formerly The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu



July 26, 2006.

Parsons Brinckerhoff's new rail ridership forecast:

Light rail transit

          Mr. Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar "Fred" Naranayanaswami, Senior Project Engineer on loan from PB's Mumbai, India, office, has been working on the rail project's ridership forecast for the last six months. PB announced last month that the rail project would have 150,000 riders daily. That will be on the 6:00 AM train; and ridership will then improve throughout the day.

          Contacted by phone, Cliff Slater expressed some doubts that the 6:00 AM train could accommodate that many riders but "Fred" Naranayanaswami said that Slater had no expertise about how many people could be accommodated on a train of the right type and offered this photo of a typical Mumbai commuter train to refute him.

          Nevertheless, Slater said he doubted whether PB would actually meet their ridership projections without significant increases in immigration and asked "Fred" Naranayanaswami if that was what he had in mind.


July 20, 2006.

Neighborhood Boards can take action on rail:

Neighborhood Board members are beginning to take notice of the negative impacts that rail transit will have on their communities both from being a financial drain and a producer of visual and noise blight. To help in this effort we have posted, with Senator Fred Hemmings' help, a proforma resolution below that could be adopted by any Neighborhood Board. DOWNLOAD NB RESOLUTION


Waikiki Neighborhood Board turns down rail:

Last week's meeting of the Waikiki Neighborhood turned down rail in Waikiki with a vote of 15-1.


July 19, 2006.

Parsons Brinckerhoff concedes $4 billion + for rail:

        During a presentation today to the annual Kailua Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Parsons Brinckerhoff's Lawrence Spurgeon said that the earlier $3 billion projection for rail transit given last month did not include a number of items such as trains and rights-of-way. He said that by the time all the costs were included the final price would be in excess of $4 billion.

          He also revealed that they had a preliminary estimate of $1 billion for a 13-mile, two-lane HOT lanes (aka Managed Lanes) alternative, or $38 million per lane-mile. While that is a dramatic reduction from earlier city estimates of $100 million per lane-mile it is still far in excess of the $15 million per lane-mile that Tampa has cost.


Commuters riding high — Tampa Expressway now open:

Tampa, Florida's 10-mile three-lane reversible tollway had a soft opening yesterday without fanfare or publicity. The first day saw 2,400 vehicles pay the toll and this morning it increased to 3,500.

         The tollway was opened a month early, in the inbound direction only, to give some relief to morning commuters.

         Publicity will begin with the official ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 21st when the Expressway will also operate in the outbound direction in the afternoons.

         Total completion will be celebrated on the weekend of September 23rd with a 10K run. Total cost for the project has been $420 million but $120 million is expected to be recovered from the design company's insurance companies, leaving a net cost of the project of $300 million, or $30 million a mile.  READ  MORE

         A similar project is being considered by the City and Parsons, Brinckerhoff as an alternative to the $4 billion rail project.


June 10, 2006.

Parsons Brinckerhoff HOT lanes alternatives disappoint:

         After reviewing the City's latest press release, we wrote the following to Mr. Melvin Kaku, Director of the City's Transportation Department:

         "We note from your recent press releases that the “Managed Lanes” alternative is still just two lanes, that there is only one alternative exit/entry, and that there are bus stops on it.

         We have the following comments:

         The PB people were at the recent presentation by Tampa Expressway’s Dr. Martin Stone and heard him say that Tampa had originally planned on a two-lane expressway. However, when they tried various options they found that a third lane could be added at very little additional cost. If I recall correctly , it was a 50 percent increase in lanes for a 10 percent increase in costs.

         We had assumed that PB would include such an alternative when considering “Managed Lanes”. After all, if there are four options for rail transit, there should be the same amount for the “Managed Lanes” alternative otherwise it would be an unfair comparison. For example, one option might be to add a third lane in the Pearl City area and remove one around Pearl Harbor. We urge you to consider such options.

         We have been trying to find a HOT lanes facility with bus stops on it but have been unable to do so. It seems to us that to keep traffic flowing smoothly, the bus stop would have be of such a length that the cost would make it prohibitive. Since no other HOT lanes appear to have bus stops, why are they necessary for Honolulu?" READ  MORE


June 8, 2006.

HHUA to hold another in the Panel Series June 20:

Two subjects that are of great importance to planners and policy makers are a) the costs and benefits of public transportation, and b) the impacts on the low-income transit dependent citizens. The two panelists will be:

Professor Brian Taylor, Director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies and Professor & Professor Evelyn Blumenberg, Associate Professor of Urban Planning. UCLA

There is no charge. READ  MORE


June 6, 2006.

