Monday, April 25, 2011

Big Question on Honolulu Rail Project Answered; Gas Hits Record Each Day Despite Oil’s Retreat

All sorts of questions are asked about Honolulu rail at events such as this past weekend’s Spring Food and New Products Show at the Blasidell Exhibition Hall. “Where will the Waipahu station be?” “How many stations are on the line?” “Will it stop at the airport?”

But the question that’s asked more than any other is the big one: “When will construction begin?” It was top of mind among the hundreds (thousands?) of supportive visitors to the project booth from Friday evening through Sunday, whether they had a question or not.

The answer for all to read is in a page-wide headline in the morning Star-Advertiser – “Rail work kicks off in Waipahu” – and in the story’s first paragraph:

“Relocation of utility lines is expected to begin today as the city moves forward with work on its $5.3 billion rail transit system.”

Lanes will be closed on Farrington Highway in both directions six days a week from 8:30 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 6 am to begin utility relocation while avoiding traffic disruptions during rush hours. Final approval of the federal funding portion to build the system is expected later this year, after which full construction can begin.

Those Gas Prices – Again

The charts at right are in a screen snapshot taken today showing the per-barrel price of oil as it has trended over the past month. Brent crude is always pricier than West Texas Intermediate.

The trend has been pretty much flat for Brent and more jagged for WTI, but note that the price two weeks ago was higher than it is today for both.

Now check out what’s been happening with the average price we pay at the pump for a gallon of regular gasoline. For the past 10 days, new record prices for regular gas have been set each day statewide ($4.537 today), in Honolulu ($4.431) and in Wailuku, Maui ($4.909).

Hilo’s average price for regular today ($4.551) still lags the all-time high for that neighbor island city by more than a dime (it hit $4.656 on 7/31/08). We’d like to know more about why Hilo is out of step with the rest of the state.

In fact, we’d like to know more about everything that’s influencing the price of gasoline, which clearly is out of synch with the price of oil.

Some analysts say pump prices can go up in a week that per-barrel oil prices decline because retailers have to recover their costs from recent purchases. The explanation seems plausible enough, but the price never seems to go down as fast when oil's price drops as it does on the up-tick.

Predicting Transit Use

This all is relevant to the Honolulu rail project, because cities across the nation are experiencing increases in transit use as the cost of driving a car increases.

Organizations like the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago are working to make alternatives to driving more attractive and “achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. We advocate for transportation that encourages and promotes safety, physical activity, health, recreation, social interaction, equity, environmental stewardship and resource conservation.”

Transportation equity is one of Honolulu rail's goals. Walking to and from the system’s stations will promote physical health. Grade-separated rail will enhance travel safety by being distant from congested surface traffic, where injuries and deaths occur.

We have to laugh when anti-railers insist “nobody will ride” Honolulu’s future system. Oahu residents allegedly have more of what is called the Aloha Spirit than other cities (although we find a lot of it everywhere we travel), but we’re no different in wanting to save time and money while eliminating the hassle of commuting than are people in Chicago or anywhere else.

People will ride this train, and now that utilities are being relocated prior to actual construction, residents have a sense that this long-delayed project is actually happening.

No comments: