we have remaining questions about why light rail or bus rapid transit in an exclusive right-of-way were not considered as reasonable alternatives in the DEIS … Include additional information in the FEIS explaining why light rail or bus rapid transit in an exclusive right-of-way were not considered to be reasonable alternatives and were therefore not reviewed in the DEIS. If these technologies may have resulted in fewer environmental impacts, further justification is warranted to substantiate why those less damaging alternatives were not carried through for consideration.”

date March 30, 2009.

Advertiser: Rail stations may be short on parking:

Today's Advertiser carries a story by Sean Hao pointing out that there would be a likely shortage of parking for those wanting to park-and-ride on the train from the Leeward side. There will be essentially no parking available for those commuting in the opposite direction from town.

The parking for Leeward commuters is virtually all at the far end; there are only the 600 stalls at Aloha Stadium for everyone between Pearl City and Downtown.


date March 29, 2009.

Why we support Steve Holmes for the Council:

The new Windward Councilmember, to be elected shortly, will likely be the 5th and deciding City Council vote on the rail issue. We support Steve Holmes for this Council seat and here’s why:


We believe there are only three candidates with the name recognition and support to be viable. They are Steve Holmes, John Henry Felix, and Ikaika Anderson.


Felix and Anderson have made it clear that they will not oppose the Mayor’s rail plan.


Holmes, on the other hand, clarified his position by saying that, “I believe that Mufi's rail project must be stopped. Presently his own personal political agenda is driving the rush to adopt a system we cannot afford. My vote on the Council could be critical to how this turns out."


In the early 1990s, then Councilmember Steve Holmes was one of the first two councilmembers to oppose Fasi’s rail plan and those of who worked with him never had any concerns that he might change his opposition to it.


He will not take money from special interest groups, lobbyists, developers, consultants,and others who do business with the city. He accepts donations only from private individuals and then limits them to $250 per four year election cycle.


We can depend on Steve to help stop the current $5.5 billion elevated rail transit plan, which will need, at the very least, $4 billion of local taxpayer money to build. In addition, local taxpayers will have to subsidize $60 - $100 million annually for rail’s operating losses through their property taxes.


We must all bear in mind that not one of Hawaii’s environmentally concerned organizations has given elevated rail transit their support.


The Outdoor Circle says, “Its negative impact on the visual environment of this island cannot be denied and is virtually immeasurable.”


Hawaii’s 1000 Friends says, “Elevated fixed rail routes will negatively impact the established landscape of Honolulu and significant view planes makai to mauka …The rail line will be ugly and block views with concrete rail beds 30-feet wide supported by pillars that are 35-40 feet high and six feet in diameter spaced at 150 feet intervals.”


The Hawaii Institute of Architects said, “Elevated rail stations and structures along the waterfront will make a poor situation worse by introducing an additional physical and visual barrier … We are concerned that the areas below elevated rail structures and stations will become blighted.”


For other organization’s comments click on http://www.honolulutraffic.com/EISComments.htm


A HOT lanes plug from the Clinton DLC:

A reminder that Bill Clinton's centrist Democratic Leadership Council has an article endorsing HOT lanes on its website. The following two paragraphs will give a flavor of it.

"That brings us to the second argument often heard against HOT lanes: they represent a surrender by public authorities to the stubborn determination of Americans to commute alone in their cars. According to this line of reasoning, HOV lanes should be limited to their original purposes until commuters strangling in traffic and exhaust fumes give in and begin shuffling off to carpools and bus lines for relief -- or give up those suburban backyard barbecues for a close-in postage-stamp yard or a condo."

"It should be pretty obvious that this argument is far more anti-democratic than even the worst parody of HOT lanes as "Lexus lanes," especially at a time when so many families of moderate means are realizing the dream of home ownership by moving to the more affordable suburbs."

One of these days our legislators will get with the program. But first they have to understand that HOT lanes are growing rapidly and represent the future with people are willing to pay most of the cost whereas fixed rail is something whose market share peaked in 1917 and whose users are  not willing to pay more than 10 percent of its total cost.


date March 27, 2009.

Reminder: The City admits that traffic with rail will be worse than it is today:

At the two-hour debate on November 3, 2008, 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 you 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 than it is today. Here is a four minute clip of that part of the podcast for your listening pleasure.


Putting the Advertiser's March 24 headline in perspective:

We commented below on March 24 that the Advertiser head line was grossly misleading. And you have all heard the City's similar claim that, “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." None of which was true.

Los Angeles rail is not “up over 15%,” it is up 4% to 7% depending on what you compare it with but bus use is down and so public transportation use as a whole is down. Charlotte was not “up 34%”; it had not been open for a year when the city was making that claim so it could not be up over anything. Sacramento was not up “43% in just one year” it was up 14.8%.

To put all this in proper perspective we went back to the rail ridership statistics from the American Public Transportation Association. Here are the facts: For the year 2008 total U.S. rail ridership was up 4.0 percent over 2007. However, this was primarily due to the high cost of gasoline. Once gas declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, we find that the increase over 2007 had declined to 0.5 percent — half of one percent.


date March 25, 2009.

A guide to Honolulutraffic.com’s comments on the Draft EIS

Our comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for rail transit was sent to Federal Transit Administration and the City and ran to 67 pages in seven parts. This guide briefly summarizes each of the seven parts and then links to each one. The whole comments are at www.honolulutraffic.com/EIS comments.htm


date March 24, 2009.

Another Advertiser mismatch between headline and copy:

The headline in today's Advertiser says, "Rail ridership in U.S. a 'good sign' for Hawaii: New train systems beating forecast for first-year estimates

However, the copy by reporter Sean Hao tells a different story. The recently opened Charlotte, Phoenix and Salt Lake City lines have beaten their projections "partly because of last year's spike in fuel prices," as Hao writes. He adds, "The ability of new train systems to beat ridership forecasts runs counter to historical trends. Nationally, ridership on urban train systems tends to fall short of expectations, according to an April 2008 report by the Federal Transit Administration. That study found that 19 federally subsidized train projects completed between 2003 and 2007 are expected to carry, on average, 74.5 percent of their originally forecast ridership. Two of the projects studied exceeded initial ridership forecasts, six were between 60 percent and 80 percent of forecasts, and 10 had ridership levels well below forecasts."

"One of the biggest ridership disappointments occurred on the 11-mile Tren Urbano, or urban train, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That system, which opened in late 2004, is expected to carry just 23.6 percent of its originally forecast ridership. That's 86,796 fewer average weekday boardings than expected." See federal analysis.

To put it in perspective: Charlotte's ridership is currently 5 million boardings annually compared to Honolulu's forecast of 30 million — and Charlotte's population is 65 percent larger than ours. Note also that Charlotte's light rail is only 19 percent of its total public transportation ridership.

While we realize the Advertiser has a manpower shortage, it would improve their credibility if the headlines were to cease being written by the editorial department.  


Rail tax collections keep slipping:

Rail tax collections are running about 15 percent less than the City is projecting, according to the Advertiser. That is even lower than what we show them collecting (see table below at our March 13 posting).

At this rate, the city's total collections during the 15-year life of the tax will be an even greater shortfall than the $761 million we calculated.


date March 21, 2009.

Hawaii Supreme Court ruling on SuperFerry affects rail:

Both Senator Sam Slom and Councilmember Charles Djou have gone on the record writing that the ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court on Thursday affects Act 247 (HB 1309). Slom wrote, "It could mean that major measures such as HB1309 (2005) that set in motion O’ahu’s GET tax surcharge and rail transit is likewise special, land-related and therefore unconstitutional." Djou wrote, "The Hawaii Supreme Court’s SuperFerry ruling, that laws which apply to only one entity are unconstitutional, may now void numerous state laws and bills that apply to only the City and County of Honolulu, including the ... Rail system general excise tax increase.  HRS § 46-16.8(3)(c)(1)." See Hawaii Reporter Story.


date March 19, 2009.

Our videos are now back up on line:

After three months of missing most of our videos because of the discontinuance of the facility that used to store them, we now have most of them back up on line.

