Friday, February 3, 2012

Traffic Advice Went Beyond Just Head-Scratching; Being Stuck by Traffic for Hours Is Unacceptable, Plus: Mayoral Candidate Still Mum on Transit Plan

The more we think about it, the more outrageous it seems. The new mayoral candidate continues to avoid any details about his plan to address Oahu’s intolerable traffic congestion problem. That’s pretty bad in its own right, and we’ll get to that deeper in today’s post.

What’s over-the-top outrageous is the advice provided by a traffic reporter to homeward-bound drivers on Wednesday – to simply “hang out for at least a few hours until the traffic dies.”

Hang out? What about the kids in preschool who needed picking up before the “late fee” kicked in? What about kids who needed rides to after-school activities? And what about the grocery shopping and the dinner that had to be on the table? Hang out for at least a few hours?

It’s only February 2012 and already we’ve had at least one road incident that blocked several highways simultaneously on Oahu. Can you imagine what it will be like in a few more years?

Let’s try to imagine it. You know the population’s going to grow, barring an unknown event or circumstances. Oahu’s population increased 8.8 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the 2010 State Data Book. The number of registered vehicles on Oahu increased by nearly twice that rate during the same period – 17.1 percent.

So looking ahead to 2020, if the population and vehicle registrations were to increase at the same rate this decade as the past one, Oahu would have 83,882 more residents and 123,166 more vehicles by the end of 2020. The totals would be 1,037,089 and 843,433 respectively.

Highways? No.
Advocates of continued reliance on the private automobile and the “freedom of the open road” it allegedly represents will tell you more concrete is the appropriate response to the specter of even worse highway congestion ahead.

“Let’s build ourselves more highways to solve this problem,” they’ll say. “Let’s build the highways elevated above surface traffic so we won’t get caught in massive traffic jams, and let’s make them toll roads so we can manage the flow of traffic – you know, keep traffic moving along nicely on these lanes by raising the price to use them high enough to keep away those who can’t afford the toll.”
That’s essentially what folks like Cliff Slater and Panos Prevedouros are preaching. The Hired Gun Gang of libertarian-minded speakers coming to town at the end of this month will probably go on about highway freedom, too. They’re coming out at the invitation of that other gang – the Gang of Four that’s suing to kill the Honolulu rail project.

Rail? Yes.
Oahu already has an appropriate response to what happened Wednesday on the few arterial roads between town and leeward Oahu. It’s not more highways – elevated or otherwise – and it’s not ground-level transit, which would be slowed by all the cross streets and intersections with roads carrying cars and buses.

Elevated rail will deliver a level of service that car commuters have lost. Imagine being able to know exactly when you’ll arrive at your destination. That’s what rail will give commuters – a timetable that tells them exactly when they’ll arrive at the Waipahu Station, the Aloha Stadium station, the Honolulu International Airport station and all the other stations along the line.

From one end to the next, the ride will take exactly 42 minutes, and you’ll know your arrival time at your destination station as you step aboard the train. Try making an accurate prediction of your arrival time today when you head off in your car during peak travel time through our narrow east-west urban core.

You can’t do that except for dumb luck. Deep down, highway users know that’s true, and as much as they love the freedom that driving their own cars gives them, they also know that increasingly bad traffic congestion is not sustainable.

Individuals with good access to the rail option via walking, buses or park-and-ride will take the train rather than drive for two principle reasons – convenience and cost. Just as congestion will increase, so will the cost to operate and maintain the family car.

Nobody should have to just kill time in town until the traffic jams melt away. Time lost is lost, no matter where it’s lost – in traffic or chilling in town. That’s the traffic reporter’s advice in 2012, but it will be a thing of the past for commuters who choose to ride Honolulu's future rail system.

Ben Cayetano
The former governor who’s now running for mayor spoke to the Downtown Exchange Club yesterday, and according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription), he wants to “improve buses and the bus system….”

That’s apparently as close as he got to addressing Oahu’s traffic congestion issues. Mr. Cayetano (shown at right with fellow anti-railer Cliff Slater, two members of the aforementioned Gang of Four) told the club he wants to divert the money from the general excise tax transit surcharge that’s already earmarked for Honolulu rail – so designated by the State Legislature and accepted by the Federal Transit Administration as the local funding source – and spend it on sewers and buses.
“I would say to (legislators)… I would like you to consider, let me use $1 billion, maybe less, to improve the buses and the bus system. Give me a half-billion for sewers, a half-billion for water systems and you keep the rest. That’s a bill they’re going to go for because they want that money. The need that money.”
This isn’t a political blog, and we’ll leave it to S-A columnists Dave Shapiro, Cynthia Oi and Richard Borreca to comment on the political nuances of Mr. Cayetano’s suggestion. From our pro-rail perch, his “plan” looks transparently thin. One day after a highway-blocking, homeward-commute destroying traffic blockade on all major through routes to west Oahu, Mr. Cayetano’s idea to improve mobility in our community was to put more buses on the road with other vehicles that get stuck in the jams.

This is Day #15 since Mr. Cayetano’s official entry into the mayoral race and he’s yet to tell Oahu citizens detail #1 about his transit plan. Yesterday’s remarks didn't qualify, so just like the Columnist Watch and our 2012 prediction of what the Star-Advertiser scribes will say about Honolulu rail, we’re watching to see how long it will be before Mr. Cayetano proposes a travel option through town that will be as fast, frequent, reliable and safe as elevated rail. We’re guessing he can’t and therefore won't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Ben can really improve on the bus system that is significant and will be $1 billion or less. Harris's BRT a few years ago was over $1 billion, not accounting for 2012 dollar values. And his plan called for dedicating existing lanes to buses. We knew how well that went.

Unless he's imposing martial law and restricting what cars can be on roads on what days?