Friday, February 24, 2012

Mayor Reviews State of the City, Challenges Rail Opponents To Specify What They’d Build Instead

Mayor Peter Carlisle’s State of the City Address yesterday was a review of his accomplishments during the first full year of his term and included a challenge to opponents of the Honolulu rail project.

Having won a special election in 2010 to replace recently departed Mufi Hannemann, Mr. Carlisle is seeking a four-year term and will face former city managing director Kirk Caldwell, who also supports rail, and former governor Ben Cayetano, who vows to kill it.

Unless a candidate receives 50 percent of the votes cast plus 1 additional vote in the August “primary” election, the two top finishers in that election will face off in November’s General Election.

Mr. Carlisle devoted a significant section of his speech to a defense of the Honolulu rail project and issued a challenge to “naysayers and critics,” chief among them Mr. Cayetano and his anti-rail Svengali, Cliff Slater.

“What do you have to offer these workers in the next seven years if we have to start all over again (on rail)” he said. “What do you have to offer the commuters from the West side, who in seven years would have a completed project?”

The mayor presumably was mindful that in the five weeks between Mr. Cayetano’s official entry into the race and yesterday’s address, the chief anti-rail candidate had not issued a plan to address Honolulu’s severe traffic congestion, which the Texas Transportation Institute called the second worst in the nation.

“I am committed to seeing our project move forward as I am about holding to the core values of honesty, transparency and fiscal accountability that you expect,” Mr. Carlisle continued. “My values have not changed. And my enthusiasm to do rail transit the right way has not changed.”

The Elevated Way
The “right way” in Honolulu is to build the system elevated above all surface traffic, which Mr. Cayetano and other rail critics oppose for aesthetic reasons. As Yes2Rail has noted innumerable times – well, maybe at least a hundred – grade-separated transit is the only way to provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation through Honolulu’s urban core.

Mr. Carlisle recalled a recent visit to Manila and his ride on the city’s elevated rail transit system.

“This vibrant and energetic waterfront metropolis suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion and vehicle pollution in the entire world,” he said, “but residents have a clean, reliable and safe alternative, and they use it by the thousands.
“While swarms of cars and buses jockey for position on choked thoroughfares, the most recent portion of the rail system whisks passengers along overhead and completely avoids the turmoil. It’s a system that works. For passengers who rely on the system every day, Manila without rail transit would be unthinkable.”

Mr. Carlisle’s emphasis on safety is another challenge to rail opponents, some of whom have expressed a preference for an at-grade light rail system – Mr. Cayetano among them. A quick scan of the photographs in Yes2Rail’s right-hand column shows what Honolulu could anticipate if the city’s elevated project were replaced with at-grade transit.

At-Grade Crashes
Beginning with a triple fatality last month at a Sacramento, CA light rail crossing, the photos document accidents in cities around the country with at-grade rail transit systems. Hundreds occur each year involving cars, trucks, buses and pedestrians.

Predictably, rail opponents avoid any discussion of the safety issue, and when they do dare to approach it, they’ve managed to trip themselves up. A representative of the local architect chapter appeared on public TV two years ago yesterday and claimed at-grade transit is as safe as elevated – a preposterous assertion on its face.

Anti-rail Mr. Cayetano apparently did not respond to the open invitation in Mr. Carlisle’s speech to tell the public what he’d do to make the morning and afternoon commute better for west side residents.

It’s now five weeks and a day since Mr. Cayetano formally announced his candidacy, and as far as we can tell, he still hasn’t proposed anything resembling a plan. His post-speech comments didn't, so we’re left with knowing what he doesn’t like but nothing about what he does.

The mayor said yesterday, “It’s not time to get cold feet while you’re walking down (to) the altar” after all the years of planning and preparation for rail. Like some would-be grooms who have second thoughts about the institution of marriage, maybe Mr. Cayetano just doesn’t like public transportation  and simply can't walk down that aisle. Whether he'll offer any kind of proposal is still anybody's guess.


