Monday, December 22, 2008

DEIS Has ‘Environmental Justice’ Component

An important piece of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu rail project is Environmental Justice – EJ for short. President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 in 1994 directing Federal agencies:

“…to take appropriate and necessary steps to identify and address disproportionately high and adverse effects of their projects on the health or environment of minority and low-income populations to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law. The order directs Federal actions, including transportation projects, to use existing law to avoid discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and to avoid disproportionately high and adverse impacts on minority and low-income populations.” (a quote in the DEIS)

The project team has reached out to minority communities by conducting numerous meetings and distributing publications printed in a variety of languages – Chinese, English, Ilocano, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. The outreach has included coordination with local churches, health centers and local civic and ethnic organizations.

Chapter 4 of the DEIS – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation – discusses EJ beginning on page 4-46.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

DEIS Comment Period Extended to Feb. 6

The City’s Department of Transportation Services has extended the public comment period on the proposed Honolulu rail transit system's Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) to February 6. The four-week extension will give citizens more opportunity to review the document and comment on its contents. As we noted in the post immediately below, the DEIS covers four alternatives; that post has clickable links to the Statement’s several chapters.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Four Alternatives Reviewed in Transit DEIS

All the attention Honolulu’s rail transit system has received in 2008 in scores of media stories could easily have left some citizens wondering about what’s up for review. Several “alternatives” have been evaluated during the project’s many stages, leaving yet another set of “alternatives” that are under review in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

The DEIS can eliminate any residual confusion, starting with what is not in doubt. The Honolulu system being studied would be an elevated fixed guideway, separated from street and highway traffic and therefore operating at predictable departure and arrival times. And, steel wheel on steel rail technology was selected as the technology to operate on the guideway.

The focus of the DEIS is the evaluation of three “build alternatives” with different route alignments, and one “no build alternative” that assesses what future conditions would be if none of the “build” alternatives were implemented.

The Four Alternatives

No Build Alternative –This alternative includes completion of the committed transportation projects identified in the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Oahu Regional Transportation Plan.
• Fixed Guideway Transit Alternative via Salt Lake Boulevard.
• Fixed Guideway Transit Alternative via the Airport.
• Fixed Guideway Alternative via the Airport and Salt Lake.

Each of these is evaluated in great detail in the DEIS, which citizens can comment on through January 7, 2009. Written comments may be sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7.

Copies of the Draft EIS also can be reviewed at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700.

The DEIS can be read at your leisure at the project’s website. Here’s a list of the contents; go to the Decmber 4th post for links :

Executive Summary
Chapter 1 – Background, Purpose and Need
Chapter 2 – Alternatives Considered
Chapter 3 – Transportation (existing and future 2030 transportation system conditions, service characteristics, performance and transportation-related effects of the Project’s alternatives)
Chapter 4 – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation
Chapter 5 – Section 4(f) Evaluation (protection of public parklands and recreational lands, wildlife refuges and historic sites of national, state or local significance)
Chapter 6 – Cost and Financial Analsys
Chapter 7 – Evaluation of Alternatives
Chapter 8 – Comments and Coordination
Appendix A – Conceptual Alignment Plans and Profiles
Appendix B – Conceptual Right-of-Way Plans
Appendix C – Construction Approach
Appendix D – Record of Agency Correspondence and Coordination
Appendix E – Record of Public and Stakeholder Correspondence and Coordination

Friday, December 12, 2008

DEIS Comments Can Be Given Until January 7

Last night’s hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Honolulu’s rail transit project was the last of five such events, but the public comment period will remain open until January 7. Written comments may be sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2009.

Copies of the Draft EIS also can be reviewed at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700.

DEIS Chapter List

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu fixed guideway transit project can be read at your leisure at the project’s website. Here’s a list of the contents; go to the Decmber 4th post for links:

Executive Summary
Chapter 1 – Background, Purpose and Need
Chapter 2 – Alternatives Considered
Chapter 3 – Transportation (existing and future 2030 transportation system conditions, service characteristics, performance and transportation-related effects of the Project’s alternatives)
Chapter 4 – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation
Chapter 5 – Section 4(f) Evaluation (protection of public parklands and recreational lands, wildlife refuges and historic sites of national, state or local significance)
Chapter 6 – Cost and Financial Analsys
Chapter 7 – Evaluation of Alternatives
Chapter 8 – Comments and Coordination
Appendix A – Conceptual Alignment Plans and Profiles
Appendix B – Conceptual Right-of-Way Plans
Appendix C – Construction Approach
Appendix D – Record of Agency Correspondence and Coordination
Appendix E – Record of Public and Stakeholder Correspondence and Coordination

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Final DEIS Hearing Set for Bishop Museum

The Filipino Community Center audience listens to testimony at tonight's public hearing.
The traveling transit public hearing caravan rolled into Waipahu’s Filipino Community Center this evening and will make its final stop from 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street in Honolulu.

Numerous display boards will be erected on a wide variety of topics and issues related to Honolulu’s rapid transit project. Copies of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available for review, and project representatives will be present to answer questions.

Although Thursday’s hearing will be the last of five such events, the public comment period will remain open until January 7. Written comments may be sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2009.

Copies of the Draft EIS also can be reviewed at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700.

DEIS Chapter List

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu fixed guideway transit project can be read at your leisure at the project’s website. Here’s a list of the contents; go to the Decmber 4th post for links:

Executive Summary
Chapter 1 – Background, Purpose and Need
Chapter 2 – Alternatives Considered
Chapter 3 – Transportation (existing and future 2030 transportation system conditions, service characteristics, performance and transportation-related effects of the Project’s alternatives)
Chapter 4 – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation
Chapter 5 – Section 4(f) Evaluation (protection of public parklands and recreational lands, wildlife refuges and historic sites of national, state or local significance)
Chapter 6 – Cost and Financial Analsys
Chapter 7 – Evaluation of Alternatives
Chapter 8 – Comments and Coordination
Appendix A – Conceptual Alignment Plans and Profiles
Appendix B – Conceptual Right-of-Way Plans
Appendix C – Construction Approach
Appendix D – Record of Agency Correspondence and Coordination
Appendix E – Record of Public and Stakeholder Correspondence and Coordination

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

3 Down, 2 To Go; Hearings Move to Waipahu

This board and many others on the Honolulu rapid transit project
will be on display at the Waipahu and Bishop Museum public hearings.
Three public hearings have been completed on the Honolulu transit project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  Tuesday night's event was in Salt Lake; 14 persons testified, with many more listening in the audience, discussing the project with representatives and reviewing the many display boards, like the one above.

