Offering cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu

July 30, 2008.

The most important result of the Advertiser poll:

The third question on the poll was, “… tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree [with this statement]… We need a light rail system in order to reduce traffic congestion and commute times along H-1.”

For answers: 47 percent said “Strongly Agree” and 26 percent said “Somewhat Agree.” In other words, 73 percent said they agreed to a varying extent with the statement.

This may be the greatest disconnect between belief and reality since the 1841 publication of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.


Another great HOT lanes video:

The Minneapolis MnPASS Express Lanes (aka HOT lanes) opened three years ago and is highly successful as this video shows. Features of the Express Lanes are:

  • Carpoolers and bus users have free access and priority use.
  • Speeds at or near the posted limits are maintained by "dynamic" pricing that varies with demand and use of the lanes.
  • Drivers of single occupant vehicles choose to use these lanes on an as-needed basis by paying a fee.
  • Collection of the fees is automated, i.e. no toll booths.
  • Ensures continued priority in the corridor and enhanced services for transit and carpoolers
  • Provides a fast and reliable option for MnPASS users that is congestion free
  • Improves operating efficiency in the I-394 corridor
  • Effectively manages the Express Lanes using the latest technology



Pisarski on commuting, "Cars and Stripes forever":

Alan Pisarski is one of the most highly regarded transportation authorities in the nation. Among other things, he writes the decennial series, Commuting in America, for the Transportation Research Board, based on U.S. Census Data. He wrote Cars and Stripes Forever for the current Forbes Magazine which came out today. Here's the first couple of paragraphs:

"As the cost of filling a gas tank creeps toward the three-digit mark, some foresee Armageddon for America's auto-based lifestyle. Pundits have predicted that we'll all move back to the city and ride bicycles or take mass transit.

Transportation, and particularly commuting to work, has always been about the trade-off between the value of our time and the cost of transportation. In the '50s, the cost of transportation was the dominant consideration for ordinary Americans. Cars and gas were expensive, and incomes were lower than they are now. In fact, while American lifestyles are sure to undergo a shift, it will not be away from the automobile."


Stop Rail Now's Michael Uechi on public radio

Dr. Michael Uechi, MD, created this audio editorial, Follow the Money, for Hawaii Public Radio and it aired last week. This is the 2˝ minute podcast version.


July 27, 2008.

Strange polls: HOT lanes preferred to rail:

If we compare the poll taken for OMPO by Ward Research two years ago with their poll taken recently for the Advertiser one must conclude that HOT lanes are preferred over rail transit. It is unfortunate that such a question comparing the two modes was not asked during the Advertiser poll.

What makes it even more confusing is that an OmniTrak Group poll taken only last year for the Hawaii Business Roundtable and Pacific Resource Partnership found that our residents believe that we are on the wrong track in dealing with traffic problems. The result was an overwhelming margin of 74-18 percent. (see our Review Polls tab). It is all rather confusing.


Advertiser poll shows support for rail transit:

This is a rather disturbing, even strange, poll. For example, 63 percent of residents polled said they agreed with the statement, "We need a light rail system in order to reduce traffic congestion and commute times along H-1." This despite the city projecting that traffic congestion with rail will be far worse than it is today. It means that 73 percent of Oahu residents appear to be ignorant of this basic fact.

We do not know whether the poll respondents understood how much rail transit will cost because they were not told or asked about that. The Advertiser said that cost was used in this question under, "DAY 1 TODAY — Do O'ahu residents support the city's plan to build a $3.7 billion commuter rail?" However, the Advertiser is in error since the question respondents were actually asked in the poll did not mention costs at all.

Most people oppose rail once they understand that it will not relieve traffic congestion and will cost many billions of dollars. If Oahu residents do not understand these most basic matters, then what is the poll worth?

Had the question been asked of people who understood the two basics, costs and effects on traffic congestion, the results would have been far different.

The other question that should be asked is what is the value of the Advertiser’s coverage of the transit issue if their readers can be so wrong on such a basic issue as traffic congestion?

