Sunday, May 23, 2010

Been There, Done That: Rail Alternatives Still Being Debated Despite Years-Ago Decision

It’s late May 2010, yet to read some of the discussions at Civil Beat and other websites, you’d think it’s 2006 all over again.

Civil Beat’s subscription news service is attracting attention by offering members the opportunity to engage in dialogue with each other, the site’s reporters and editors on Hawaii’s major issuess – civil unions, energy independence, Honolulu’s rail project and many others.

Our interest is mostly the rail project, of course, and we continue to post a pro-rail point of view that’s clearly identified on our member bio page. Most of the commentary from other members has indeed been civil, with the occasional ad hominem attack the exception.

Catching Up with the Times

Some members continue to support options to rail to address Honolulu’s increasing traffic congestion issues. Just this weekend buses on managed (hot) lanes were suggested by one contributor, prompting our recommendation of a thorough reading of the Alternatives Analysis discussion in the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Indeed, it’s safe to say all alternatives suggested by community residents over the years were fully explored in the Alternatives Analysis process – including waterborne ferry service. (A frequent visitor to a newspaper comment section was fixated for a few weeks on the idea of using barges to float buses across Pearl Harbor.)

The DEIS addresses all the major alternatives, including the busses-on-managed-lanes suggestion, and since it keeps coming up, it’s worth quoting why the analysis dismissed it. From Chapter 2, Section 2.1.2:

"While this alternative would have slightly reduced congestion on paralllel highways, systemwide traffic congestion would have been similar to the No Build Alternative as a result of increased traffic on arterials trying to access the facility. Total islandwide (Vehicle Hours of Delay) would have increased with the Managed Lane Reversible Option as compared to the No Build Alternative, indicating an increase in systemwide congestion (Table 2-1). Transit reliability would not have been improved except for express bus service operating in the managed lanes. The Managed Lane Alternative would not have supported planned concentrated future population and employment growth because it would not provide concentrations of transit service that would serve as a nucleus for transit-oriented development. The Managed Lane Alternative would have provided very little transit benefit at a high cost. The cost-per-hour of transit-user benefits for the Managed Lane Alternative would have been two to three times higher than that for the Fixed Guideway Alternative (Table 2-1). Similar to the (Traffic System Management) Alternative, the Managed Lane Alternative would not have substantially improved service or access to transit for transit-dependent communities."

The Final EIS that soon will be issued will reiterate all the alternatives that were deemed worthy of serious and detailed analysis. At this late date, it seems appropriate for residents to shift from continuing their own alternatives analysis to instead focus on what’s immediately ahead.

The FEIS will address mitigation of Honolulu rail’s impacts on the community. An elevated rail system is what’s on the table – not an ongoing rehash of the issues that reasonably should have been put to rest four years ago

1 comment:

Dean said...

My impression is that this problem, and the recommended solutions, has been studied since the 1970's.

In that time, people went from being teenagers to members of the AARP and there are still people out there who think it needs to be looked at further?