Here’s the schedule for the two remaining hearings on Wednesday and Thursday evenings:

• Dec. 10 – 6 to 8 p.m., Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street, Waipahu.
• Dec. 11 – 6 to 8 p.m., Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street.

The public comment period will remain open until January 7. Comments can be given in several ways -- verbally in the hearing room to the hearing officer (and recorded by a stenographer); verbally in a private session with a stenographer in an adjacent room; in writing on a comment form that can be left in a locked box at the hearing; at the project website and in written form sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2009.

Copies of the Draft EIS are on display at the hearings and also can be reviewed at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700.

DEIS Chapter List

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu fixed guideway transit project can be read at your leisure at the project’s website. Here’s a list of the contents; go to this blog's December 4th post for links :

Executive Summary
Chapter 1 – Background, Purpose and Need
Chapter 2 – Alternatives Considered
Chapter 3 – Transportation (existing and future 2030 transportation system conditions, service characteristics, performance and transportation-related effects of the Project’s alternatives)
Chapter 4 – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation
Chapter 5 – Section 4(f) Evaluation (protection of public parklands and recreational lands, wildlife refuges and historic sites of national, state or local significance)
Chapter 6 – Cost and Financial Analsys
Chapter 7 – Evaluation of Alternatives
Chapter 8 – Comments and Coordination
Appendix A – Conceptual Alignment Plans and Profiles
Appendix B – Conceptual Right-of-Way Plans
Appendix C – Construction Approach
Appendix D – Record of Agency Correspondence and Coordination
Appendix E – Record of Public and Stakeholder Correspondence and Coordination

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Public Hearings Begin on Transit’s Draft EIS

One of the many display boards available for viewing at
the public hearings on the transit project's Draft EIS.
• 12/7 Update:  See today's Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin coverage.
The first of five public hearings on the Honolulu transit project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was conducted in Kapolei this morning. Here’s the schedule for the remaining hearings, Tuesday through Thursday evenings:

• Dec. 9 – 6 to 8 p.m., Salt Lake District Park, 1159 Ala Lilikoi Place.
• Dec. 10 – 6 to 8 p.m., Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street.
• Dec. 11 – 6 to 8 p.m., Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street.

The public comment period will remain open until January 7. Written comments may be sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2009.

Copies of the Draft EIS also can be reviewed at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700.

DEIS Chapter List

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu fixed guideway transit project can be read at your leisure at the project’s website. Here’s a list of the contents, below.  (See December 4th post for clickable links.)

Executive Summary
Chapter 1 – Background, Purpose and Need
Chapter 2 – Alternatives Considered
Chapter 3 – Transportation (existing and future 2030 transportation system conditions, service characteristics, performance and transportation-related effects of the Project’s alternatives)
Chapter 4 – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation
Chapter 5 – Section 4(f) Evaluation (protection of public parklands and recreational lands, wildlife refuges and historic sites of national, state or local significance)
Chapter 6 – Cost and Financial Analsys
Chapter 7 – Evaluation of Alternatives
Chapter 8 – Comments and Coordination
Appendix A – Conceptual Alignment Plans and Profiles
Appendix B – Conceptual Right-of-Way Plans
Appendix C – Construction Approach
Appendix D – Record of Agency Correspondence and Coordination
Appendix E – Record of Public and Stakeholder Correspondence and Coordination

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Haven’t Commented on Transit’s Draft EIS Yet? Here’s the Chapter List of What You’re Missing

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu fixed guideway transit project can be read at your leisure at the project’s website. Here’s a list of the contents, with links:

Executive Summary
Chapter 1 – Background, Purpose and Need
Chapter 2 – Alternatives Considered
Chapter 3 – Transportation (existing and future 2030 transportation system conditions, service characteristics, performance and transportation-related effects of the Project’s alternatives)
Chapter 4, Part 1 – Environmental Analysis, Consequences and Mitigation
Chapter 4, Part 2
Chapter 5 – Section 4(f) Evaluation (protection of public parklands and recreational lands, wildlife refuges and historic sites of national, state or local significance)
Chapter 6 – Cost and Financial Analysis
Chapter 7 – Evaluation of Alternatives (within Chapter 6's link)
Chapter 8 – Comments and Coordination (within Chapter 6's link)
Appendix A – Conceptual Alignment Plans and Profiles
Appendix B – Conceptual Right-of-Way Plans
Appendix C – Construction Approach
Appendix D – Record of Agency Correspondence and Coordination
Appendix E – Record of Public and Stakeholder Correspondence and Coordination

Public Hearing Schedule

Here’s the schedule for public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the City’s elevated transit system:

• Dec. 6 – 9 to 11 a.m., Kapolei Hale, 1000 Uluohia Street.
• Dec. 8 – 6 to 8 p.m., Hawaii Suites, Neal Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Avenue.
• Dec. 9 – 6 to 8 p.m., Salt Lake District Park, 1159 Ala Lilikoi Place.
• Dec. 10 – 6 to 8 p.m., Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street.
• Dec. 11 – 6 to 8 p.m., Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street.

The public comment period will remain open until January 7. Written comments may be sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2009.  Comments also may be made online.

In addition to online access, copies of the Draft EIS can be reviewed in person at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Count the Ways to Submit Draft EIS Comments: In Writing, Online or at 1 of 5 Public Hearings

The flag is up and waving, so if you have comments to submit on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Honolulu Transit Project, now’s the time to act.

Written comments may be sent to the Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King Street, 3rd Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Comments must be received or postmarked by 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2009.

Copies of the Draft EIS can be reviewed at State libraries, the City library, the Department of Transportation Services (at the above address) and at the Rapid Transit Division office, 1099 Alakea Street, Suite 1700. The Draft EIS is also available online.

The project website has additional content: a video guide to the Draft EIS and a computer-simulated fly through of the two alternative alignments covered in the Draft EIS; the Salt Lake alignment and the Airport alignment. Renderings of rail transit station characteristics will be added to the website in the coming days. Residents can request a free DVD with the Draft EIS, the video guide, computer simulations of both alignments and renderings of rail transit station characteristics by calling 566-2299 or visiting the website.

Other Things To Know

Here’s the schedule for public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the City’s elevated transit system:

Dec. 6 – 9 to 11 a.m., Kapolei Hale, 1000 Uluohia Street.
Dec. 8 – 6 to 8 p.m., Hawaii Suites, Neal Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Avenue.
Dec. 9 – 6 to 8 p.m., Salt Lake District Park, 1159 Ala Lilikoi Place.
Dec. 10 – 6 to 8 p.m., Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street.
Dec. 11 – 6 to 8 p.m., Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street.

The entire Draft EIS is available at the project’s web site. The public comment period will remain open until January 7. The public comment period is mandated by federal and state laws. All comments received will be considered as the Final EIS is prepared by the FTA and the City. All substantive comments will be responded to in writing.

Regarding the Hearings

Persons wishing to speak at the hearings should sign up at the hearting site.

Elected and public officials will be heard first. Persons desiring to testify should register at the entrance to the hearing room, and will be called in order of registration.

Any individual may appear and speak for him or herself, or if duly authorized, for any local civic group, organization, club or association, subject to the rules provided below. Speakers should give their name and address. If representing a group, this information should also be given.

Speakers must limit their statements to three minutes. Additional prepared statements or literature, pertaining to the project, may be submitted at this hearing or through 4:30 p.m. January 7, 2009 to: Department of Transportation Services, 650 South King St., 3rd Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813. These statements will be made part of the official record if they include a legible name and address.

For these hearings, all statements, oral or written, should be directed to the Hearing Official and must be related to the subject matter of the hearing.

Each person speaking before the audience must do so at the floor microphone. A court stenographer will record and transcribe the hearing procedures. If required, the Hearing Officer will announce any other specific rules governing the hearing.

As part of this public hearing process, the Honolulu Rail Transit Project Team is not allowed to respond to any questions or concerns raised by the speaker. The Project Team will be available to address questions in an area outside the hearing venue.

The meeting sites for the public hearings are accessible to persons with disabilities. Individuals requiring reasonable accommodation may request written materials in alternative formats, sign language, interpreters, physical accessibility accommodations, or other reasonable accommodations by calling (808) 566-2299 (voice) or e-mailing info@honolulutransit.org at least 48 hours prior to the planned hearing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Public Hearings Set for Draft EIS Comments

Here’s the schedule for public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the City’s elevated transit system:

• Dec. 6 – 9 to 11 a.m., Kapolei Hale, 1000 Uluohia Street.
• Dec. 8 – 6 to 8 p.m., Hawaii Suites, Neal Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Avenue.
• Dec. 9 – 6 to 8 p.m., Salt Lake District Park, 1159 Ala Lilikoi Place.
• Dec. 10 – 6 to 8 p.m., Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street.
• Dec. 11 – 6 to 8 p.m., Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street.

The entire Draft EIS is available at the project’s web site. The public comment period will remain open until January 7.

Public Hearings Set for Draft EIS Comments

Here’s the schedule for public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the City’s elevated transit system:

• Dec. 6 – 9 to 11 a.m., Kapolei Hale, 1000 Uluohia Street.
• Dec. 8 – 6 to 8 p.m., Hawaii Suites, Neal Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Avenue.
• Dec. 9 – 6 to 8 p.m., Salt Lake District Park, 1159 AlaLilikoi Place.
• Dec. 10 – 6 to 8 p.m., Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street.
• Dec. 11 – 6 to 8 p.m., Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street.

The entire Draft EIS is available at the project’s web site. The public comment period will remain open until January 7.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rail Route (Cont.): Council Eyes Shift to Airport


The Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin provide details on yesterday’s City Council vote to shift the rail system’s alignment back to the airport routing. The stories also describe the events two years ago that produced the current Salt Lake plan.

We’ll be posting the schedule for the upcoming hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement just as soon as it’s released.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Airport Route Pushed as Election Dust Settles

Suggested route would increase ridership by 7,000 daily passengers.

Visitors to this blog from beyond the reef can’t be blamed for wondering what’s next in the quest to build Honolulu’s commuter rail system.

The latest wrinkle surfaced less than 24 hours after the polls closed on Tuesday, when voters gave thumbs up to the project. Now comes a long-standing rail opponent who says he’ll change his vote if the route is switched to the airport alternative from the Salt Lake Boulevard routing.

Both the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin give prominent treatment to this scenario today (including this supportive editorial). We’ll leave it there for now and invite you to comment on this proposal by clicking the link, below.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

‘Community’ Isn’t Dead After All; Rail Survives Election Test as Oahu Voters Affirm Big Picture

With today’s victory at the polls (scroll to page 3), Honolulu’s rail system is closer than ever to becoming the long-sought alternative to sitting in traffic in Honolulu’s congested urban core – a goal envisioned by politicians as far back as the 1960s.

In 1966, then-Mayor Neal Blaisdell said:

“Taken in the mass, the automobile is a noxious mechanism whose destiny in workaday urban use is to frustrate man and make dead certain that he approaches his daily occupation unhappy and inefficient.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 24, 1966)

Thousands of today’s drivers who share Blaisdell’s dim view of car commuting can now anticipate with confidence a new commuting mode that will liberate them from their twice-daily grind behind the wheel.

The really heartening news in the election is that so many Oahu residents voted beyond their own self-interest in affirming the need for a multi-modal transportation system built around a core rail line.

Most residents won’t ride the train – that’s a given – so for “Yes” to win, the majority had to endorse the City’s message that rail will be an alternative to traffic congestion and will enhance the quality of life of all Oahu residents, not just those who live and work along its route.

As we said the day we launched this blog, rail makes sense for Oahu residents no matter where they live. Today’s vote showed that an absolute majority agrees.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Documenting Proven Steel Wheel Technology

• NOTE: We've cited the City's Alternatives Analysis report on the project repeatedly at this blog and recommend it as a source of factual information on the Honolulu steel wheel system. Click here to access this super-detailed document.

Tucked inside your Honolulu Sunday newspaper is the City’s eight-page brochure on the steel wheel project with easy-to-read super factoids about the system. One of the most striking displays is titled: Why was steel-wheel technology chosen for Honolulu?

The short answer is that the technology was identified as far superior to other technologies and was recommended by a panel of verifiable transit experts (well, the 80% that recommended steel are transit experts; the dissenter is a highway expert).

A chart in the brochure compares the technologies in nine critical areas: lowest construction costs; lowest cost to maintain and operate; qualifies for federal transit funding; highest passenger capacity; electric-powered, can run on wind, solar, H-power (it also might have included ocean power); lightest construction impact on community; greatest relief of traffic congestion; lowest operating noise levels, and most proven mass transit solution.

Steel wheels scored YES on each of them; elevated HOT toll roads rated NO on each, and rubber-tire fixed guideway rated NO on four of the nine.

Rail is the proven technology compared to the alternatives; 56 of 62 projects funded by the Federal Transit Administration since 1992 are steel systems. Check out the newspaper insert for more on the technology selection.

