Friday, July 6, 2012

Supporters Never Said Traffic Steps End with Rail; Paper’s Call for Ongoing Improvements Is Sound, Plus: What Will 40K Fewer Trips Mean for Traffic?

SATURDAY UPDATE: If you're a first-time visitor to Yes2Rail thanks to today's Star-Advertiser story (subscription required), WELCOME! The more people who read this blog, the more there'll be who have a deeper understanding of the Honolulu rail project than what they learn from the daily news media. Please note especially the wording of the "This Isn't Political" paragraph at right. Now, begin reading yesterday's post immediately below, then continue on to Thursday's. They both discuss rail's positive impact on limiting traffic congestion's growth on Oahu. Both also have links to the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement, which is essential reading if you really want to know what's what about rail. Again, thanks for stopping by. ~Doug
Rail was center stage on KHET Thursday night.
If it’s politics that interests you about last night’s public TV appearance by three mayoral candidates, look elsewhere, because this isn't a politics blog. But one issue did jump out that’s a legitimate topic here at Yes2Rail.
First, a quick nod to the editorial in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription)Cut traffic with many solutions. The headline sums up the message nicely, so let’s cut to last night’s rail discussion, which is available (at least for now) at KHET's website.

We wrote yesterday about rail's impact on reducing congestion by attracting passengers who, without the rail option, would be driving their cars. But before we get started, let’s acknowledge that some people object to Yes2Rail even mentioning what the politicians say about rail. 

We respectfully disagree. The political arena can’t be walled off from the transit discussion, and when something is said in the mayoral campaign season that helps us educate the public on rail, our view is that it’s only right for Yes2Rail to take note.

The issue that jumped out during the discussion among Mayor Peter Carlisle, former Managing Director Kirk Caldwell and former Governor Ben Cayetano was the extent of rail’s impact on reducing traffic congestion. 

By way of background, the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement projects 40,000 fewer vehicle trips on Oahu in 2030 with the rail system in operation compared to the no-build option. All three candidates chimed in on how that reduction would affect traffic.

Mr. Carlisle: “If you take a look at going out to 2050, yes, there will still be suffocating traffic on the ground if we only have this particular modality (bus rapid transit)…. Ben’s particular option will keep those 40,000 cars and be catastrophic, so it’s going to be suffocating traffic. It will be absolutely annihilating traffic.”

Mr. Cayetano, picking up a few minutes later: “The critical issue that (Messrs. Carlisle and Caldwell) can’t get away from is, will rail reduce traffic congestion? And in their environmental impact statement itself it basically says, no. The Federal Transit Administration also agrees that it will not reduce traffic congestion, and I have yet to hear my two opponents admit that to the public. I think that’s important.”

We pause here in the televised dialogue to mention what we noted a week ago yesterday: The answer to Mr. Cayetano’s question can be both “yes” and “no” depending on what you’re trying to get to, and we recommend you follow this link now or later.

Mr. Cayetano, continuing: “As far as the 40,000 cars that Peter (Carlisle) is talking about, it’s not 40,000 cars. It’s 40,000 vehicle trips, and what he doesn’t tell you and what Kirk (Caldwell) doesn’t tell you when they use these numbers is that the 40,000 is out of a little more than three million vehicle trips.  They amount to like one point four or five percent of the entire thing. (The) question to the viewers: Do you want to pay five point two seven billion or seven billion dollars for something that’s going to reduce traffic congestion by one point four or five percent? Not me. That’s not the kind of burden I want to put on the taxpayers.”

Mr. Caldwell, picking up a few minutes later: “The FEIS for rail concludes in 2030, with rail, there will be about 40,000 fewer vehicle trips every day on our highways than would otherwise….(the program’s host interjects). The point I want to make that Ben keeps talking about is, there will be more cars and more vehicle trips on this island in 2030 because there’s going to be more people living here, particularly out on the ewa plain. And you gotta remember, the General Plan that we’ve all adopted says 60 percent of all the people on this island will live out on that ewa plain.