All the "before" and "after" videos that simulate what would happen to traffic congestion after the building of Low Clearance Underpasses may be found on the "Underpass videos" tab in addition to also being accessed via our "Video" tab. In addition, we now have videos of computer simulations performed by Dr. Prevedouros and his students of the projected town-bound traffic at the Waiakamilo Road exit for the Managed Lanes and also another video simulation of town-bound traffic at the final automobile and vanpool exit by Hilo Hatties together with TheBus flyover to the Hotel Street Transit Mall.

Also on the "Video" page is a link to some 80 videos on YouTube.com, mostly of people testifying before the City Council and its committees.

We have interviews with Dr. Martin Stone, PhD, AICP, the Director of Planning for the Tampa Reversible Express Lanes by Malia Zimmerman, a presentation by Dr. Prevedouros before the OMPO Citizen Advisory Committee on how to reduce traffic congestion, and so on. Start with the "Video" tab to the left and also the "HOT lanes" tab.


date March 16, 2009.

Opposition to elevated rail is uniting all of us:

There are many reasons to be opposed to the City's current plan for rail transit but the deleterious effects of elevated rail appears to be taking center stage because it is the common thread of criticism for all those opposed. For example, the Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects have posted their opposition statement on their website. Among many other comments, which should be read in full, they say:

"Our greatest concerns with the City’s current plan are the elevated rail along Nimitz Highway through the Downtown core and historic Chinatown that will isolate the city from Honolulu’s extraordinary waterfront, as well as elevated spurs to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Waikiki ... By degrading our island’s visual environment with an overhead system through our Downtown and historic core, we would significantly decrease Honolulu’s visual appeal as a place to live. In addition, as a resort destination, an elevated rail system through the Downtown corridor and into Waikiki could negatively impact our visitor appeal for the next century."


date March 13, 2009. /

Honolulutraffic.com now all of a twitter:

We have just signed up Honolulutraffic.com with www.twitter.com as a way of letting people know when we have posted something new together with a very brief description of what it is about. For example, today’s post has a most interesting quote from Obama’s new Transportation Secretary on how he sees the future of transportation funding — it’s all private. YOU need to join www.twitter.com and then click on “Find people” and then in answer to the question “Who are you looking for?” you type in TRAFFICOST (all in caps), which is our username. We know that most of you log on to www.honolulutraffic.com on an hourly basis anxiously awaiting the latest word on rail. Signing up with Twitter will save you endless amounts of time logging on.


Council on Revenues latest forecast shows rail $761 million short:

Yesterday the Hawaii State Council on Revenues released their March forecast of tax revenues for the coming years through 2015. The forecast increase for the General Excise tax is shown below under the "Our calculation" column through 2015. For 2016 through 2023 we use the City's own forecast of percentage increases. Note that 2007 and 2023 are half years. This calculation shows that the City will collect $761 million less than they are forecasting.

Today's Star-Bulletin reports that House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa both said the council's prediction was too optimistic. In separate interviews the two said Hawaii's economy is likely to continue to decline. "I am looking at calendar year 2010 to be a very dismal picture. I anticipate we will hit rock bottom in the fourth quarter of this year. We are on a spiral downward," Say said.

If Hanabusa and Say are correct then the shortfall will be far greater than the $761 million that this calculation shows.


Calculations of City collections of the ½% GE tax increase in millions

Fiscal year

Our calculation

City forecast

$ diff.


Mills. $'s

% change

Mills. $'s

% change

Mills. $'s

2007 $48




2008 $169




2009 $160 -5.5% $188 16.8% -$28
2010 $161 1.0% $198 5.3% -$37
2011 $169 4.6% $207 4.5% -$38
2012 $174 3.2% $214 3.4% -$40
2013 $185 6.0% $228 6.5% -$43
2014 $196 6.2% $242 6.1% -$46
2015 $204 4.0% $253 4.5% -$49
2016 $214 4.7% $265 4.7% -$51
2017 $221 3.4% $274 3.4% -$53
2018 $230 4.0% $285 4.0% -$55
2019 $242 5.3% $300 5.3% -$58
2020 $249 3.0% $309 3.0% -$60
2021 $259 3.9% $321 3.9% -$62
2022 $272 5.0% $337 5.0% -$65
2023 $143 5.0% $261




$3,295   $4,056   -$761

Council on revenues forecast made 3/13/09 2009-2015 and City Draft EIS forecast percentage increases 2016-2023.


date March 12, 2009.