Tampa Expressway opens in August:

We now have a much better defined rendering of the new Tampa Expressway. It is a large 3mb file useful for printed documents and posters. DOWNLOAD FILE


Puget Sound Regional Council on the recent PB study:

Matthew Kitchen, a  member of the Puget Sound Regional Council wrote an interesting email on this subject concerning those who he believed were drawing innaccurate conclusions from the PB Study. He summarizes:

"Here are some ideas about what might be responsible conclusions. Investing dozens of billions of dollars in new highway capital stock, indiscriminately, (in an environment with a fairly mature transportation system and quickly rising urban land costs) will result in a fairly inefficient allocation of resources. But, yes there are individual highway projects that will produce sizable returns on investment. Now we just have to figure out which one's those are. The same goes for transit investments. A huge investment in decreasing headways everywhere independent of the demand conditions, is generally unwise. And building dedicated ROW outside of the limited urban environments that can support the investment with significant ridership demand is going to be a pretty expensive way to go. The primary finding of interest here is that [congestion] pricing produces sizable benefits in excess of costs." READ  MORE


May 22, 2006

British confirm support for congestion pricing:

Gabriel Roth, author of Paying for Roads, has sent us a copy of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's welcoming letter to Douglas Alexander, his new Secretary of State for Transportation. Here's an excerpt:

"The other particular challenges I would like you to focus on are as follows: Managing demand for road transport and ensuring we get the best out of our existing network are vital. We therefore need to advance the debate on the introduction of a national road-user charging scheme. The successful roll-out of local schemes funded from the Transport Innovation Fund will be critical. I would like you to identify the other key steps for the successful introduction of road-user charging within the next decade."


May 20, 2006.

Bob Poole traces the evolution of DOT's new policy:

          In his new article, The Congestion Paradigm Begins to Crack: Building our way out of congestion through pricing and toll finance, Bob starts with Dell Computer telling the Austin, Texas, establishment a few years ago that they were no longer expanding there because of unacceptable traffic congestion. That was a wakeup call that led to the Texas Metropolitan Mobility Plan, a highway-oriented plan to reduce congestion. In turn, Georgia and Washington states both year came to the same conclusion this year. These three studies were different in that, elected officials instead of telling the consultants what solution they wanted to justify, instead specified that they wanted the most cost-effective reductions in traffic congestion possible. No one had done that before. It appears that the federal government is now jumping on this bandwagon before it is too late for them to claim they are ahead of the curve. READ  MORE


May 18, 2006.

Parsons Brinckerhoff says transit won't cut it:

          Recently Washington State DOT released a Congestion Relief Analysis report prepared at the request of the Washington State legislature with a team led by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

         The report says that "transit expansion alone is not shown to be effective in reducing total delay." It goes on to say that, "[Congestion] 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."

         The Report is another nail in the coffin of the idea that transit of any kind can reduce traffic congestion. Obviously, the reports coming in from all over the country that no one reduces traffic congestion using rail transit has had an impact on US DOT and resulted in the new federal congestion policies spelled out below. READ  MORE


May 17, 2006.

USDOT Sec'y Mineta announces new congestion policies:

          Mineta announced yesterday a “National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network” in a speech to the National Retail Federation in Washington, DC..

         Here is an excerpt: “First, we will focus heavily on our largest metropolitan areas and seek “Urban Partnership Agreements” with as many cities as are willing to participate. These agreements will call for new variable pricing programs designed to spread traffic flows throughout the day and to get more out of existing highways .

         The agreements also will provide for more efficient and responsive bus systems that tailor services specifically for rush-hour commuters; speed up the review process for highway projects under way ; and seek commitments from major employers in the region to allow more of their employees to flex their schedules and/or telecommute.

         Second, we will encourage more states to find ways to open up their transportation infrastructure to private investment opportunities. State budgets are stretched thin, while gasoline taxes are becoming increasingly untenable as long-term sources of funding. At the same time, major financial institutions and their clients are expressing increasing willingness to invest billions of dollars in roads and airports.

         So, we will begin a discussion with local officials and consumers of transportation about the growing role that the private sector can and should play in transportation decision-making and investment. Our goal will be to greatly expand the list of states that have flexible laws to permit greater private-sector involvement in transportation projects . ” (Emphasis added). (Links to speech and policy are shown above).


         This is a major shift in policy for USDOT as it does not mention rail transit or even public transportation. It is highway oriented with emphasis on public-private partnerships (PPP) to

build highways and congestion pricing for greater highway efficiency.

         Summary: HOT lanes are now very hot!


May 16, 2006.

Why the ½ percent tax increase will not pay for rail transit:

Our latest estimates of the effects of the City Council's ½ increase in the General Excise tax for 15 years to pay for rail show that it will fall drastically short. In fact, at the end of the 15 year life of the tax, we will owe more than the original cost of the rail project. That is because the additional tax revenues will not even cover the bond interest costs and the annual operating losses and so the balance owed keeps increasing rather than decreasing. For the full spreadsheet together with footnotes CLICK HERE


May 15, 2006.

Rail costs way out of line for our population size:

We have calculated the costs per capita of population for the light rail lines that the City often uses when discussing other cities with light rail transit. Notice that the cost per capita for these other cities is on average ONE FOURTEENTH that of Honolulu's. It is also SEVEN TIMES that of the next highest, Portland. For those who would like to know where the numbers come and how they were calculated READ  MORE

The cost of $4.14 billion used for Honolulu is larger than the City's estimate of $2.5 billion and is explained in detail at READ  MORE



May 6, 2006.