“So (rail’s) going to reduce traffic coming in from the ewa plain. He may be talking about traffic island wide, but we’re dealing with a specific problem…. We have 58 hours average, stalled in cars every year now on this island, the worst congestion anywhere in America. Rail is part of the solution. It is not the total solution. Buses are part of the solution. Rail is part of the solution. Better roads, synchronized traffic lights, off-grade bike paths – these are all part of an integrated traffic solution we need to work on. No one has ever said rail is the be all and end all that is gonna solve our traffic problem, but it’s part of the steps in the right direction to solve a major problem out on the west side.”

Mr. Cayetano: “First of all, if you’re gonna tell the people, represent to the people that it will take 40,000 vehicle trips off the road every day, then you need to tell the people, give them the bigger context that this is out of nearly three million vehicle trips, and what it amounts to is manini. The EIS basically focuses on the west Oahu corridor. That’s what it’s supposed to focus on, and this goes to the question of transparency, of trying to make sure that the information you give to the people is accurate. One reason why public opinion is now against rail is because of this kind of presentation of evidence, of numbers. You give them half the pie. You don’t tell them the other half. That’s not right. That’s not what any public official should be doing.”

Understanding the 40K
Yes2Rail’s post yesterday anticipated, perhaps, last night’s discussion on rail’s impact on traffic congestion, and we have to repeat some of it today.

Chapter 3 in rail's FEIS addresses the impact of reducing daily vehicle trips by 40,000 in 2030. Here’s a paragraph from yesterday’s post, a direct quote from page 3-30 of the FEIS:

“Daily VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) will decrease by 4 percent and VHT (Vehicle Hours Traveled) will decrease by 8 percent. VHD (Vehicle Hours of Delay, the measure of heavy congestion compared to free-flowing traffic conditions) will experience the greatest decrease: 18 percent. This reflects the fact that even moderate decreases in traffic volumes under congested conditions can result in relatively large decreases in travel delay (emphasis added)."

As we noted yesterday, that’s an 18-percent reduction in hours of delay for the entire island, not just the heavily traveled urban corridor. It means congestion in some areas during peak commute periods may be reduced by as much as 30 percent.

You’re invited to read yesterday’s post in its entirety and for that matter, reading the FEIS itself could only help because it contains information that’s basic to the public’s understanding of the complex issues within the rail project, including rail’s impact on dampening congestion’s growth.

Thanks again for visiting, especially if you're a first-timer. You're invited to continue reading at Thursday's post, which also deals with rail's positive effect on congestion (immediately below). If you want to dig deeper, click on our "aggregation site" and scroll through the many headings and topics there with links to individual posts over the past four years. You might want to begin with the January 2011 posts on the rail project's four goals, starting with that year's first post. And don't be a stranger here at Yes2Rail; we post here nearly every day, and each one strives to help you understand Honolulu's future elevated rail project, which will be fast, frequent, reliable and safe. You can comment on what you read here, ask questions, agree, disagree or any combination of these possibilities; just click on the Comments link, below.


Anonymous said...

Out of those 40,000 vehicle trips saved, is there a breakdown of what area or corridor will comprise of these 40,000 trips? If there is such a breakdown, what are the vehicle trip numbers projected in these same areas/corridors for 2030 without rail? That would be a much more meaningful comparison than simply looking at 40,000 less vehicle trips out of a gross number of three million. We all know UHM's enrollment is far less than 40,000 but when school is out, it makes an impact on traffic, despite it still being manini compared to three million trips.

Roy Kamisato said...

What I took away from last nights debate are that the two choices are rail or do nothing. Canceling rail now means the FTA will not fund another transportation in Hawaii for decades. BRT was put on the table to confuse voters into believing it is a real option. BRT is a cruel hoax which could affect the quality of life for tens of thousands of people. Just calling a spade a spade.

Anonymous said...

Regarding today's Star-Advertiser story, it sure seems like an oft quoted council member who openly supports Ben is constantly abusing her position and taxpayer resources to deliberately spread misinformation about rail ("buses could run on the same guideway" etc.) and act as Ben's attack dog to create controversy about the rail project he's vowed to kill, all while accusing others of, gasp, engaging in politics.

Captain Renault said it best: "I am shocked — shocked— to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Haven't we seen similar versions of the Kobayashi Show before?

Is it really so hard to understand?

People paid to act as reporters can be so pathetically naive.

Or willfully complicit.

I wish this blog really was about politics, because there are so many great stories that aren't being told.

Keep up the good work, Doug. Someone has to cut through the sludge.

Doug Carlson said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your support.