Community Update Meetings

Here’s the schedule for the remaining Community Update meetings on the Honolulu Rail Transit Project:

• Tuesday, 10/21 – 6 to 8, Blaisdell – Hawaii Suite, 777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu.
• Wednesday, 10/22 – 6 to 8, Farrington High School, 1564 North King Street, Honolulu.
• Thursday, 10/23 – 6 to 8, Mililani Waena Elementary, 95-502 Kipapa Drive, Mililani.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Continuing Train of Thought on Congestion

Yesterday we cited a statistic from the Alternatives Analysis (AA), a document that’s recommended reading for anyone in search of factual information about Honolulu’s steel wheel system. The stat: There will be 11 percent fewer Vehicle Hours of Delay with transit than without it (see Page 3-22 in the AA).

Continuing that thought, the AA also notes that simply increasing the number of buses on the roads – the alternative that rail critics often propose – would reduce future traffic congestion by only 1.3 percent.

And then there’s the HOT Lanes alternative, another favorite of rail’s critics. When you build more highways into town to accommodate more vehicles, the only conceivable result in increased road congestion. As the AA says on Page 3-13:

“Nimitz Highways is already projected to be over capacity at this point (Pacific Street, where the elevated highway’s vehicles would return to surface streets), and the addition of high volumes of traffic exiting and entering the managed lanes would create increased congestion and high levels of delay for all vehicles using the facility, including buses. Hence, much of the time saved on the managed lane itself would be negated by the time spent in congestion leading up to the managed lane as well as exiting the lanes at their Downtown terminus.”

It’s this kind of detailed analysis that illuminates the issues and dispels the myths in the debate on rail. It can be heavy reading but worth the effort to understand what the Honolulu Rail Transit program is all about.

Community Update Meetings

Here’s the schedule for the remaining Community Update meetings on the Honolulu Rail Transit Project:

• Tuesday, 10/21 – 6 to 8, Blaisdell – Hawaii Suite, 777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu.
• Wednesday, 10/22 – 6 to 8, Farrington High School, 1564 North King Street, Honolulu.
• Thursday, 10/23 – 6 to 8, Mililani Waena Elementary, 95-502 Kipapa Drive, Mililani.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Altogether Now: Population and # of Cars Will Increase; with Rail, Car Growth Can Be Less

One of the arguments thrown at rail supporters is that the rail system won’t “solve” the congestion problem on our roads. The follow-up often is: “What’s the point of spending all that money on a non-solution?” The answer, of course, is that the money will be spent on an alternative to car travel and sitting in traffic.

Let’s face it: Unless you’re prepared to pave over all the remaining open space on Oahu, congestion during morning and afternoon rush hour is a Fact of Life and likely always will be. There’s only so much space on this island between the mountains and the sea, and despite the billions of dollars that will be spent on highway and road improvements in the next two decades, traffic is here to stay.

That’s the natural conclusion when you consider that Oahu’s population is expected to increase by nearly 200,000 souls by 2030, most of the growth because residents will have babies. Ninety-two percent of that growth will be within the urban corridor between Kapolei and its vicinity and town.

The Avoidance Alternative

With those demographics, it has been obvious to the City’s leaders for decades that a grade-separated transit system running through the heart of that corridor is the logical way to complement the other modes of transportation on the island – car, bus, bicycles, boat, whatever.

But grade-separated transit is transportation of a different sort altogether. It’s the only way of moving through our city that is completely immune to traffic congestion. As we’ve said here repeatedly, grade-separated transit is the only mode that allows you to accurately predict your arrival time, every time you travel. You can’t do that any other way.

So rather than being a “solution” to traffic, Honolulu’s steel wheel system will be the alternative way of traveling that will restore mobility for our citizens. You may not take the train every day, but the cost-savings and convenience of traveling by train will be a no-brainer for thousands of island commuters. And if you absolutely, positively must arrive across town on time, taking the train will guarantee your timely arrival.

Oh, yeah. About growth in the number of cars and the resulting impact on traffic congestion…. The City’s Alternatives Analysis predicts there will be 11 percent fewer Vehicle Hours of Delay with transit than without it (Page 3-22).

Community Update Meetings

Here’s the schedule for the remaining Community Update meetings on the Honolulu Rail Transit Project:

• Tuesday, 10/21 – 6 to 8, Blaisdell – Hawaii Suite, 777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu.

• Wednesday, 10/22 – 6 to 8, Farrington High School, 1564 North King Street, Honolulu.

• Thursday, 10/23 – 6 to 8, Mililani Waena Elementary, 95-502 Kipapa Drive, Mililani.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Economy, Environment, Growth Among Goals; City Has Four More Updates in the Next Week

Here’s the schedule for the remaining Community Update meetings on the Honolulu Rail Transit Project:

• Tonight – 6 to 8, Waipahu Intermediate School, 94-455 Farrington Highway, Waipahu.
• Tuesday, 10/21 – 6 to 8, Blaisdell – Hawaii Suite, 777 Ward Avenue, Honolulu.
• Wednesday, 10/22 – 6 to 8, Farrington High School, 1564 North King Street, Honolulu.
• Thursday, 10/23 – 6 to 8, Mililani Waena Elementary, 95-502 Kipapa Drive, Mililani.

Yesterday we reviewed three of the City’s goals in building its steel wheel system, so we’ll round out the list of six today starting with the Economy. An estimated 7,500 jobs will be created by the project over the next eight years, resulting in more than 90,000 “person years” of employment in direct and indirect jobs. The estimated multiplier effect on the project’s investment is six; for every dollar spent on the project, the community will receive six dollars of benefit.

One of the myths about the system’s impact on the Environment that was addressed at last night’s forum at Manoa Elementary school is that Hawaiian Electric Company would have to build another generation plant to power the system. City representatives said it’s not true; HECO says it will have sufficient resources to meet the system’s electricity demand. And as we’ve noted here many times, Honolulu’s train system is likely to eventually be run exclusively on renewable energy from the sun, sea, winds and biofuels.

Lastly, Sustainable Growth is another project goal – focusing growth in designated areas, such as near train stations, and away from areas that might best be left for agriculture or open space. As some like to say, it will help “keep the country country.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mobility, Reliability, Fairness Top Transit Goals

NOTE: For information on today’s two opportunities to ask questions of experts about Honolulu’s steel wheel system, click here for times and locations.

The City has just published a new brochure that contains the FAQ’s on the system – e.g., “Why don’t we just add more buses?” and “Why won’t ‘Hot’ lanes or roadways work?” We’ll get to those and other topics soon enough but will start with the goals of the Honolulu rail transit system.

We’ve had quite a bit to say already about Goal #1 – improving mobility within the urban corridor for Honolulu citizens. Here’s what the brochure says on the subject:

“We need to get from here to there – island-wide. The roads and freeways are often congested, limiting our community’s mobility. A full-elevated, steel wheel rail transit system will be able to move thousands of people per hour without taking away the already limited highway and road space we have now.”