Final segment of the Tampa Expressway put in place:

A ll that is needed now for Tampa's 3-lane reversible 10-mile tollway is finish up work. It could be open as early as August and what a relief that will be for commuters stuck in Tampa's daily traffic congestion. It will be painted sky blue to fit in against the sky. Planning took four years and construction three years. Initially, the hours of operation have been set as 6 to 10 a.m., westbound; 2 to 8 p.m., eastbound; 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., closed.   READ  MORE



Channel 54 to air HHUA panel from April 17:

Excerpts of the HHUA Panel Series held on April 17 will air on a one hour show entitled, "For Ewa Today" on Oceanic Cable Channel 54, Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. throughout the month of May. For more details of the panel see our April 21 post below.


Women's Foundation of California issues report:

           Women in Transit: Analyzing Gender for Transportation Justice is a new report that looks at transportation strictly from a woman's point of view. It appears that transit as it is currently available is not meeting women's needs. The following two paragraphs are particularly interesting:

          "Inequitable Subsidies for Transit: There is growing concern that transportation resources are inequitably distributed. For instance, a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was filed by the Bus Riders Union and the Labor Community Strategies Center, alleged that the average subsidy for bus riders was $1.17 per ride, while for rail riders it was $30 per ride. On some lines, such as the Vermont Street bus, the subsidy was as low as $0.34 per ride. Eighty percent of Los Angeles’s 350,000 bus riders are people of color, and 80% are low-income. The majority of bus riders in Los Angeles live near the inner core of the city. Nearly the opposite is true of the rail users in the city, most of whom were white, middle- and upper income and live further away from the city center.MTA has since agreed to make changes, including purchasing newer buses and lowering fares for monthly and bi-monthly passes; however, advocates are unclear as to when these commitments will be honored."

           "Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is useful to advocates for transportation justice and equity in that it clearly states that no person should be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be discriminated against under any federally funded program or activity on the grounds of race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability or religion. As many transportation programs, including public transit, are funded and subsidized in part through federal grants, these rights must be upheld. Designing transit that does not take into account the need for reliable, flexible and affordable options can deny community members their right to equity. " READ  MORE


Barron's magazine on PPP growth for highways:

This Monday's Barron's magazine will have a cover story on Public/Private Partnerships burgeoning effect on the nation's highways, which they say, "suddenly are hot assets." In our posting for April 4 (below) we discussed Dr. Orski's overview of the growth in highway financing and the use of congestion pricing in toll charges. READ  MORE


April 22, 2006.

1st International Symposium on Freeway & Tollway Operations:

Organized by the U.S. Transportation Research Board Freeway Operations Committee, the Symposium will be held in Athens, Greece, June 4-7, 2006.

The Symposium brings together freeway and tollway operators, practitioners and researchers specializing in freeway, HOV, and tollway operations. The objectives of the Symposium are:

  • To capture the state of the practice in freeway and tollway operations.
  • To identify innovative strategies and techniques to improve the proactive management and control of traffic.
  • To explore the potential benefits of using managed lanes, tolling, pricing, and other strategies to improve traffic operations on congested freeways.

Dr. Panos Prevedouros will be an active participant in serving on, and chairing, Symposium panels. FULL DETAILS  and at the SYMPOSIUM WEBSITE


April 21, 2006.

Presentations from HHUA Forum now online:

             Dr. Martin Stone AICP, Director of Planning for the Tampa Expressway Authority, made two presentations at the April 17 HHUA forum (see below). One was a video of their new three-lane reversible tollway SEE VIDEO   and the other was a PowerPoint presentation about the cost and benefits of the tollway.  SEE PRESENTATION .   If you really wish to see the benefits that this would have for Honolulu, you should see both of these starting with the video. After that, read our " HOT lanes proposal for Honolulu.

      Professor Panos Prevedouros, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UH, gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation summing up Honolulu's urban transportation situation.   SEE PRESENTATION

     Professor Brian Taylor, Director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies and Visiting Scholar at UH gave us an overview of urban transportation generally. For  example, he points out that nationally between 1993 and 2003…

  • Travel on freeways increased almost 10 times faster (35.4% to 3.6%) than new freeway mileage
  • Rail transit patronage increased more slowly (23.1% to 26.7%) than new rail transit service
  • Inflation-adjusted government subsidies of transit increased much, much faster (57.1%) than total transit patronage (11.0%) SEE PRESENTATION

      Kansas City Councilwoman Sandra Mcfadden-Weaver gave us a PowerPoint presentation focusing on the needs of lower income inner-city residents and why buses were far preferable to a light rail line for their requirements.   SEE PRESENTATION

      Mr. James Charlier, of Charlier Associates, had a fine PowerPoint presentation, "Rail Cities: Why You Might Want to Live in One"   SEE PRESENTATION


... and also airing on TV, channel 54:

There will be a condensed one-hour TV program covering the highlights of these presentations, which will be airing on OLELO, Channel 54, every Sunday at 7:30 pm during May, 2006


Bay Area's Regional Transportation Plan better:

Here are two excerpts from the Bay Area RTP:

          “… transit expansion is no panacea either. In many parts of our region, rail service will never make economic or transportation sense — even with substantial increases in housing density over present trends. Rapid or express bus service will be a much more cost-effective alternative in these low-density areas, but there are limits to the appropriateness of bus transit as well. Every new bus requires a driver and fuel, and creates a long-term claim on operating funds to subsidize the service."