Hawaii_INTP said...

To be self-consistent with his lawsuit that complains that the FTA did *not* follow NEPA procedures -- specifically that the Alternatives Analysis was *not* conducted in good faith wherein Parsons Brinckerhoff did *not* objectively study the Managed Lanes Alternatives but rather used it as a strawman -- Governor Cayetano should *NOT* specify what he would build instead. As his lawsuit demands, the City should go back to square one to conduct an Alternatives Analysis to objectively solve “the problem” of *reducing traffic gridlock*.

Hawaii_INTP said...

An answer to the question, “What do you have to offer these workers in the next seven years if we have to start all over again (on rail)” is Councilmember Ann Kobayashi's proposal that she has been badgering Toru Hamayasu over that past year at Council committee meetings of an elevated busway for *only* TheBus express busses along the Honolulu Rail route from Kapolei except terminating at Iwilei. Not only would express busses accomplish all of Honolulu Rail’s putative goals of improving corridor mobility, corridor travel reliability, access to planned development to support City policy to develop a second urban center, and transportation equity -- but it would take TheBus express busses *only* 16 minutes at 60 mph to traverse the 16 mile trip from Kapolei to Iwilei (compared to 34 minutes for Honolulu Rail at average stop-and-go 28.8 mph). Moreover, terminating at Iwilei rather than Ala Moana Center avoids all the *hard stuff* in Kakaako and Nimitz Highway along Honolulu Harbor like excavating iwi kapuna & relocating pre-GPS mapped underground utility lines that will likely lead to massive cost overruns. Moreover a better park-and-ride solution is to build massive “dual use” parking garages at Kalaeloa for weekday west Oahu commuters & weekend picnickers enjoying what could be a 4X-size Ala Moana beach park there, and at Aloha Stadium for central Oahu commuters & weekend sports fans.

Doug Carlson said...

Hawaii_INTP: Express buses most decidedly would not accomplish the same goals -- putative or otherwise -- as the 21-stop rail system. Let's examine the reasons why:

1) the express-lane system you and others advocate appear to have few if any on- and off-ramps along the way between the terminal ends. Therefore, they in no way would serve the communities they pass.

2) Buses and cars indeed do travel on express lanes at 60 mph as long as there are no accidents or other congestion along the way. Surely you must concede that accidents happen ALL THE TIME to impede the flow of traffic. Therefore, rail is superior, as trains will be immune to traffic below them.

3) Terminating in Iwilei will put the buses back on the ground and in the traffic that they allegedly bypass. Is this a massive blind spot that'S affecting your vision on this plan of yours, Hawaii_INTP?

Can't agree with you in the least about your ideas, but thanks for visiting and contributing them.

Hawaii_INTP said...

Doug Carlson said: “1)…they in no way would serve the communities they pass.” INTP's response: Yes there would be no way to serve the communities they bypass but the purpose of the elevated busway is *PARK-&-RIDE MOBILITY* for west & central Oahu commuters parking at economically efficient “dual use” massive parking structures respectively at Kalaeloa/Kapolei & Aloha Stadium -- and riding TheBus express busses at 60 mph (versus average 28.5 mph for Honolulu Rail) -- to *AVOID* TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK on the west-east corridor. So instead of building 21 train stations (and a maintenance yard) the City/State should build only 2 workday commute/weekend recreational “dual use” massive parking garages (saving big bucks!).

h said...

Doug Carlson said: “2) …no accidents or other congestion… impede the flow of traffic.” INTP’s response: Because the busway will be *elevated* like Honolulu Rail’s guideway, there will be *NO* congestion. Regarding accidents, that too should be *REMOTE* with *ONLY* TheBus express busses on say the 2 or 3-lane busway with intelligent vehicular technology providing situational awareness for safe workarounds (e.g., slowing from 60 mph to 25 mph). [FYI: I lived in Manhattan for 10 years and the NYC subway, Metro North, and Amtrack were periodically delayed by extenuating circumstances.]

Hawaii_INTP said...

