seeking cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu



March 31, 2007.

The train has yet to arrive at the station — let alone has left it:

       This project schedule is from the new Scoping Information Package issued May 15. We are in the middle of what is called EIS Scoping.

        When that is complete and we have submitted our comments, and been responded to, then the City will apply to go into the next phase of the process called Preliminary Engineering.

       This will be the first time that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will take a hard look at the city's projections. If FTA is satisfied with the projections then the Environmental Studies begin, which, as shown, will take about a year.

       That puts us at about May 2008 when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is to be issued.

       The city then says that within a year it will get a Record of Decision (ROD) from the FTA, which will grant the City the federal funding. However, this is a very ambitious schedule. Last time, it took 2½ years for us just to get from the DEIS being issued to the City Council turning the whole thing down.

       Far from being a done deal, the City Council has yet to decide whether the "fixed guideway" is to be bus or rail, let alone made the major decision that is at least two years off — whether or not to spend the money. This is when we will sort out the men from the boys and, by the way, there is an election before then.

       This turkey has yet to arrive at the station, let alone left it.  READ SCOPING 


March 30, 2007.

Channel 8 replaces video and reportage:

The video that Channel had up yesterday timed out and they replaced it with this one that is in many ways much better.  VIEW CHANNEL 8


Honolulu Rotary applauds Dr. Prevedouros' talk:

       Last Tuesday, March 20th, Panos was the lunchtime speaker for Honolulu Rotary, a 250 strong rotary club. He discussed our opposition to rail and for HOT lanes and the Rotary Magazine has published the following afterwards:
      "Entertaining, thought provoking, educational, illuminating and frustrating were some of the comments made at our table upon the completion of Dr. Prevedouros' talk regarding transportation in general and specifically "the rail."
        In the Q and A, Linda Coble asked the $64 question: "What can we do to stop the train?"  The question drew a loud round of applause - which speaks volumes.  The answer was, get involved, contact your elected officials and media, as well as show up on march 28 at Kapolei Hale at 6:30 p.m. and McKinley High School on March 29 at 5:00 p.m.  Let your voice be heard so we don't get bankrupt and run over by a train that only a few will use at a cost of $6.5 billion - yes, $6.5 billion.  One could fix a lot of potholes with that kind of dough.  At a vote of members at our table - it was unanimously agreed that the present rail system being pushed by Mayor Mufi was "a lunatic idea that must be stopped at all costs."  For more information go to
http://www.eng.hawaii.edu/~panos/ "  


Dennis Callan produces short video of protest rally:  

       Dennis took his video camera out on the street on Wednesday during our protest rally and produced this excellent video with interviews with some of the participants. WATCH VIDEO 


March 28, 2007.

Star-Bulletin covers the rally — Advertiser silent:

       Good coverage by the Star-Bulletin in this afternoon's paper.  READ MORE   Unfortunately, there was absolutely no mention of our protest rally. or the reasons for it, in today's Advertiser despite coverage in the Star Bulletin and all of the four TV station that cover local news.


March 28, 2007.

Excellent turnout at our protest rally today:

We had an excellent turnout this morning at City Hall to protest the exclusion of HOT Lanes (Managed Lanes) Alternative. There were 50, or more, of us there all holding signs telling voters that the HOT lanes exclusion was rigged and that the City is not telling the public that traffic congestion will be far worse with rail than it is today.

        We had coverage on all five TV news stations and we'll see what coverage we get with the other news media tomorrow.

         For full details of the reasons for our protest, click here to  READ MORE And here to view coverage from one of the five stations that covered us  CHANNEL 2 NEWS


March 24, 2007.

U.S. Department of Transportation on congestion pricing:

     The USDOT says that congestion pricing is the single most viable approach to reducing congestion and has achieved positive results both here in the U.S. and around the world. Just by reducing peak period travelers by 3-8%, it can reduce delays by up to 50%.  READ MORE


Honolulu slips to 57th largest metro area:

       The Demografia website has consolidated the 2006 Census data for U.S. metro areas and it shows that Honolulu has slipped to 57th among the nation's metro areas. During the 2000-2006 period, Honolulu grew at less than half the rate of other Metro Areas Honolulu's size.

       And a reminder: There are more metro areas larger than Honolulu without rail than those that have rail.  READ MORE

March 22, 2007.