          "... by severing the connection between the road user and the system he or she uses, sales taxes, property taxes, general fund revenue and other non-user fee sources fail to send the proper price signal to the motorist to encourage wise use of the highway network. In the private economy, when a good becomes scarce, its price rises to balance supply and demand. A transportation system financed with non-user revenue lacks this critical balancing mechanism. In the long run, building unpriced road capacity in a growing region is fighting a losing battle with traffic congestion.

To reintroduce pricing signals into the transportation system, the Transportation 2030 Plan advocates development of a high-occupancy/toll (HOT) network that would convert the Bay Area’s existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes. Carpools, vanpools and transit vehicles would continue to enjoy free passage in the HOT lanes, but other motorists could pay a fee to use them. The new toll revenue would be used to finance construction of HOT lanes where gaps exist in the network, and to operate additional transit and rideshare services for other corridor travelers." READ  MORE


April 20, 2006.

Dr. Prevedouros adds new article opposing rail:

The title is "Why a Single Rail Line with 12-15 Stations is Bad Transportation Policy for Oahu." He says, "Rail as a transportation means is literally a bankrupt 19th century mode that has little or no place in modern cities which did not develop around legacy systems." READ  MORE


HHUA presentations being added below:

We are going to add below all the presentations made at Monday's HHUA Transportation Forum as we get them. We still await that of Jim Charlier.


April 18, 2006.


Wall Street Journal: "Making Public Highways Private"

WSJ says that "More State, Local Governments Consider Handing Toll Roads To Companies to Aid Budgets." In an interesting article on page A4 of today's paper, WSJ reviews the current situation for public private partnership (PPPs). It is taking all of both state and city highway budgets nationally just to maintain existing highways and there is little left over to build or expand new highways. For new highways state and local authorities are having to turn to the private sector to either fund, and/or design/build and/or own new highway facilities. READ  MORE


HHUA forum a great success:

        The Hawaii Highway Users Alliance held a Transportation Forum yesterday attended by close to 200 people including representatives from Parsons Brinckerhoff, transportation and construction companies and others interested in our current transportation problems.

        Panelist yesterday were:

  • JIM CHARLIER, President CEO – Charlier Associates, Inc. – Boulder, Colo.
    “Rail Cities: Why You Might Want to Live in One”
  • SAUNDRA McFADDEN-WEAVER, Councilmember – Kansas City, Mo.
    “Public Transportation: Why Buses and Not Light Rail”
  • Dr. MARTIN STONE, Ph.D. – Director of Planning, Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, “Solving Urban Congestion with Tampa’s Elevated Reversible Lanes”
  • BRIAN TAYLOR, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Urban Planning, and Director, Institute of Transportation Studies – UCLA, “Bus vs. Rail vs. ?: How Do We Get the Most Bang for Our Transit Investment Buck?”

        Newspaper coverage was excellent with long stories from both the Advertiser READ  MORE and the Star-Bulletin READ  MORE .

        This morning panelists are being introduced to our state legislators from the floor of both the House and the Senate.


April 13, 2006.

Updated slide show:

          We recently changed our slide show and this new one really gets the point across that rail transit is something we cannot AFFORD, cannot MAINTAIN, and do not NEED. The HOT lanes project on the other hand will pay for itself (with the help of federal funds) and not need a tax increase.

          We presented it to the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance Board Meeting this past Tuesday following a presentation by Parsons Brinckerhoff. We won.   SEE PRESENTATION


Stroll down Memory Lane II:

        We must not forget how funny some elements of the City/Parsons Brinckerhoff 1992 rail plans were. Here's a reminder about one them:

       In the 1992 Final Environmental Impact Statement, page 4-5, (see at the Municipal Library) they showed that for the journey from West Loch to Civic Center, there would a seven-minute time savings using combined rail/bus versus using just the bus.

       For the bus, you would " Walk to Bus Stop 8 minutes, Wait for Bus 5 minutes, Ride Bus 54 minutes, and Walk to Destination 2 minutes ," for a total of 69 minutes.

       For the rail trip, you would " Walk to Bus Stop, Wait for Bus, Ride Bus, Walk to Transit Station, Walk within Station, Wait for Train, Ride Train, Walk within Station, Walk to Shuttle Bus, Wait for Shuttle Bus, Ride Shuttle Bus, Walk to Destination ," for a total of 62 minutes.  

       You would go through all that humbug to save seven minutes? Of course not. The trouble is that their computer models do not have a variable for 'humbug.'  


April 10, 2006.

Update on city plan — HOT lanes to be studied:

Instead of using the term "HOT lanes" in their latest newsletter, Parsons Brinckerhoff is calling it the Managed Lane Alternative, second option. Whatever. It is still HOT lanes.

"Alternative 3: The Managed Lane Alternative now includes a second option that provides a “reversible” feature allowing two lanes of east-bound (town-bound) traffic during the morning peak period and west-bound (Ewa-bound) traffic during the afternoon peak period. This means there now are two options to the Managed Lane alternative, one with traffic flowing in both directions all day and the other with both lanes reversible depending on the time of day.