A to B to A Again

The majority of West Oahu residents who work in town have a relatively uncomplicated need to move from point A (home) to point B (work) and back again. Sure, there are days when they also make side trips to the cleaners or supermarket, but getting from A to B and back to A is the essential commuting experience for most of them.

The transit system will let them do that with unparalleled ease and reliability. By being completely separated from surface traffic congestion, the system’s elevated trains will stay on schedule and deliver their passengers reliably on time. Instead of gripping a steering wheel for an hour or more, commuters will travel the length of the system between Kapolei and Ala Moana Center in about 40 minutes while reading, computing, sleeping, conversing, whatever. The argument that “nobody will ride it” simply has no credibility when you consider how convenient and appealing the transit experience will be.

The Fairness Factor

Unlike the so-called HOT lane alternative, rail transit treats everyone fairly by charging only an affordable fare – the same as for TheBus and TheBoat. Working families, students, seniors and others on a budget will be able to afford the train; then, as now, a monthly pass will work system-wide.

The brochure’s Goals section wraps them up nicely:

“Rail transit, as part of an overall public transportation system, is a way to enhance Honolulu’s quality of life by easing traffic congestion, enhancing our economy, reducing pollution, and providing greater mobility for us and future generations.”

We’ll have more to say about the environmental goals in future posts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This Week’s Forums on City’s Transit Project

Oahu citizens looking for information on the City’s proposed steel wheel project have four Q&A opportunities this week, in addition to what you'll find at the project’s fact-packed website:

• Tonight – 6 to 8, Holomua Elementary School, 91-1561 Keaunui Drive in Ewa Beach.

• Tomorrow – a presentation by Parsons Brinkerhoff’s principal structural engineer, 5:45 p.m., Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, 229 Queen Emma Square.

• Tomorrow night – 6 to 8, Manoa Elementary School, 3155 Manoa Road, Honolulu.

• Thursday night – 6 to 8, Waipahu Intermediate School, 94-455 Farrington Highway, Waipahu.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Paper’s Comparison of Claims Misses Mobility

[Note: The City’s booth at the Food & New Products Show is on the ewa side of the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall next to the florists’ display. A new 4-minute computer-generated “flyover” video shows the route from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, and City representatives are available today to answer questions.]

Today’s Honolulu Advertiser continues its extensive coverage of Honolulu’s proposed steel wheel transit system by comparing the claims of the City and rail opponents. What's missing is a comparison of claims about travel times for commuters, which is the heart of the matter.

As we’ve noted here many times, Mobility is the key issue. Honolulu residents have no true Mobility today because their travel can be interrupted without warning by heavy congestion on surface streets and highways. Our post last Tuesday showed what drivers experience on freeways, streets and – where they’re employed – HOT Lanes, too. As they say, it happens.

A travel-time comparison between the steel wheel system and the critics’ alternative HOT Lane proposal would have been useful. The City's Alternative Analysis notes that users of HOT Lanes eventually have to return to surface streets, where rush hour traffic would await. Here’s the AA’s finding on that point:

“In general, however, the two Managed Lane options would increase traffic on the overall roadway system and create more delay for buses. While bus speeds on the managed lanes are projected to be relatively high, the H-1 freeway leading up to the managed lanes is projected to become more congested when compared to the other alternatives, because cars accessing the managed lanes would increase traffic volumes in those areas. Additionally, significant congestion is anticipated to occur where the managed lanes connect to Nimitz Highway at Pacific Street near Downtown. Nimitz Highway is already projected to be over capacity at this point, and the addition of high volumes of traffic exiting and entering the managed lanes would create increased congestion and high levels of delay for all vehicles using the facility, including buses. Hence, much of the time saved on the managed lane itself would be negated by the time spent in congestion leading up to the managed lane as well as exiting the lanes at their Downtown terminus.”

The system is intended to restore Mobility and reduce travel time for commuters, and we hope the Advertiser will make that specific comparison in a future article – 40 minutes between Kapolei and Ala Moana Center during rush hour (and any other time) compared to car and bus travel during rush hour no matter the route.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Need To Know Info: the True Cost of HOT Lanes, Transit’s Multiplier Effect, and 11,000 New Jobs

Here are some facts about the Honolulu steel wheel system for citizens still looking for information.

HOT Lanes and Tolls

Proponents of HOT lanes as an alternative to the proposed transit system almost always use the acronym – HOT – rather than spell out "high occupancy toll." That’s because T obviously stands for Tolls. Drivers willing to pay the toll gain access to the lanes, and those who don’t, don’t. The Orange County, California HOT lanes cost $10 each way during rush hour; drivers willing to pay $20 per round trip during rush hour can use the lanes, but if you’re not willing to shell out an additional $100 per week, you’re stuck in surface traffic because there’s no alternative to traffic in Orange County. The alternative to being stuck in traffic between ewa and downtown will be the steel wheel system, which will carry commuters above surface congestion without the costs of HOT lane tolls, gasoline, vehicle maintenance and parking.

Federal Support

Another detail HOT lane proponents don’t like to mention is that there’s no money to pay for it. The ½ percent increase in the general excise tax is now being collected for the steel wheel system; those funds are prohibited from being used on any other project. Consider, too, the fact that federal money will pay for a big chunk of the project. The Federal Transit Administration shows a clear preference in supporting steel wheel projects; 56 of the 62 projects the FTA has funded since 1992 have been steel.

How to Save a Bundle

When a family eliminates one car from its household, the annual estimated savings is $11,000. Families who choose to take advantage of transit-oriented development and live near a station will find train commuting so convenient that many likely will see no need for a second car.

Six Is the Magic Number

The estimated “multiplier effect” of investment in a major project like Honolulu’s steel wheel system is six. That is, for every dollar invested in the system, the positive economic impact on the community is expected to be six dollars thanks to job creation, transit-oriented development and similar benefits.

Boosting the Economy

And speaking of jobs, the Honolulu steel wheel system is expected to create 7,500 direct and indirect jobs during its construction. That translates to over 90,000 “person years” of employment; i.e., that’s how many total years of employment will be generated for everyone working on the project.

You Want More?

Stop by the 44th Annual Food and New Products Show at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall this weekend. The Honolulu transit system will have a booth, and representatives will answer your questions about the project. The Show runs Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 to 5.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Caption: Bus Accident Causes Traffic Backlog

This photo on page B-1 of today’s Honolulu Advertiser shows what can happen to your Mobility on any given day at any time if you travel by car through Honolulu’s urban corridor. The backup occurred on the H-1 freeway after a bus accident between the Waimalu and Waipahu exits and stretched back past the Kaahumanu Street overpass, according to the Advertiser (photo credit: Bruce Asato). The City’s planned steel wheel system will enable residents to completely avoid traffic disruptions like this one.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Boom Box Moves from Sideshow to the Street

We can’t let the weekend go by without noticing the “Stop Rail brings the noise” story in yesterday’s Advertiser. The “I didn’t notice anything” quote pretty much says it all, along with comments by spokespersons for the City’s steel wheel system. 

We’ll only suggest that the boom-box-in-a-truck tactic is part of the Sideshow we wrote about here three months ago. Tactics that attempt to divert attention from Oahu’s mobility problem are being used by the anti-rail “barkers” who stand in front of the smaller tents.

The real issue the system is intended to address is the lost mobility of Oahu citizens. That’s the reason to build the system – the Big Tent issue. With the system, mobility is restored; without it, mobility would continue as a dream for commuters who simply want to move quickly and reliably on-time between the ewa plain and town.

For a longer discussion of the issues, visit our September 22 "multiple truths" post, which prompted more comments than any other here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mining the Alternatives Analysis for “Headways”

Just about all the factual information you could want on the Honolulu steel wheel system is found in the Alternatives Analysis prepared for the project. Delve into the AA and you’ll eventually find a subject sure to interest future riders – headways, or the time between trains.

The shorter the headways, the better commuters like it, so how often will the trains run between the ewa side and Ala Moana Center? Imagine that you’re a regular rider on the completed system in a dozen years. As you step off a feeder bus at the station near the UH-West Oahu campus, you see a train just leaving toward town on the overhead track.

You can pick out the first-time riders by their frustration for having just missed the train. But you know it “ain’t no big thing,” because another train will be along in only 3 minutes. The headways in both the morning and evening rush hours will be that short, so there’s almost no waiting at all between 6 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 6 in the afternoon. Headways on either side of the rush hours aren’t much longer – 6 minutes – and they increase to 10 minutes from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Your train pulls into the station in a couple minutes; you take out your ThinkPad laptop to catch up on the news.  Because it’s 2020, it really IS a ThinkPad. You just think about which newspaper you want to read online and it comes up on the screen.

OK, we’re only guessing about that, but the part about headways? Count on it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Energy Series Calls Mass Transit ‘Best Hope’

The Honolulu Advertiser just concluded a three-part series on the imperative for Hawaii to get off oil as its primary energy source. Today’s post is just long enough to call attention to part 2 of the series for the authors' thought-provoking comments on mass transit and energy use.

Friday, September 26, 2008

‘Love My Car’ but Rail Will Avoid the Hassle

We go back to Comment #7 by "anonymous" beneath the September 22 post for a second dose of clear-headed thinking. Granted, some of the comments that day took issue with the thrust of this blog – that rail will give those who choose to ride a reliable and comfortable way to commute without enduring traffic.

But Comment #7 says in 40 words what we tried to say in far too many: Rail travel will be all about choice. Here’s the complete comment:

“This is all about choice. I love the convenience of my car but I want the choice to get places without being required to buy, insure, maintain, fuel, store and spend a big portion of my life driving an automobile.”

Exactly. This person agrees with the general notion that nearly everyone shares: The private automobile is a great tool that allows drivers to go where they please. Most of the time, the car also delivers the occupant to the destination when they please. But here’s where the car-only argument breaks down.

‘When’ or ‘Where’ or Both?

Commuters who travel between the ewa plain and downtown Honolulu aren’t in control of the “when.” Ask commuters who travel that route during weekday drive time; ever-increasing traffic gives them no certainty about their time of arrival. That translates to impaired mobility and no real freedom of movement through our city.

Those who demand complete control over the “where” will continue to drive their cars during drive time, and that will be fine for them. Knowing they can go anywhere they want in their cars may be such a powerful concept and perhaps even a necessity in their lives that rail just won’t work for them. The “where” will be so powerful a draw that they’ll be willing to give up on the “when.”

But commuters for whom “when” is more important will take the train. Virtually all of rail’s future riders will have an uncomplicated “where” issue; they’ll simply want to go between points A and B – the stations near their homes and workplaces we wrote about in the September 22 post.

It will be important for them to know before they even leave on the journey exactly when they’ll arrive, because the train will travel reliably on time. As we’ve said here repeatedly, grade-separated transit is the only mode of transportation that guarantees a time of arrival.

In other words, rail commuters will control both the “where” and the “when.” Those for whom the "where" is still an overriding concern will likely continue to drive their own cars, and that's OK. It'll be up to them, and equally OK should be an option for other commuters to take the train.

As "anonymous" in Comment #7 says, it’s all about choice.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Honolulu’s Transit Project Parallels Story of the Blind Men and the Elephant: What Is the Truth?

Decades of debate over how best to move people through Oahu’s increasingly congested urban corridor have produced a massive public issue that evokes passionate views on all sides. It’s unsurprising that many who are involved in the debate seem to believe their opinions represent the truth of the matter.

Although we believe Honolulu’s transit project is long overdue, we’re trying not to make this a black-or-white issue – as if only our views have merit and those on the other side have none. Today’s long Honolulu Advertiser story on the rail issue quotes spokespersons on both sides, and residents still assessing the project probably can find credible statements from both camps.

For example, we respect the opponents’ argument -- their “truth” – that the private automobile has become an indispensable tool for Oahu residents in meeting the demands of their busy lives. Proponents of “individual transportation” say cars allow them to drop children off at private schools, go the cleaners, buy groceries, etc. Just about all car owners have days like that and can’t conceive of giving up that freedom. Neither can we.

On the Other Hand

Our “truth” is that Honolulu’s elevated rail system is intended to do something relatively uncomplicated – move large numbers of people from point A to point B and back to A again. That’s the job of transit systems all over the world. Honolulu’s proposed system typically will serve commuters going to and from work and school in both directions between the emerging Second City on the ewa plan in the west and urban Honolulu on the east end of the line without having to deal with everything “individual transportation” entails – rising gasoline prices, costly parking and the biggest car-related problem, traffic.

There’s “truth” in both of the preceding two paragraphs, and we acknowledge both. But some of transit’s most visible opponents aren’t willing to acknowledge our A-B-A “truth.” They say a better idea is to build High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. HOT lanes cost less, they say, and would move buses, multi-passenger cars and toll-paying single-occupancy vehicles faster along their length than the train over a comparable distance. Even the City’s Alternatives Analysis (AA) acknowledges that specific assertion about travel time for vehicles while on the lanes.