It is also interesting to compare the Advertiser poll with one also conducted by Ward Research for the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2006 (see our Review Polls tab). 

Residents were asked, “Would you support construction of an elevated high-occupancy highway for carpools, vanpools, and buses from ‘Ewa to downtown along parts of Kamehameha Highway and H-1?” Overall 69% for v. 25% opposed. Among Ewa/Leeward residents, 78% for.

They were then asked, “If such a project were constructed, would you support making it a high-occupancy toll facility, called a HOT facility?  This facility would allow solo drivers to use it if they pay a toll and if the lanes are not fully utilized by high-occupancy vehicles.” Overall 67% for v. 28% opposed. Among Ewa/Leeward residents, 73% for.


Star-Bulletin poll also shows support for rail

While this poll conducted by SMS Research shows support for rail, we find this poll tainted and therefore not as credible as the Advertiser’s one. SMS Research’s Hersh Singer has testified to the City Council in strong support for rail and SMS does a significant amount of business with the city.

For example, one question asked in the SB poll is one to which we know the answer, “How do you commute to work, school or other locations?” This number is about 8 percent. Their poll result showed 15 percent, nearly twice as much. If this answer is off by nearly double one must question the other responses.


Other views on polling:

Stop Rail Now's Dan Douglass had a good take on polling in Hawaii Reporter yesterday and also found the following video on polling. It demonstrates the dramatically different responses are obtained by changing the way questions are asked.



July 26, 2008.

Stop Rail Now having FINAL Signature Rally on August 3rd:

Please go to www.stoprailnow.com and read about the Rally and the signatures still needed.


The Layman's Guide to understanding the petition's legal issues:

The section of the City Charter, which both the attorneys for the City Clerk and Stop Rail Now have commented on, is poorly drafted. However, it is merely complicated; it is not ambiguous. This very short Layman's Guide, which has been approved by SRN attorneys is useful to help everyone understand why Stop Rail Now is in the right.

Please pass it along to your friends, especially any attorney friends, since the newspapers have not had any attorneys review the charter language and are more relying on the City Clerk's pronouncements, which is to say, the Mayor's pronouncements.


July 21, 2008.

Panos opens HQ and says he will kill rail first:

Dr. Panos Prevedouros opened his HQ (www.panosforprogress.com) yesterday to wide media coverage including his entire speech on KHON. Honolulutraffic.com supports all the candidates who openly support our efforts to get rid of rail and offer cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu. In this speech Dr. Prevedouros says that his first action as Mayor will be to end the rail transit effort.


Stop Rail Now press conference today on petition:

At 2:00 PM this afternoon on the steps of City Hall, Stop Rail Now's attorney, Earl Partington, noted for his civil rights defenses, will discuss how the City's position on the validity of the petition is totally wrong — and why. The petition and all the signatures will be filed with the city council on August 4th as previously announced.

All supporters of SRN and Honolulutraffic.com are encouraged to show their support at this event.


All TV channels covered our "follow the money" story:

On Tuesday Stop Rail Now opened its books to the media and the TV channels covered it. The basic story was that SRN had collected and spent $60,000. The money was all from local folks with no Mainland money at all. No oil money, no chemical money, and no Texas beauty queens bringing in suitcases full of cash as the Mayor alleges.

The real story is where the opposition gets their money. For example, the Mayor's campaign contributions contain a half million dollars from non-bid contractors, another half million from those involved in land development and housing construction, and another half million from the Mainland. And the greatest irony is that the Mayor took $14,000 from Chevron, one of the oil companies.


July 18, 2008.

The Nielsen Company shows minuscule increase in transit use:

In a July 17 News Release, the Nielsen Company surveyed the changing consumer habits wrought by $4 gas. Many are driving less, shopping more online, and carpooling more. But very few are switching to using public transportation. This four page survey is worth reading to get more details of changing consumer behavior.


July 18, 2008.

Our newspapers not doing their homework:

Today's news story in the Advertiser and the editorial in the Star-Bulletin clearly show that they have not read Stop Rail Now's letter to the City Clerk that was delivered on Wednesday evening and circulated to the media. All they have read and heard is the city's spin on the issue and taken it as gospel.

