Thursday, February 2, 2012

Traffic Watch Reporter’s Head-Scratching Advice: Kill a Few Hours in Town before Heading Home

The way home from town to the Second City has few options.
How do you suppose that advice went down yesterday with commuters whose only goal after a long day at work was to get home as fast as possible?

Here’s KSSK’s actual message that was posted at its Facebook page at 4:08 pm:

‘If you don’t have to head west from town, hang out for at least a few hours until the traffic dies. All routes to Aiea (westbound) are clogged because of an earlier accident in Pearl City. This means even under the viaduct…Jason.”
But those tens of thousands of commuters had no choice. They had to head west from town. They live west of town, and their only option was to head west from town.

Yesterday’s blurb on the popular radio station’s broadcast and Facebook page helped bring Honolulu’s particular geography into focus. The facts on the ground are pretty simple:

Oahu’s Second City bedroom communities have been built on the ewa plain on the southwestern corner of the island. Residents there commute eastward to their jobs – anywhere from Pearl City to “town” – through a relatively narrow strip of land that curves around Pearl Harbor between the mountain range and the ocean, as seen in the graphic above.

Honolulu isn’t like Houston, Phoenix, Denver or any number of mainland cities with road networks that scatter every which way from the business district to the suburbs. Houston (at right) is perhaps the most extreme example; the map makes it obvious that if an accident has blocked your usual route home, you can detour the round-about way and eventually get there.
The Rail Option
Not so on Oahu. If there’s an accident on one road in Aiea, Pearl City or Waipahu, all roads are soon clogged as drivers jump over to alternative streets and highways, and there’s just no way around the jams that soon clog all roads in the area.

And here’s where we get to mention Honolulu’s future rail system. Quite obviously, by being elevated above surface traffic, commuters who choose to ride the train will avoid all traffic congestion. It’s the one basic fact that opponents never quite get around to mentioning.

They focus on the visual impacts of elevated rail (as we have recently here and here), and they say rail will be too expensive, but they haven’t successfully explained how their alternative – whatever it is – would actually allow commuters and others to travel through this corridor quickly and reliably on-time, two attributes of our future train system.
Which reminds us of Seinfeld again. In one famous sketch, Jerry was moved to compare the difference between “taking” rental car reservations and actually “holding” them – i.e., actually giving the customer what he or she wants, which is a car to drive. Building on that, we’d say anybody can object to Honolulu rail – the “reservation taking” part – but it’s something else again to have a plan that will provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe travel through the city, as rail will. 
Rail opponents don’t actually “hold the reservation” and fail to deliver what commuters need – a way to not drive to and from work and thereby avoid all traffic on their westward trip home.

No comments: