Thursday, July 5, 2012

Will Rail Improve Congestion or Not? It’s Time We Get Clear about Its Impact on Traffic Congestion

Even if you never ride Honolulu rail once it’s completed, others will, and you’ll benefit, too.
That’s the inescapable conclusion from what’s included in the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement about rail’s impact on future traffic congestion. We'll save you the heavy slogging by cutting to the quick in today's post.

Rail opponents read the FEIS and seize on statistics they think prove that rail isn’t worth the investment. Cliff Slater, the leading rail opponent, has mastered the art of “how to lie with statistics” – the title of a book that’s been required reading for generations of students.

On June 7, he posted an entry at his website under the headline Another Lie of Omission, which is ironic since as we’ll now show, Mr. Slater has omitted material from his discussion of rail’s impact on future traffic that reveals a major benefit.

His post reproduces the FEIS’s Table 3-12 – “Islandwide Daily Trips by Mode – Existing Conditions, No Build Alternative.” (Click on his website’s link and scroll down to June 7 to find it.)  Mr. Slater deduces from the table: “A 48,000 trip reduction means rail would take just 1.7 percent of the cars off the road,” which he says is “doing nothing.”

Talk about Omissions
But here’s what Mr. Slater doesn’t bother to tell his readers – i.e., omits: One page later (see FEIS's Chapter 3, page 3-30), the FEIS describes the anticipated impact of removing even this relatively small number of vehicle trips compared to the millions that will be made on Oahu roads each day in 2030.

“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).”

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. That’s huge!

By focusing narrowly on the reduction of vehicle trip in 2030 after scores of thousands of drivers become riders, Mr. Slater avoids telling the truth about what's important to Oahu residents, rail’s anticipated reduction in congestion.

That’s what we care about, after all – not the number of cars on the road but whether rail will make a difference in our daily lives, not only for those who ride it but for those who will be driving, too.

Make no mistake about it, traffic congestion will continue to grow as Oahu's population grows. It’s an inevitability, but what the FEIS makes clear is that congestion would be worse without rail than with it.

Try as he might to hide the truth, Mr. Slater had to admit rail’s positive impact when he told the City Council two years ago, “We don’t disagree at all that rail will have an effect on reducing traffic congestion from what it might be if we did nothing at all….” He may not disagree when forced into a corner, but he’ll do everything he can to confuse the issue.

So what’s the answer to our headline’s question? A resounding YES, of course!

This post has been added to our "aggregation site" under the Oahu's Traffic Problem heading.

1 comment:

Roy Kamisato said...

Removing cars off any freeway will reduce traffic congestion from any direction because most of the automobiles during the morning rush hour are headed towards Honolulu's surface streets. Adding buses to any freeway from any direction during the morning rush hour will make traffic congestion worse for everyone because most of the vehicles are headed towards Honolulu's surface streets.