Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UH’s ‘Professor Highway’ Pooh-Poohs Honolulu’s #1 Traffic Ranking, Says We Need More Car Lanes

Yes2Rail isn’t the only one recycling material for a second bite at the apple (see yesterday's post). Look what Panos Prevedouros is up to.
Dr. Prevedouros disputes Honolulu’s “top” rank as having the nation’s worst traffic congestion. That was the finding by INRIX, Inc., and it made news all over the country. You could look it up.

But the University of Hawaii’s resident highway expert says it just isn’t so.  He posted yesterday at his FixOahu website (and links to an earlier piece he wrote for Honolulu Weekly) that despite INRIX’s reputation and apparent credibility, he thinks Honolulu ranks only 50th.

And he can back it up! Of course he can back it up. You can parse numbers every which way to “prove” what you want to prove, and Dr. Prevedouros always parses them in favor of car travel to the detriment of mass transit.

The Weekly column deserves a critical look by Yes2Rail, which not only provides educational material about Honolulu’s future elevated rail system but also schools our readers on holes in the anti-rail rhetoric.

From the Top
Dr. Prevedouros’ very first sentence attracts attention: “A recent finding that Honolulu is No. 1 in traffic congestion in the US is being touted by some as proof that the city needs heavy rail.”

Maybe some are touting "light metro" (not "heavy") in Honolulu for that reason, but a true understanding of rail suggests another reason to build grade-separated rail transit – to provide its patrons with complete freedom from traffic congestion.

That’s the big payoff; users will arrive at the nearest rail station by walking, using TheBus, being dropped off or driving and parking, and from there they’ll be riding high above traffic-clogged streets and highways.

After that opening, Dr. Prevedouros sifts the data, criticizes INRIX’s techniques and comes up with a strange reason to oppose the Honolulu project: “…all the top 15 worst cities for traffic congestion have rail! Rail systems have clearly failed to relieve congestion from our most congested cities.”

He blames rail for not relieving congestion! It’s like saying agriculture has failed to eliminate world hunger, so we should avoid planting corn, soybeans and rice because people are still hungry. In fact, rail’s function is to both take vehicles off the roads and avoid congestion.

Dr. Prevedouros’ reasoning is completely illogical, yet that’s what the leading anti-rail campaigners want you to believe – that because rail won’t “solve” congestion, we don’t need it. Even anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater had to admit at a City Council hearing two years ago that “…rail will have an effect on reducing traffic congestion from what it might be if we did nothing at all….”

The ‘Simple’ Solution
“Honolulu’s traffic congestion problem is simple,” Dr. Prevedouros writes, and concludes that Honolulu has “too few lanes.” Our island environment has something to do with that, of course, but the solution allegedly is simple: “Adding a few lanes will go a long way toward relieving congestion in Honolulu.”

With all due respect to the UH professor of civil and environmental engineering, that would not be simple in space-short Honolulu, but even if it were, his solution violates “The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities,” a study by the University of Toronto.

Yes2Rail linked to that study and another – “Generated Traffic and Induced Travel; Implications for Transportation Planning” – three months ago. In a nutshell, both studies concluded that adding more lanes doesn’t “solve” congestion. It may relieve it temporarily, but they fill up with vehicles as quickly as drivers perceive an advantage to driving on them.

Once that happens, the new lanes become as crowded as the old lanes, which is an inevitability in cities like Honolulu with growing populations. So Dr. Prevedouros' simple solution of building new lanes and eating up more space – space Honolulu doesn’t have to give – is the worst possible response to congestion because it’s no solution at all.

As you anticipate the Independence Day holiday, anticipate this: Honolulu’s response to traffic gridlock is building a travel option that completely avoids that congestion – elevated Honolulu rail.


Roy Kamisato said...

Adding lanes. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Sounds like Dr. Prevedouros wants Oahu to look like Los Angeles. And what did adding lanes do for Los Angeles? It made traffic congestion even worse.

Anonymous said...

It sure seems like Professor Panos, AKA President of the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance Panos, is just a shill for freeway-dependent vested interests.

Hannah Miyamoto said...

Prevedorous doesn't deserve "respect" for any of his statements about transportation, because he doesn't understand transportation beyond his narrow area of specialty, computer modeling of intersections.

Real transportation engineers, i.e., my colleagues, laugh at this over-educated tyro.