Those who have made the effort to read the latest letter and the appropriate section of the City Charter (see below) all come to the conclusion that the city is grasping at straws to keep Stop Rail Now off the November ballot.


July 17, 2008.

Mayor's effort to squelch petition effort is not legal:

The Mayor's effort, through the Corporation Counsel and then the City Clerk, to keep Stop Rail Now off the ballot is not on sound legal grounds. The relevant passage which both parties are arguing over is the following, which is the City Charter, Section 404.3 (3):

    "For Initiative Special Elections. A special election for an ordinance by initiative power shall be called within ninety days of filing of the petition if signed by duly registered voters equal in number to at least fifteen percent of the votes cast for mayor in the last regular mayoral election, and if such petition specifies that a special election be called; provided that if the clerk certifies less than fifteen percent but at least ten percent, the proposed ordinance shall be submitted at the next general election or scheduled special election. No special initiative election shall be held if an election is scheduled within one hundred eighty days of submission of the proposal."


You will note that the last sentence is merely to clarify the prior sentence. As the attorneys say, it is descriptive not prohibitive. Unfortunately, the Mayor has no incentive to settle this out of court. Since the private city attorneys the city would hire for this are non-bid contractors, the more the Mayor spends of taxpayers' money on legal issues, one might anticipate that more money rolls into his campaign contributions or, maybe, into Go Rail Go.


Following are the main documents for the those wanting to get into the details:

First, is the letter John Carroll, SRN's attorney, sent to the City Clerk.

Second, is the response from the City Clerk (dictated of course by the Mayor through Corporation Counsel).

Third, is the second letter sent by John Carroll to the City Clerk.

Fourth, are the relevant excerpts from the City Charter relating to initiative.

Fifth, is the full City Charter itself in the event you have need of it.


July 16, 2008.

Mayor says he had no hand in ballot opinion?

The City Clerk naturally defers to Corporation Counsel because they are the final authority on legal issues. The Corporation Counsel always does precisely what they are told to do by the Mayor — albeit within limits. For the Mayor to say with a straight face that the City Clerk opined on the ballot issue without any influence from the Mayor is complete nonsense.


City opines rail not on ballot for November; but it's not definitive:

What's on the ballot will be decided legally. All the attorneys who have reviewed the City Charter on this issue believe that our position is correct. The relevant passage is as follows:

"Section 3-404. Submission of Proposal to Electors --

3. For Initiative Special Elections. A special election for an ordinance by initiative power shall be called within ninety days of filing of the petition if signed by duly registered voters equal in number to at least fifteen percent of the votes cast for mayor in the last regular mayoral election, and if such petition specifies that a special election be called; provided that if the clerk certifies less than fifteen percent but at least ten percent, the proposed ordinance shall be submitted at the next general election or scheduled special election. No special initiative election shall be held if an election is scheduled within one hundred eighty days of submission of the proposal."

Click here for the entire section of the City Charter


July 15, 2008.

New HOT lanes video from Florida DOT:

Reason Foundation's latest Surface Transportation Innovations highlights a new video: "Florida DOT has released a new video introducing the public to the forthcoming 95 Express Lanes—variably priced managed lanes with express bus service that will replace the existing HOV lanes on I-95 in Miami-Dade and a portion of Broward County. The first northbound section is set to open next month. The video is available in both English and Spanish-language versions."


July 12, 2008.

28 percent of Oahu voters believe rail will reduce traffic congestion:

This comes from a local political poll to which we were given confidential access. Some 37 percent of those polled also said they believed that Honolulu needs a rail line. We could interpret that to mean 28 percent of voters believe in rail because it will reduce congestion. The other nine percent are looking for jobs, or mistakenly believe that with rail the other guy will get out of his car.


July 11, 2008.

Go Rail Go starts advertising:

For an idea of who Go Rail Go is, see our July 8 entry below. This corporation is a good vehicle for the Mayor's supporters to use to fund part of the Mayor's reelection campaign since they are not limited to the amount they can give to it.