FTA and City issue new Notice of Intent

       The FTA and City on March 15 issued a new Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the “fixed guideway” in the Leeward Corridor under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) — again.

       They did this the first time in December 2005 and since they have not subsequently rescinded it we must have been operating under the same NEPA rules all along — or have we? Unfortunately we cannot get a straight answer on that issue. This is what is known as “public involvement.”

       The main difference between the two documents is that they have now excluded the Managed Lanes Alternative (MLA aka HOT lanes) on the grounds, one assumes, that the MLA in the City’s Alternatives Analysis was “previously studied and eliminated for good cause.”

       We have protested to FTA that the MLA study was eliminated for political cause, not a “good cause."

       The construction cost forecast by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) was seven times the cost the Tampa Expressway (a similar facility). The “soft costs” alone (architects, PB, and sundry consultants) for the MLA was forecast to be 30 percent higher than the total cost to construct the Tampa Expressway.

       PB and the City also forecast that the MLA would need 50 percent more buses than the low cost alternative yet get only five percent more bus riders. And so on ….  READ PROTEST

       Anyway, at the same time the City issued a Scoping Information Package, which outlines for us the anticipated schedule of events

       They will hold Scoping hearings for “insiders” on Wednesday March 28 from 10:00-12:00 am at the City Auditorium adjacent to City Hall on theDiamond Head side. For the public there will be two public hearings, one at Kapolei Hale from 6:30-9:00 pm on March 28 and another on March 29 at McKinley High School, from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.

       You will then have until April 13 to submit written comments to the City. The City will then respond to them.

       The City and PB will then continue with the EIS which will issue in Draft form about April 2008. There will then be hearings and a comment period through about August 2008, and then they will prepare the Final EIS and issue that in about March 2009. They then hope that the FTA will issue a Record of Decision (ROD) in June 2009.  READ SCOPING

       Eighteen months from now we will be embroiled in elections for Councilmembers and the Mayor and the most of the Legislature. At that point the project will be imminent and should add some interest to the races.

       A few months after the 2008 election, the City Council will have to vote to actually spend the money and this will be the interesting event. Anyway, it is not a done deal by a long way.


March 11, 2007.

Memminger on Hannemann the Hun:

      You must read the Star-Bulletin's Charles Memminger column for today on Mufi. Excerpt:

      "He's figured out Fasi's secret to being mayor of an island city and county: If they don't like what I do, they can leave. They yell, scream, cry, pull their hair out, beat themselves with branches (and that's just in the City Council subcommittees). They write letters to the editors. They pester my staff. They burn effigies of me on the lawn of Honolulu Hale. BUT THEY DON'T LEAVE! HAHAHAHA! Once you realize you can raise fees, taxes, charges, rates, costs, dues, levies and tolls and the entire population of Oahu doesn't decamp to Las Vegas or Arizona, you have become MAYOR OF THE WORLD! HAHAHAHA!" 

       Because people don't leave. Raise the sales tax? They stay. Raise sewer fees? They stay. Raise garbage collection charges? They stay. Impose a $10 puppy tax? They stay. Make them pay for a rail system that no person alive today will ever ride on? They stay. It's a beautiful thing."  READ MORE 


Star-Bulletin: George Will on traffic congestion:

       Nationally syndicated columnist George Will talks about the cost of traffic congestion and quotes Mary Peters, USDOT Secretary and Reason Foundation's Ted Balaker and Sam Staley and their book, The Road More Traveled (in our view a must read). Excerpt from Will's column:

       "In the 13 largest cities, drivers are stuck in traffic the equivalent of nearly eight work days. Congestion's immediate and indirect economic costs -- not including lost serenity, family time and civic engagement -- just begin with fuel and wear and tear on vehicles.

        Innovative "just in time" delivery practices have enabled businesses to control inventories, thereby modulating business cycles. Congestion, however, is forcing supply-chain managers to hold larger inventories or build more distribution centers, thereby increasing the transportation and logistics components of GDP."  READ MORE 


Road funding takes a toll:

      When Panos Prevedouros and Cliff Slater returned from their week in DC at the International PPP Conference they told us that it was astonishing to learn of all the incredible changes occurring in highway financing worldwide, including the U.S.; it is all about PPP, tollways and HOT lanes.