But the AA also predicts that traffic congestion on both ends of the proposed HOT lanes would increase – a “truth” that’s also logical, inasmuch HOT lane vehicles eventually would be returned to surface streets and high levels of congestion. The AA says any time advantage gained along the lanes would be negated by surface road traffic.

Bottom-Line Truth

And here’s where we believe Oahu residents can make a distinction between all the so-called “truths” in this debate. In addition to the AA’s assertion, our bottom-line truth is that HOT lanes would be susceptible to accidents, vehicle breakdowns and other unanticipated traffic interruptions like any highway – interruptions that simply will not affect rail commuters. Honolulu’s transit system will be immune to traffic congestion no matter where it occurs. Commuters will know exactly when they will reach their destination before they even begin their journey. That’s why they call the schedule a timetable.

The bottom-line truth is about mobility – a quality “individual transportation” advocates embrace when they tout the private automobile for trips to the market and the in-laws. But only grade-separated transit guarantees true mobility for 5-day-a-week commuters traveling through the urban corridor between the ewa plain and downtown Honolulu.

That truly is Oahu’s greatest transportation challenge – devising a way for commuters to avoid the massive traffic congestion problem that will continue to grow throughout the length of the urban corridor as Oahu’s population inevitably grows.

The City’s transit project meets that challenge head-on and guarantees mobility in our city for the large number of commuters who simply want to go from A to B and back to A again. Certainly there will be days when those commuters will also head to the market after returning home on the train, and they’ll probably go by car.

The truth of the matter is that both modes of transportation are needed in our community – a train for tens of thousands of commuters to conveniently, economically and reliably travel to and from work and school, and private automobiles for all the trips we will continue to make in them.

It’s neither either-or nor black-or-white. It’s both.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Busy Day Leaves Time for Reflections on Rail

It’s a fine day for the park, beach and other activities, so we trust most citizens’ thoughts are elsewhere. For anybody who’s interested in the Honolulu rail project today and who may be dropping in for the first time, our recommendation is to read up on the Alternatives Analysis for the project and three posts at this blog from the past month.

As we’ve said repeatedly and say again, the major consideration about rail is that it will restore Mobility – the ability to move freely through an urban environment while completely avoiding traffic, knowing your time of arrival before you begin your trip.

Some critics argue against rail because, as one letter writer recently found offensive, the system won’t deliver her to the door of her in-laws’ home. That’s not rail’s purpose – to be the answer for every single trip every resident could possibly make. Its function will be to transport tens of thousands of residents from one end of the city to the other according to a reliable schedule.

And that’s the second major issue – Reliability. Grade-separated transit is the only mode of transportation that can deliver you to your destination on time, every time. Enough said.

The third of the big three issues is Environmental. Renewable energy is going to supply an ever-increasing percentage of Oahu’s electricity in the years during which the rail system is built. As we’ve written here previously, it’s almost a certainty that energy from the ocean will be supplying power to the rail system, along with wind, solar and biofuels. Environmentally, rail is superior to single-car or even bus transportation, as the Alternatives Analysis discusses.

So enjoy the beach, park or whatever else you have to do today, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rail Transit a Natural Choice for No-Car Homes

We live in an age when three cars per household is what some families feel is necessary to enjoy unrestrained mobility. Compare that to an often-overlooked fact about our city’s population: Many residents live in zero-car households.

The Alternatives Analysis for the rail project estimated that 15 percent of the households along the transit corridor don’t have a car registered to them. The planned rail system would provide “improved transportation equity for all travelers,” according to the AA:

“Many lower-income and minority workers live in the corridor outside the urban core and commute to work in the Primary Urban Center Development Plan area. Many lower-income workers also rely on transit because of its affordability. In addition, daily parking costs in Downtown Honolulu are among the highest in the United States (Colliers, 2005), further limiting this population’s access to Downtown. Improvements to transit capacity and reliability will serve all transportation system users, including low-income and under-represented populations.”

Transit Oriented Development in conjunction with the build-out of the rail project will likely increase the percentage of households that see no need to maintain one or more cars. Residents of those future apartment and condo complexes will be within walking distance of the system's stations or will take feeder buses to catch the train.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Second City Will Anchor Rail’s Ewa Terminus

Our post three days ago summarized the key points about the future rail system that were featured in a presentation to a realtor group last week. The first point – Accommodating Future Growth – deserves additional examination, especially for relative newcomers to Honolulu who may wonder about the assumptions upon which the rail system rests.

The Alternatives Analysis prepared for the project has considerable information on Oahu’s anticipated population growth, but there are other documents about anticipated growth in the region that are easily accessed on the Internet. One is the Ewa Development Plan, which supports the Oahu General Plan adopted by the Honolulu City Council in 1977.

Population & Jobs

The Plan designated the Ewa region as the location for a Secondary Urban Center to be developed around a new community, Kapolei. This is the so-called Second City that’s mentioned so often in media reports and government documents. Geographically, it encompasses the Kapolei-Ko Olina-Kalaeloa, Honouliuli-Ewa Beach and Makakilo-Makaiwa communities.

The Alternatives Analysis says the region’s population was 68,600 in 2000, and it projects a 2030 population of 184,600 -- a 169-percent increase. As noted here three days ago, most of that growth will come from within through births – i.e., families doing what comes naturally.

Jobs also will increase with population growth and Second City’s build-out, from 18,600 in 2000 to 65,800 in 2030. Elsewhere along the urban corridor from Waipahu-Waikele-Kunia to Kahala-Palolo, another 76,000 new residents are anticipated by 2030.

More than 90 percent of Oahu’s growth that’s expected by 2030 will be in the Second City-to-Honolulu corridor through which the rail project will run. As noted in the Alternatives Analysis report, the vast majority of trips made on the island occur within this corridor.

Both the Oahu General Plan and the Alternatives Analysis provide essential background on the rationale for the Honolulu rail project.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rail Project Presentation Hits the Key Points

We had an opportunity to give a presentation on the rail project to a group of realtors two days ago at Ryan’s in Ward Centre. Here are the highlights for Yes2Rail's broader audience. All of this information can be found in the Alternatives Analysis (AA) that was prepared for the City by professionals in numerous transportation-related fields.

Accommodating Future Growth

Oahu is projected to have 200,000 more residents, 100,000 more jobs and 750,000 more daily trips in 2030 than in 2005. The great majority of that growth will come from within, not from in-migration; i.e., the current population is having kids, and those kids will have kids.

Of special note: More than 90 percent of that growth will occur within Oahu’s urban core and the corridor for Honolulu’s fixed guideway project.

The Alternatives

As most who have followed this project already know, the AA closely examined four alternatives – the No Build option (no transit improvements); Transportation System Management (expanded bus service); Managed Lanes (buses and cars on toll lanes), and a Fixed Guideway.

In December 2006, the City Council selected the Fixed Guideway alternative, with an initial alignment from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, with an Airport Spur to be added; eventually, the service will be extended to UH Manoa and Waikiki.

Critical Choices

The AA details why the three alternatives were deemed inferior to the fixed guideway. An expanded bus service would be subject to the anticipated increase in traffic congestion that can be expected due to the population’s growth. That congestion would slow buses, increase their operating costs and negatively affect service reliability. The bus system already is approaching capacity.

HOT Lanes (toll roads) would actually increase congestion at critical points along the route – at the entry points where cars and buses bound for town would be funneled toward those lanes, and on Nimitz Highway where town-bound vehicles would enter the surface traffic mix again near Pacific Street. The situation would be reversed in the evening for ewa-bound traffic.

In addition, toll lanes contribute to the cost of commuting by increasing tolls until fewer drivers are willing to accept the higher toll; that’s how they are “managed” to achieve swifter travel times. But as noted immediately above, time that might be gained while traveling along the lanes would be lost at both ends of the lanes. And from an environmental perspective, car and bus traffic uses more energy per passenger mile traveled than a rail system.

Technology Alternatives

The “modern rail” technology has been selected over the other technologies because it is offered by multiple suppliers, is widely used, its noise is easily mitigated and it has the lowest life cycle costs. Of the 62 New Start Projects funded in the past 16 years by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), 56 have been rail systems. The “rubber tire” and magnetic levitation technologies were disadvantaged for a variety of reasons – their proprietary suppliers, uncertain futures, higher life cycle costs and/or higher energy use.

Mobility

We told the realtors that just as “location” is the key word in their industry, the key word in moving people through an urban area is “mobility” – true freedom of movement through a densely developed corridor. Oahu residents traveling between downtown and the island’s Second City in and around Kapolei have no true mobility today. It’s not possible to arrive at their destination with predictable reliability due to traffic congestion, accidents on roads and the freeway, weather conditions that make driving hazardous and slow, etc. Grade-separated transit – what Honolulu’s system will be – is the only modern transportation mode that guarantees a time of arrival. HOT lanes and bus transit certainly can’t do that. (You can read more about Mobility in recent posts here and here.)

Reducing Future Congestion

With 200,000 more people on Oahu by 2030, traffic congestion obviously will increase. But…and this is important…congestion will be 11 percent less in 2030 with the rail project than without it, and congestion with rail transit will be less than with the HOT Lane alternative. It’s all in the Alternatives Analysis.

Economic Effects

Direct employment to build the rail system will be 4,700 constructions jobs per year, and 37,700 person-years of employment over the course of the project. When indirect employment is considered, the totals rise to 11,300 jobs per year and 90,400 person-years of employment during construction.

Private investment near the 19 rail stations will likely be a significant contribution to the local economy. Transit-Oriented Development encourages livable, walkable communities that take advantage of transit access. TOD planning is already underway; Waipahu residents have been engaged in workshops for several months discussing how they’d like to see their community utilize the space near Waipahu’s future transit station.

Operating Details

Honolulu’s rail system will operate 20 hours each day from 4 a.m. to midnight. The time between trains will vary from 3 minutes during the morning and evening rush hour, 10 minutes from 8 p.m. to midnight and 6 minutes for the other time blocks during the day. The train will reach 55 miles per hour between stations, achieving that top speed on 12 segments between them.

The system will be integrated with TheBus, park-and-ride facilities at some stations and bike and walking paths. The cost will be the same as riding TheBus and TheBoat, with transfers usable among all these modes.

Source of Funds

The system is projected to cost $3.72 billion, including contingency funds and interest costs, in 2006 dollars. Of that total, $3.020 will be funded by the GET surcharge – one-half of one percent – that’s been in effect since January 2007 and will continue to 2022, and $700 million will be in FTA New Starts funds.

Operating & Maintenance Costs

Building the rail system is a way to save on transit O&M costs. The per-passenger-mile operating cost for rail is 40 percent less than for bus O&M costs, which are growing as bus speeds decline. Furthermore, O&M costs of a bus + rail system as Honolulu’s will be are less than the cost of carrying the same number of riders on a bus-only system.

Staying Informed

The project’s website – honolulutransit.org  – is an excellent source of factual information on Honolulu’s future rail system. “Honolulu on the Move” is on `Olelo’s channel 54 at 6:30 p.m. each Monday, and you can call the project hotline for more information: 566-2299.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Keeping Eye on the Donut, Not the Hole, Means Staying Focused on Mobility, Rail’s Chief Goal

As a long-time supporter of the grade-separated transit option, we’ve frequently mentioned “mobility” as the key to understanding why this mode is so important.

We’re not alone; for repeated references to mobility, skim through the City’s Alternatives Analysis for the current rail project. Yes, it’s a long document, but to truly appreciate how and why a fixed guideway completely separated from surface traffic was selected as the best alternative to improve mobility for Honolulu residents, it's worth a fast read.

Mobility shows up early and often:

“The purpose of the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project is to provide improved mobility for persons traveling in the highly congested east-west transportation corridor…. The project would provide faster, more reliable public transportation services in the corridor than those currently operating in mixed-flow traffic….”

The document notes something obvious to residents on the ewa end of the island: Mobility has been lost thanks to increasingly severe traffic congestion.

“The existing transportation infrastructure in the corridor…is overburdened handling current levels of travel demand…. Average weekday peak-period speeds on the H-1 Freeway are currently less than 20 mph in many places and will degrade even further by 2030….”

Why HOT Lanes Wouldn’t Help

The Alternatives Analysis addresses why the Managed Lanes option (the so-called HOT lanes), despite possibly improved transit travel times for some origins, “…would increase traffic on the overall roadway system and create more delay for buses.” Continuing:

“…the H-1 freeway leading up to the managed lanes is projected to become more congested when compared to the other alternatives, because cars accessing the managed lanes would increase traffic volumes in those areas. Additionally, significant congestion is anticipated to occur where the managed lanes connect to Nimitz Highway at Pacific Street near Downtown.

“Nimitz Highway is already projected to be over capacity at this point, and the addition of high volumes of traffic exiting and entering the managed lanes would create increased congestion and high levels of delay for all vehicles using the facility, including buses.”

Keeping in mind the overall goal of increasing corridor mobility for residents, it’s clear from the analysis that mobility – true freedom of movement – can be achieved only by traveling in a mode that is separated from surface traffic.

That’s what Honolulu’s fixed guideway project will do – deliver riders to their destination at a predictable time according to a time table, something cars can’t do no matter what lane they’re in.