Both options are defined in detail with access points integrated with existing and planned roadways to facilitate smooth transitions to the Managed Lane." READ  MORE


"Lies my transit lobbyist told me":

Randal O'Toole of the Thoreau Institute posts another Vanishing Automobile update. He details how the American Public Transportation Association's press releases mislead the public. That if you read their press releases you would think that national transit ridership was going up instead of going nowhere. READ  MORE


April 9, 2006.

Hawaii Reporter: Union activity on jobs:

Laura Brown, Hawaii Reporter's education writer, discusses recent union activity at a Mililani community meeting and "the entourage of union members who advocated for more development – not because they believe it is good for the community, but because they say they need the construction jobs." READ  MORE


Process and Profits:The California Bullet Train

An interesting narrative from Counterpunch magazine on the politics and money involved in trying to establish a high-speed rail line in California with a great quote. "The profit is never in the solution, it's always in the process. Show me a good process, and I'll show you a money maker," Bill Wiggins, Governor Jerry Brown's former labor advisor.  READ  MORE


April 8, 2006.

Important Transportation Meeting on April 17:

One week from this coming Monday, the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance is holding the next in its Panel Series at the Halekoa Koa Hotel from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and the public is welcome. The topic is transportation and covers "Trains, Buses & Automobiles ... Bypasses, Overpasses & Tunnels ... Intelligent Transportation Systems." Panelists are four experts from the Mainland with Dr. Prevedouros from UH as the moderator. Those from out of town are:

  •                                                                               READ  MORE

SFO's Bay Crossings's " BIG Fat Lies":

This article in the San Francisco monthly magazine, Bay Crossings, features a chronological history of BART and the systematic underestimation of costs and overestimation of ridership. READ  MORE


April 4, 2006.

Ken Orski commentary on PPP and tolls:

This from addresses to the World Bank Transportation Forum and to FHWA senior staff last week when he concluded:

"In the past year, tolling has gained a lot of new converts. Congress has relaxed existing restrictions on tolling of the Interstates, several states have created new toll authorities, most highway interests have dropped their opposition to tolling, and federal policy has become overtly supportive of tolling and pricing. Even the press seems to have embraced the concept of highway pricing. The term "Lexus Lanes," once used as a pejorative shorthand for HOT lanes, is gradually disappearing from usage, as evidence accumulates that even drivers of modest means choose to pay a toll when they are pressed for time.

So my first conclusion is that tolling has reached the tipping point. From here on out it will play an ever growing importance in future highway investment decisions. Indeed, it is quite conceivable — even likely— that variably priced toll lanes will constitute the bulk of all future additions to this nation’s highway capacity." READ  MORE


April 1, 2006.

The costs for rail are way understated and here's why:

The City forecasts a cost of $2.5 billion for a line from Kapolei to UH. We have calculated it at $4.1 billion — at least. In addition, that does not allow for interest costs, which can go sky high depending on the tax increase used. Also, the City is making no allowance for the cost of rehabilitating equipment, which will start eight years after beginning operations and will lead to complete rehabilitation or replacement of all equipment within 25-35 years. Also, there is the slight possibility of cost overruns, it being a government project. READ  MORE


HOT lanes carry more cars:

One fact that eludes most people is that restricting cars from freeways results in a greater throughput of cars. In short, using pricing is more efficient than the usual free for all. It is interesting that the dictionary definition of free for all is turmoil, which of course is what we get every morni ng and afternoon on our free ways.

However, when we subject our free ways to pricing, then we can produce order out of the turmoil and by managing them properly we can get more cars through. Here's why:

In the very early morning, freeway traffic is moving at 60 mph. As time goes by each lane is carrying more and more cars per hour until they max out at just over 2,000 vehicles per lane per hour. Then, as more and more cars crowd onto the free ways, the average speed drops until each lane may only carry 1,400 cars per hour.

When we restrict highway use by variable pricing, we can manage highway use and keep the traffic moving optimally. This gives us the strange result that by restricting highway use we get up to 50 percent more cars per hour through. If you would like a more detailed explanation of this phenomenon see this Transportation Research Board Powerpoint presentation. SEE  MORE  


March 27, 2006.

The Argument: SkyTrain or SkyBus

          What it boils down to is this: What is going to give greater traffic congestion relief for the taxpayer dollar? A 25 mph SkyTrain rail line that does not directly take any cars off the road, or SkyBuses zipping into town on a two-lane tollway at 55-60 mph, accompanied by 3,500 to 4,000 toll-paying autos per hour directly taken off the existing freeways.

          SkyTrain costs local taxpayers $3.5 billion to build, loses another $100 million a year for O&M, plus interest costs, and plus rehabilitation costs starting 8 years out. SkyBus cost $900 million with the feds paying half and the other half covered by toll revenues. Duh!


OMPO releases cost estimates of $2.5 billion for HOT lanes:

Over the weekend OMPO posted cost estimates for the modifications it made to the draft plan on March 15th. This may be the first overestimation of the cost of a public works project in Hawaii's history. We believe this cost to be totally out of line with other costs. What is happening here is a standard ploy among pla nners; greatly underestimate the cost of the favored alternative and inflate the forecast for the one disfavored. See The Use of Straw Men in the Economic Evaluation of Rail Transit by John Kain, former Chair of Harvard's Economics Department.   READ  MORE  


Likely cost?