Doug Carlson said: “3) Terminating in Iwilei will put the buses…in the traffic that they allegedly bypass.” INTP’s response: In terminating at Iwilei there could be a straight-shot off-/on-ramp (impeded by a yield sign on the inbound if you want to get technical) to the current TheBus-only Hotel Street (thinking here of Honolulu Rail’s route before River Street) which is the hub-spoke transfer point to other parts of Honolulu. Responding to “traffic that they allegedly bypass,” clearly 16 minutes from Kapolei to Iwilei at 60 mph *BYPASSES* the frustrating west-east corridor gridlock that motivates U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye to support Honolulu Rail. As Mayor Carlisle pointed out at the Honolulu Rotary Club on October 18, 2011 [google Robyn C. Ocepek’s vimeo, jump 36:42], “Do you know what is underneath the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii? Do you? NOBODY DOES. And every time you go down and underneath it you are going to find new and more pleasant obstructions….” Thus a benefit of terminating in Iwilei is to *avoid* digging up Nimitz Highway along Honolulu Harbor & Kakaako where *MASSIVE* cost overruns are likely to occur due to excavations of iwi kupuna and relocating pre-GPS mapped underground utility lines. (Note that HART has yet to award the Phase IV guideway segment design contract so it may well be that a pile-driven foundation with say 40 feet wide x 10 feet length pile caps may be required -- which means that PB Americas’ sampling strategy of excavating 3 feet wide x 10 feet length trenches that presumed the 8 feet diameter drilled shaft column design in its subcontracted City Center Archeological Inventory Survey may be inadequate. [Doug, if you have better info on this with independent verification (in the journalistic URL sense), that would be super cool!]) In fact from a *prudent* risk management perspective, instead of HART beginning the LONP2 construction in Waipahu -- HART should begin construction in Kakaako with *ONLY* the foundations such that if the excavations of iwi kupuna prove *undoable* then HART could *easily & quickly* pull the plug to kill Honolulu Rail (like what Whole Foods did for its Kakaako store).

Hawaii_INTP said...

Doug Calson said: “Can't agree with you in the least about your ideas, but thanks for visiting and contributing them.” INTP’s response: No, *thank you* for responding and would appreciate further critical feedback on my responses. If you like, please feel free to post this entire comment section conversation as an entry to your *terrific* blog to engage me in further critical discussion!

Doug Carlson said...

All too happy to post all your comments, Hawaii_INTP, since your responses have not responded effectively to my earlier response. Accidents will block your expressways, and bypassing communities along its length would not serve the needs of thousands of residents. Thank you for reading.

Hawaii_INTP said...

Hi Doug, setting aside equipment malfunction I *can't* see how accidents would happen on an elevated TheBus-only busway with only three on-/off-ramps: (i) Kalaeloa/Kapolei; (ii) Aloha Stadium; and (iii) Iwilei for TheBus downtown hub transfers. Regarding "bypassing communities" it looks like the 2012 mayoral election may well be about the 2035 Oahu General Plan. IMHO the only way to "reduce traffic gridlock" is to structurally change Oahu's commuting patterns by creating new job centers in west & central Oahu. Rather than the transit-oriented development approach of spreading out job centers over the east-west Honolulu Rail guideway, an alternative is for HCDA to build a very high density skyscraper second city at Kalaeloa (creating a construction boom that could last decades) -- which would follow Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan’s recommendation of "building up, rather than out" [Acrobat p. 50] to "keep country, country."

Doug Carlson said...

Well, Hawaii_INTP, you "can't" set aside malfunctions, and you "can't" rule out lane-blocking accidents. Once that happens, your presumed advantage of steady 60-mph travel evaporates.

And let's say your idea of no more development in the communities along the way comes to pass. You'd still bypass the residents and businesses of those communities.

I fear you have a blind spot about accidents and transportation equity, so convincing you express lanes for buses only are a poor substitute for rail isn't going to happen. But thanks for contributing to a 10-comment link to the above Yes2Rail post.