The bold copy below is from their ad in today's Advertiser; the plain copy is our comments on it.

HOT lanes: “Called ‘Lexus Lanes’ on the Mainland.” They are only called “Lexus lanes” by the pro-rail professionals and politicians. That argument has been well answered by federal government polls of motorists in the areas with HOT lanes. They are overwhelmingly approved by bus users and motorists across all income groups.

“Cost to use — $8 to $12 per trip during rush hour.”One of the most expensive HOT lanes is L.A.’s SR-91. The average cost in the morning peak direction, peak two hours is $4. The afternoon peak two hours, peak direction is $9. The only time it hits $10 is Friday afternoon from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM. See this link to the toll schedule: http://www.91expresslanes.com/tollschedules.asp

“20-mile toll road would cost billions.” We do not propose 20 mile HOT lanes; 10-12 miles would be adequate. It would not cost billions that is just City spin. Similar highways are now being built in Florida for $450 million.

˝ percent state excise tax can only be used for fixed guideway.” At the moment, that is true. However, with the defeat of rail at the polls, the legislature could change that during the next legislative session.

HOT lanes “environmental visual blight.”The HOT lanes would stop at the edge of town and at no time would it pass through any residential areas. Rail on the other hand would pass through many residential areas including snaking its way through the center of Honolulu all the way to UH.

“More cars, buses and pollution … encourages more use of gasoline.” According to the U.S. Dept of Energy, the average rail line uses more energy per passenger mile than does the average automobile and about the same as an average light truck/SUV. In addition, the typical bus/train/bus route travels a longer distance — about 10 percent more — than the automobile going from home to work.

“$900 million in federal funds has been promised.” It has not been promised; there is no evidence whatsoever that it has been. As of today, the only written evidence is that of FTA officials telling the OMPO Policy Committee that the practical limit was $500 million. Subsequently, the OMPO Policy Committee agreed as to what had been said and approved inclusion of the FTA statement in the minutes of the meeting. In any case, even if it were $900 million it would be less than 15 percent of the total bill; it is the local cost that is important.

Rail “runs on electricity not gasoline.” What a dumb statement; both electricity and gasoline are products of crude oil.


July 9, 2008.

What happens when Parsons Brinckerhoff is asked rather than told:

Two years ago the state of Washington commissioned an area-wide study of how to reduce traffic congestion. Apparently there were no politically imposed pre-conditions. While several consultants were involved, Parsons Brinckerhoff was the lead consultant. The following are some of the conclusions of the study, which is worth reading if only for the Executive Summary:

"Major transit expansion … transit expansion alone is not shown to be effective in reducing total delay at the system level ...

"Region-wide value pricing (roadway toll rates vary according to demand levels) is indicated to be very effective in reducing total delay. Roadway tolling helps to dampen travel demand, shorten trips, shift travel to non-peak periods, and encourage use of other travel options (transit, carpooling, biking and walking) that are not subject to toll charges. Value pricing helps to maximize the efficiency of our transportation system. Value pricing is consistent with the way almost all other utility and transportation services are provided in market-based economies (for example, water, electricity, air travel and telecommunications services). As with the use of prices to establish access to services in other utility areas, special provisions may be necessary to assure adequate access by those unable to pay market prices for indispensable services. The special requirements need to be carefully considered.

"Value pricing in the form of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes is found to reduce corridor delay and make the corridor operate more efficiently. HOT lanes make corridor travel time more reliable, which benefits everyone, including occasional users."


July 8, 2008.

Here is the Go Rail Go group of residents:

Described in the media as “Go Rail Go, backed by a group of residents …”  Here are the “residents”:


The organization is the Committee for Balanced Transportation, Inc. dba Go Rail Go.

Their GoRailGo website is registered to Keith Rollman, the Mayor’s assistant.

The officers are:  

President, Jim Lyon, Lyon Associates, City non-bid rail transit contractor.

Vice President, Wes Frysztacki, Weslin Associates, City non-bid rail transit contractor.