T he cost of the three-lane Tampa Reversible tollway (shown left), adjusted for Hawaii's high construction costs and inflation, can now serve as the basis for determining what our HOT lanes costs should be. With that in mind and the conclusions of the 2002 Governor's Conference on Transitways, we stick by our estimate made last year of a total of $900 million. That can be  paid for by 50 percent federal New Starts funding and 50 percent toll revenues. It is unlikely to require any new taxes.    READ  MORE  


OMPO to rush approval of ORTP by next week:

          A f inal vote for OMPO Policy Committee to approve the $13.5 billion Oahu Regional Transportation Plan (ORTP) for rail and other projects is April 4.   The process is short, hurried, rushed. Deadline for public comments on the plan was March 15, with comments on amendments due March 31. Only four days later, it is set for final decision-making vote.  

          With sunshine laws, neighborhood boards don’t have enough time to even put the amended plan on their agendas, for discussion and vote.

          The public is not yet provided access to 300-plus written comments submitted by March 15 – nor of comments due March 31 — preventing public review of comments from others, to learn, know and understand what is at stake.

          There was no Olelo broadcast for public viewing of last week’s Policy Committee meeting. Testifiers were permitted to make one minute sound bites.   Media is not reporting what the public is testifying or commenting.

OMPO’s process suppresses meaningful public discourse and exchange.   Too little time is allowed for the public to learn and understand what others are saying, what views they are expressing. The public’s right to know and decide is conveniently dismissed.


March 26, 2006.

OMPO deadline now next Friday, March 31 :

At the time we submitted our FINAL COMMENTS on the Draft Oahu Regional Transportation Plan (ORTP) OMPO made some significant changes to the Draft. One of them was to add HOT lanes as one of its 'illustrative projects':

    " # 120 — H-1 Corridor, Reversible Highway, Waiawa Interchange to Keehi Interchange. Construct a new, elevated, reversible two-lane highway from west of the Waiawa Interchange to the Keehi Interchange. The new facility could be used for high-occupancy vehicles; and a toll could be charged. The City and County’s Alternatives Analysis study could be evaluating this concept as a “Managed Lane” facility as an alternative to the rail transit project. A firmly established funding source for this project is not in place. Results from the Home Telephone Survey indicate that there is support for construction of HOT lanes and a less than $2 toll; but substantially less support if taxes were raised to pay for construction."

OMPO will now entertain further comments that pertain to the NEW MODIFICATIONS . In our view, HOT lanes will be far better for our community than rail. It therefore needs your comments on the HOT lanes and any other issues you have with these new modifications. Email or mail your comments to:

  • Director, Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, 707 Richards St, Suite 200, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, Phone (808) 587-2015 Email: glumompo@hawaii.rr.com
  • Director, Office of Environmental Quality Control, 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, Phone: (808) 586-4185 E-Mail: OEQC@doh.hawaii.gov .
  • Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, Region IX, 201 Mission Street, Room 2210 San Francisco, CA 94105-1926 Telephone: (415) 744-3133 Email: leslie.rogers@fta.dot.gov


March 25, 2006.

OMPO survey shows great public support for HOT lanes:.

OMPO has just release the results of a federally funded telephone survey of a random sample of 400 Oahu residents on transportation issues. All questions were designed by OMPO and its consultant team in consultation with Ward Research.

Among the more interesting questions asked were:

  • Q4a. 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.
  • Q4b. 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.
  • Q4c. Would you support construction of such a project if the tolls generated were not sufficient to cover the cost and it would require increased taxes?
              Overall 29% for v. 66% opposed.
  • Q4e. What is the most you would pay to use HOT lanes if it would save you 15 minutes in travel time? Would you pay...?
              Overall 8% would pay $4 or more, Among Leeward/Ewa residents 20%.

This is a far less biased survey than the one OMPO took in November 2004. However, as we said then, the voters are generally unaware of the costs or benefits of the principal alternatives — rail transit or HOT lanes. Therefore, questions about taxes that do not quantify the tax impact on taxpayers, or the congestion benefits/disbenefits, cannot elicit accurate responses. Second, specifying 15 minutes as the time savings for HOT lanes is unrealistic; it is likely to be more like 30 minutes, or greater, during the rush hour.

An interesting general result of the survey is that it shows great public support for new highway facilities, such as HOT lanes and widening highways, particularly H-1 from Pearl City to Kahala. There is no support for bikeways. Clearly, our elected officials are out of sync with their constituents because the officials keep opting for bikeways and rejecting building highways whereas the voters think exactly the opposite.  READ  MORE  


Orange County toll lanes increase prices:

There is no greater indicator of the success of a product or service than when the operator has to raise prices to reduce demand when they are unable to increase the supply. Such is the case for the Orange County 91 Express toll lanes. We have provided the schedule so that readers can see the vast difference in price by day and time of day.



March 22, 2006.