      Florida has not built a non-tolled freeway in the last 20 years. Add to that the news that Texas alone has plans for 4,000 miles of tollways and it confirms the trend.  READ MORE  

       KEN ORSKI  the highly respected publisher of Innovation Briefs, said at a recent conference, "Looking at the rapid pace of change in attitudes toward tolling, it is quite conceivable that by the end of this decade, toll facilities will become the primary means of expanding highway capacity."  READ MORE 


March 8, 2007.

Thought from the Public Private Partnership Summit in DC:

      One of the presenters at the PPP Summit put rail and tollways in perspective this way. If you build a tollway and a rail line and have an auction, here's what happens. For the tollway you auction it off to the highest bidder, but the rail line is auctioned off to the one offering to run it at the lowest subsidy. That's one way of looking at it.


March 6, 2007.

WSJ: "They are all 'F' trains":

      Today's Wall Street Journal details the financial state of New York City's rail transit lines. The say, "much of the subway spending is not for new projects but for core maintenance and replacement of existing assets: cars and tracks, for example. Nearly half of that work is funded with debt, almost twice as much as in the '80s and early '90s. As a result, within three years more than 21% of subway revenues will go directly toward paying interest and principal -- twice as much, percentage-wise, as just a couple of years ago. And it will only get worse: As debt service consumes more of the subway budget, fewer dollars will be available for operating tasks like cleaning stations."  FULL STORY


March 3, 2007.

Train noise:

      Courtesy of Panos Prevedouros and Peter Kay we now have a sound clip of the DC Metro. Unfortunately,we do not have the wonderful sound that trains make as they go around sharp curves, that gorgeous squeal, such as during the transition from Ward Avenue to Kona Street or Kapiolani onto University. Nevertheless, this will do. LISTEN TO TRAIN

Dems and GOP cut earmarks:

      "The White House is instructing federal agencies to ignore earmarks that are not written into law, in keeping with a prohibition on pet projects Democrats included in a sweeping spending measure Congress approved Wednesday.
      In a memo sent to all agency heads Thursday, Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman wrote they should only honor earmarks contained in statute or otherwise subjected to rigorous review. The memo also makes clear agencies should not fund earmarks based solely on lobbying from lawmakers or other interested parties.
     In the $463.5 billion fiscal 2007 full-year funding bill President Bush signed into law Thursday, Democrats removed about 9,300 earmarks that had been slated for approval under the regular fiscal 2007 spending bills, many simply listed in reports accompanying the bills. The measure contains no new earmarks, as well as a provision stipulating that earmarks contained in fiscal 2006 reports "shall have no legal effect."
     Spending bills typically include earmarks in the reports as recommendations, meaning they have no force of law. But agencies are often guided by such congressional directives, in part because of the influence on their budgets wielded by powerful lawmakers." Source: 
GOVEX.COM — The daily news service of Government Executive magazine.


Finally, the City's response to our Scoping comments:

      After complaining, we recently received from the City a response to our Scoping comments. It was dated June 20, 2006. It seems that we are the only one to get a response from what we have been able to tell. You have to complain to get them to follow the process, it seems.

      Among other things their response says, "Projects with the purpose of providing roadway mobility for automobiles and commercial vehicles are outside of the authorization of Act 247; therefore, they will not be considered for the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project." In short, the City intends to do nothing about traffic congestion because the Legislature will not let them. This seems to us to be a variant of, "The Devil made me do it."  READ RESPONSE


March 2, 2007.

Panos Prevedouros Powerpoint PPP Preview:

Now say it quickly. Seriously, Dr. Prevedouros has been kind enough to provide us all with a Powerpoint summary of the current situation regarding Public Private Partnerships, much of it gleaned from his and Cliff Slater's attendance at the International PPP Conference in Washington DC last week. VIEW POWERPOINT


USDOT lists all congestion pricing projects:

We have been discussing HOT lanes for some time using the examples of the San Diego and Orange County HOT lanes -- both in California. This USDOT current list of existing and planned projects now totals 55 facilities in 13 states. What a remarkable and swift advance for a new idea that was only conceived in 1992. It makes interesting reading to review this list.  READ MORE 


March 1, 2007.

Pritchett and Adair chip in on the rail discussion:


When the cartoonists start poking fun at it, and Tuesday's Council vote was 5-4 in favor, down from 7-2, do you get the feeling that this may be rail transit in its early death throes?