Vice President, Darrlyn Bunda, former Executive Director of LOTMA funded by Leeward Developers

Treasurer, Roger Morton, CEO of TheBus.



July 7, 2008.

Advertiser story on Portland is a total gloss:

The following relates to the article in the Honolulu Advertiser 7/7/08 about Portland’s rail lines.

(Advertiser copy in bold)

“Every month or so , another magazine calls Portland the nation’s “most sustainable city,” citing its high mass-transit use.”

According to the 2006 American Community Survey, currently 6.4 percent of Portland commuters (http://tinyurl.com/6pzb5y) use public transportation and 82.0 percent use cars. Not much different than other urban areas across the nation.

Portland’s experience with rail exemplifies the congestion reduction …”

Of the 85 urban areas covered by the Texas Transportation Institute, the nation’s keeper of congestion data, Portland increased its average hours of delay per person from 13 hours annually in 1982, to 38 hours in 2005, resulting in the 29th worst increase in the nation. It is instructive to Google “Portland” and “traffic congestion.” http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/congestion_data/tables/national/table_4.pdf

Portland’s experience with rail exemplifies the … reduced driving …”

The U.S, Census shows that Portland’s percentage of commuters using public transportation declined from 7.2 percent to 5.7 percent between 1980, before any rail was built and the last Census in 2000.[1] The 2006 American Community Survey shows 6.4 percent. The percentage is important because when it is stable at say 6 percent then for every 100,000 increase in commuters, 6,000 will use public transportation and 75-80,000 will use their cars. Some reduction.

“In the first quarter of 2008, the light rail system logged its highest annual growth rate in four years.”

The American Public Transportation Association statistics on the nation’s ridership show that Portland’s light rail in the 1st Quarter of 2008 showed a 2.08 percent growth.

“One aspect of Portland’s transit system that is admired by most cities is its ability to get projects completed … under budget.”

There are only two official reports evaluating ridership and cost forecasts for transit systems. They are the U.S DOT’s 1990 assessment Urban Rail Transit Projects (aka Pickrell Report),[2] and the more recent Federal Transit Administration’s 2007 assessment (CPAR).[3]

The Pickrell report shows that the initial MAX line came in 55 percent over budget on construction and 45 percent over budget on operating costs. Ridership was 54 percent less than projected.

The CPAR shows that Portland’s Westside-Hillsboro line came 72.4 percent over forecast construction cost, 8.0 percent over on operating costs and 27 percent less than projected for ridership.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”


[1]  Journey to work trends in the U.S. and its major metropolitan areas, 1960-2000. U.S. Dept of Transportaton, FHWA.  ftp://ftp.abag.ca.gov/pub/mtc/census2000/JTW_Trends/PDF/FullReport.pdf

[2]  Urban Rail Transit Projects: Forecast versus Actual Ridership and Costs. U.S DOT. 1990. DOT-T-91-04. Available at the State Library.

[3]  Federal Transit Administration. Contractor Performance Assessment Report (CPAR). September 2007. http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/CPAR_Final_Report_-_2007.pdf


July 6, 2008.

Advertiser omits less rosy side of Charlotte light rail:


We post these data without comment.



July 5, 2008.

Governors Cayetano and Lingle weigh in on rail battle:

Last Tuesday Governor Cayetano wrote a scathing op/ed in the Advertiser. He declared, "I weigh in at this time because I am very concerned about the mayor's personal attacks on those who oppose the rail transit project. At the mayor's direction, the city — as well as his campaign organization — has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars demeaning the opposition. This is unfortunate as there is a significant and legitimate case to be made against rail transit that the public should hear on its merits." He concluded with, "We have already seen the first $107 million being awarded to Parsons Brinckerhoff and InfraConsult, and it is disturbing that so much of the funds are going for high-powered public relations efforts. If the project is going to be explained to us objectively, rather than just simply sold to us, then such expenditures should not be necessary." It was a very fine op/ed that all should read.


An extensive list of the City's misleading statements:

We have a significant case against the City for misleading Oahu voters about the suitability and the benefits and disbenefits of rail transit. For a small taste of it click here.