From Alan Pisarski, author of Commuting in America:

    "If your transportation goals can be met by everyone staying home you have the wrong goals!"

This and other gems are part of a great Powerpoint presentation from one of the great U.S. urban transportation authorities.  SEE  MORE    [Patience: it's a one minute download by cable]


How about hearing sense from Mineta:

          Transportation Secretary Mineta said in a recent press release,   “The real solution is not reducing traffic to fit capacity,” Mineta said. “We must expand capacity to handle the growing traffic.” It is really a shame that this advice he is offering about air transportation, he does not offer for surface transportation — certainly the principle is exactly the same. That is, supply = demand when the price is free to follow market forces. READ  MORE


March 21, 2006.

Now from the Parsons Brinckerhoff highway brochure:

          "Managed lanes represent an innovative approach to moving people, vehicles and goods efficiently within congested corridors. Managed lanes projects include high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, express lanes, HOV-toll (HOT) lanes, and lanes designated for special commercial uses.

          Sponsoring agencies regulate the use of these lanes with a combination of strategies to provide roadway users free-flow travel regardless of adjacent travel conditions. PB is assisting communities such as Houston, Seattle, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles and San Diego [but not Honolulu?] in considering managed lanes as one means of achieving improved mobility. ...

           State Route 125 San Diego County, California For over a decade, PB has been instrumental in the development of SR 125, which will be the first privately developed toll highway in the western U.S. PB served as managing partner of California Transportation Ventures, Inc., the corporation awarded the franchise to finance, design, build and operate SR 125, and is currently involved as a nonequity partner through its management consultant subsidiary, PBConsult. SR 125 is one of four demonstration projects statewide being developed under a public/private partnership with the California Department of Transportation. ...

           N orthwest Parkway Denver, Colorado PB assisted the Northwest Parkway Public Highway Authority with the development of a 20-kilometer (11-mile) limited-access toll facility in Denver's northwestern suburbs. This project obtained bond insurance and a AAA rating without any tax funds as a start-up project supported solely by tolls. PB played a critical role in the success of this financing by assisting the Authority on issues ranging from financial planning to organizational management, travel demand forecasting and design/build contract issues."



Update on tolling and private financing from Ken Orski:

Ken writes "We have received numerous requests for periodic updates to our "Tipping Point" brief documenting new developments in highway tolling. Here is a roundup of news since the late January. Its highlights are the final passage of the Indiana Toll Road concession bill (signed by Governor Mitch Daniels on March 15) and the March 10 announcement by the private equity fund, The Carlyle Group, that it will start investing in transportation infrastructure.  These brief overviews are not meant to replace the excellent in-depth reporting by my colleague, Peter Samuel, in his web-based TollRoadsNews.com (which we recommend highly to anyone wishing to follow toll road developments in depth.) Our succinct announcements are merely offered in further evidence of the growing role of  highway tolling and private sector involvement in developing and financing highway infrastructure."  READ  MORE


March 19, 2006.

Some results of the National Household Travel Survey:

          "The private car continues to dominate urban travel among every segment of the American population, including the poor, minorities, and the elderly. By comparison, public transport accounts for less than 2% of all urban travel. Even the lowest-income households make only 5% of their trips by transit." ...

          "A refocusing of subsidies on improving bus services would probably benefit the poor more than spending most future subsidies on expensive new rail transit systems." ...

          "It is notable that the elderly are less likely than the population as a whole to take transit ..."

          "The disadvantaged in our society, especially the poor, minorities, and the elderly, depend crucially on the private car to get around the cities they live in. They use public transit for only a tiny percentage of their overall trips. Thus, public transit cannot be the main strategy for improving the mobility of these groups. Automobiles are obviously a necessity for disadvantaged groups for reaching most employment, educational, medical, shopping, social, and recreational destinations. Even those who cannot really afford cars or who have physical or mental disabilities are forced to rely on the car." READ  MORE


March 17, 2006.

Now we are into podcasting:

Cliff Slater spent an hour with Mike Buck yesterday from 5:00pm-6:00pm. Now you can hear a podcast of that show. HEAR  MORE


Finally — HOT lanes go into OMPO's Draft ORTP:

As one of its illustrative projects is "#120 H-1 Corridor, Reversible Highway, Waiawa Interchange to Keehi Interchange. Construct a new, elevated, reversible two-lane highway from west of the Waiawa Interchange to the Keehi Interchange. The new facility could be used for high-occupancy vehicles; and a toll could be charged. The City and County’s Alternatives Analysis study could be evaluating this concept as a “Managed Lane” facility as an alternative to the rail transit project. A firmly established funding source for this project is not in place. Results from the Home Telephone Survey indicate that there is support for construction of HOT lanes and a less than $2 toll; but substantially less support if taxes were raised to pay for construction."


FHWA now emphasizing public/private partnerships

          Acting FHWA Administrator Capka said recently: "Let me suggest that our vision for meeting future transportation needs and reducing congestion is the same answer we have for nearly every other product and service in America -- unleashing the power and opportunity of our free market system.
          The same market forces that took us from Ma Bell's standard issue, black rotary phone to cell phones and Blackberrys can relieve congestion, reduce the need for road repairs, and improve the safety of our highways.
          U.S. DOT is working on new approaches for meeting transportation needs. And a big part of that is encouraging private sector investment."