And now a word from Obama's new Transportation Secretary:

We thank Bob Poole of Reason Foundation for this quotation from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in the Wall Street Journal, March 4, 2009.

“With the economy the way it is right now, trying to propose a 10 cent a gallon increase in the gasoline tax is not going to fly anywhere in America, including Washington, DC. . . . There are a lot of ideas out there. We need to be open-minded and think outside the box on this. We need to take everybody’s ideas, whether it’s tolling a new road, tolling a new bridge, or public-private partnerships. That’s the kind of out-of-the-box stuff we need to be thinking about.”

"Kamehameha Schools urges that Honolulu rail be at ground level":

This was the headline of a significant rail story in last Sunday's Advertiser, and the sub-heading was, "Calls proposed elevated rail system a 'visual blight' that will increase noise, crime." READ MORE

There is now a virtually cacophony of environmental groups decrying the idea of elevated rail running along the waterfront and through the center of town. Check our tab at the upper left, Draft EIS Comments, to read more comments from Hawaii's environmental organizations.

We have been decrying this aspect of rail since the late 1980s when elevated rail was proposed by the then Fasi Administration and it was a major part of our comments in objection to the Draft EIS that we filed a month ago. See comments, Part II — Insufficient consideration of elevated rail impacts.

date February 21, 2009.

Council seeks to change rail  route from Halekauwila to Queen:

Bill 8 comes before the City Council for First Reading on Wednesday, February 25. It seeks to change the route so that rail leaves Nimitz at Queen Street and then runs along Queen Street to Kamakee Street where it rejoins the original planned route that is in the Draft EIS.  READ MORE .


date February 14, 2009.

Now they tell us — supports could be 10 feet in diameter:

Buried in the recently issued City Request for Proposal for Phase I — East Kapolei to Pearl Highlands — the "Train to Nowhere" is this gem:

"It is anticipated that the majority of foundations for the guideway would be single-drilled shafts ranging in diameter from 6 to 10 feet. Various types of bents would be used along the alignment, including concentric bent, C bent, and straddle bent, depending on geometric conditions."

All along the City has been talking about support piers being "up to 6 feet" and now we are told it is "up to 10 feet." Measure out a ten foot diameter support and you will find it shocking; we do not believe there is such a support size anywhere on the island.

We have tried to find out what is a "C bent" or a "concentric bent" but had no luck. However, we do know about straddle bents and for that you should see our Draft EIS comments, Part II — Insufficient consideration of elevated rail impacts  page 7.


We have added the following comments to our 'Draft EIS comments tab':

Historic Hawaii Foundation

Outdoor Circle

Geoffrey Paterson, AIA Emeritus

Michelle Matson

Shirley Hasenyager

Suzanne Teller

University of Hawaii Environmental Center


date February 8, 2009.

We have added the following comments to our 'Draft EIS comments tab':

We are adding comments from members and non-members alike in the order received:

Daisy Murai, Nancy Nagamine #1 & #2, Rich Ubersax #1 & #2, Ben Ramelb #1 & #2 & #3, Dennis Callan, and Jane Au.


date February 6, 2009. .

Honolulutraffic's comments have been submitted today by email:

In addition to our cover/summary letter, our comments on the Draft EIS are attached in seven parts:


Part I         All reasonable alternatives were not studied.

Part II        Insufficient consideration of elevated rail impacts.

Part III       The Locally Preferred Alternative must be studied in the EIS.

Part IV      First Project, Phase I, is an illegal segmentation.

Part V       Unjustifiable forecasts.

Part VI      Strategic misrepresentation in the Draft EIS.

Part VII     Strategic misrepresentation outside of the Draft EIS.


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