Monday, February 7, 2011

Another Reminder that Honolulu’s Traffic Is Bad, But for Many, It’s Worse than Institute Study Says

Reports come and go on how Honolulu traffic stacks up against other cities, and although their results vary somewhat, the essential finding is consistent: We got it bad.

The latest output from the Texas Transportation Institute is its Annual Urban Mobility Report, which the Star-Advertiser notes ranks Honolulu as the fourth-worst among “medium average” areas for commuting to work.

You can go over the data specific to Honolulu and find whatever pops out at you. For us, it’s especially noteworthy that the amount of peak Vehicle Miles Traveled designated as “congested travel” has gone from 28 percent in 1982 to 56 percent in 2009 – a tidy doubling in that category.

But the statistic the newspaper highlighted -- “the average Honolulu commuter wasted 31 extra hours” – strikes us as a huge underplay of the traffic problem that Honolulu rail is intended to address.

Let's Get Real

Oahu’s major thoroughfare along the southern urban corridor is the H-1 freeway. If Honolulu rail is going to be an alternative travel mode to anything, it’s to commuting by car on the H-1. A total of 31 wasted hours doesn’t come close to what H-1 users lose each year.

Do the math: Let’s say a commuter using the H-1 from home to work and back has three weeks of vacation and takes off another 10 days during the year for holidays and whatnot. That’s about 235 commuting days and 470 one-way commuting trips annually.

This commuter isn’t “average” in any sense; he/she is an actual traffic-plagued driver. Our guess is that if you asked anyone who drives the H-1 during peak travel time how much of each trip is spent creeping along the freeway, you’d hear 20 to 30 minutes – at least.

Let’s pick the lower number – 20 minutes times 470 one-way trips. It comes out to more than 156 hours of extra travel time for the typical H-1 commuter during peak travel hours -- five times the study's average for Honolulu commuters!

THAT’s what is significant about our traffic problem and what Honolulu rail is meant to address – the actual experience of tens of thousands of car commuters who must drive on the H-1 and parallel surface streets and highways with no current alternative!

Averages are one thing; specifics are another. Honolulu rail will be an alternative to sitting in traffic, a huge time and travel improvement over the real-world experience of actual Honolulu commuters.

1 comment:

Steveo said...

Well said, I have been amazed at the blatant lies about how bad the traffic is. As a citizen and a business owner, I spend an incredible amount of time and energy, and thus money, just planning around traffic. This is a huge opportunity cost.