March 16, 2006.

Final, Final Comments on the Draft ORTP:   READ  FINAL COMMENTS   


March 14, 2006.

REMINDER: Tomorrow is the deadline for comments:

March 15, Wednesday, is the deadline for submission of comments on the Draft Oahu Regional Transportation Plan. See our March 11 post for details. We need to have OMPO redo this plan because it is totally inadequate for the public to judge whether or not the city is on the right track in its transportation planning. If you have not been following this issue then READ  NEW DRAFT    OMPO  would love to hear from you. Email addresses to send your comments to are below at the March 11 post.


Quotes to help you make it through the day:

"Political skill...the ability of foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.   And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."
            Sir Winston Churchill.   Quoted in The Cynic's Lexicon. 1965.

"To spot the expert, pick the one who predicts the job will take the longest and cost the most."
            A. Bloch.   Murphy's Law Book Two (Warren's Rule). 1980.

"A principle that emerges in the cases so far mentioned is that folly is a child of power. We all know, from unending repetitions of Lord Acton's dictum that power corrupts. We are less aware that it breeds folly; that the power to command frequently causes failure to think; that the responsibility of power often fades as its exercise augments."
            Barbara W. Tuchman.
The March of Folly. Alfred A. Knopf. 1984. p. 32.


March 13, 2006.

ALERT! Eminent domain bill to exclude rail transit:

Senate Bill 2986, SD2, Relating to Eminent Domain, will be heard by the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources (WLO) Committee at 10 am Monday (today) in Room 423 at 10:00 am.  Among other things regulating the taking of private land, this bill provides an eminent domain regulation   exemption for mass transit systems .  This exemption could therefore include the taking of private land for private commercial retail and residential development around transit centers, stations and stops.  This is one giant loophole for the taking of private land for private development.   Therefore bill must be amended to exclude "mass transit systems." 

During the WLO hearing on HB 2135, a similar eminent domain bill precluding the taking of private land for private development, Councilmember Nestor Garcia testified repeatedly that mass transit systems must be included in the exemptions.  This committee then amended the bill to exempt mass transit systems. 

Another eminent domain bill, SB 3191, SD 1, is also being heard by WLO at the same heating tomorrow.  This is a good bill that will also be in jeopardy of having "mass transit systems" listed as one of the exemptions, or held to allow SB 2986 to proceed.

Please provide testimony on these bills, in person if possible .  Please urge that "mass transit systems" not be included as an exemption.


March 11, 2006.

Additions to our comments and reminder to comment:

We have only a few days to comment on the Draft ORTP since they must be mailed or emailed no later than this Wednesday the 15th of March. If you have already read our draft comments posted earlier on March 7, then  just read the ADDITIONS that we are making to the comments. If you have not, then read the READ  NEW DRAFT  comments. Addresses for your comments are below:

  • Director, Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, 707 Richards St, Suite 200, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, Phone (808) 587-2015 Email: glumompo@hawaii.rr.com
  • Director, Office of Environmental Quality Control, 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, Phone: (808) 586-4185 E-Mail: OEQC@doh.hawaii.gov .
  • Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, Region IX, 201 Mission Street, Room 2210 San Francisco, CA 94105-1926 Telephone: (415) 744-3133 Email: leslie.rogers@fta.dot.gov


A note on the $456 million in federal funds for rail:

As many have noticed we have taken a great deal of abuse from Rep. Abercrombie and others when we have said that the most likely amount we might be eligible for was about $500 million. Meanwhile Abercrombie said, "No it will be at least 50 percent, etc." However, quietly last month OMPO inserted in the Draft ORTP that the federal contribution would be $456 million, a number provided by their consultants, Kaku Associates. Oddly, while the media touted Abercrombie's prediction none have picked up this latest estimate.

March 7, 2006.

One week to comment on the Draft ORTP:

           Comments on the Draft Oahu Regional Transportation Plan (ORTP) are due to the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization by next Wednesday, March 15. Many people have voiced their frustration in the media about the lack of real information concerning the Draft. Hopefully many will be encouraged to make those same comments to OMPO. A draft of our comments is available below.

          The points we make is that OMPO is misleading the public as to the cost of the system. They understate the initial cost of the system by about $1.3 billion — and we show why that is. We also point out that they have not included any of the bond interest costs, which will have to be at least another $1.3 billion. When you add these to the figures they have in the Draft, you find that we are about $5.5 billion short — and we spell that out. That money will have to come from additional taxes. No wonder the Mayor doesn't want to cut property taxes.

          In addition, there is no provision for cost overruns and we detail the studies showing how understating costs in rail projects is not just unusual — it is standard.

          On top of all that, no provision is made in the plan for the extensive rehabilitation of rail equipment that starts as early as six years out and calls for the replacement or total rehabilitation of rail equipment within 25 years. We show using the data from other rail cities how they plan for it. It is not just a matter of building a rail system and it is there forever; it has to be renewed every 25 years at a cost of billions.

          Read our testimony for the addresses of where to send your comments; if you were unhappy with the ORTP Plan, let them know.