Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feedback Is Critical Element of Project Outreach; Airport-Area Audience Asked about Ridership

Rail system's airport station will be an easy walk to nearby employment centers. 
The Honolulu rail project gives a couple hundred or more presentations each year to community groups, private companies, service clubs and other organizations. It’s tempting to think we’ve heard and answered every conceivable question after all that outreach – tempting but not the case.

The folks at the Ohana Honolulu Airport Hotel did some outreach of their own by inviting neighboring businesses to send representatives to yesterday’s rail project presentation at the hotel. The session prompted numerous questions from the participants, some of them new to the presenter, and the project will be responding to each one individually.

As we promised the group yesterday, our Yes2Rail topic today addresses one pertinent comment, which is paraphrased: “Why do you think your ridership projections are accurate, and how will you ensure you reach your goal of attracting passengers to the train?”

Attraction Is the Key

Ridership forecasting is discussed at length in section 8.6.3 in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (available at the project’s website), and we’ll get to some of that below.

Honolulu rail will successfully achieve the projected 116,000 daily riders in 2030 by offering clear advantages to potential users in two areas – cost and convenience. We’ll leave the latter for another day and focus for now on the expense of commuting by car, which includes fueling it, of course, as well as insurance, maintenance and parking costs.

The AAA has calculated the per-mile cost of driving a car each year since 1950. Back then, when gasoline sold for 27 cents per gallon, driving a car 10,000 miles a year cost the owner 9 cents per mile.

The AAA’s 2011 report used $2.88/gallon as its basis for gasoline costs, so right from the start you know where this is headed. Here on Oahu, the average price of regular gas today is $4.044, nearly a dime more than a month ago.

The "Paradise Tax" we all pay for the privilege of living here translates to just about everything else that goes into calculating the cost of living, including driving. If the AAA says the composite average for vehicles driven 10,000 miles per year is 76.3 cents across America, then we can be certain the cost on Oahu must be close to $1 per mile.

Someone living in West Oahu with a 30-mile round trip commute to work in town is incurring in only two days the same cost as a monthly pass for TheBus. The future cost advantages of rail rapid transit – which will be faster than drive-time commutes on the H-1 freeway – is obvious even today, and we have to believe driving expenses will increase dramatically over the next decade.

Ridership Forecasts

Chapter 8 in the FEIS discusses how forecasts have been achieved using modeling techniques that the Federal Transit Administration says “is conducted to ensure ridership figures are realistic and to avoid past errors by other projects where, in some cases, forecasts exceeded actual ridership performance….”

The section continues:

"The model (for Honolulu) is based upon a set of realistic input assumptions regarding land use and demographic changes (City policy regarding where growth will be oriented over time and trends based on economic factors and population changes) between now and 2030…. Based upon the model and these key input assumptions, approximately 116,300 trips per day are expected on the rapid transit system on an average weekday in 2030.”

The FEIS notes that modeling involves uncertainty and therefore discusses the project’s uncertainty analysis. If you’ve not yet dipped into the document for detailed information on Honolulu rail, Chapter 8 on Comments and Coordination is one place to start.

We’ll address the convenience angle tomorrow to explain why many people stop driving their own cars and start riding rail transit with a description of how TheBus will link with the rail's 21 stations.

No comments: