Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dramatic Oil Based Sea Level Rise Is Not Possible


A major article on climate change published in the science journal NATURE concluded as follows:

"The study concludes that a moderate amount of warming, on the order of 2°C, or 3.6°F, sustained for millennia, would cause significant melting of the interior ice that lies below sea level in this region [Antarctica], raising global sea levels by 3-4 meters, or up to 13 feet."

However, there will be no oil and fossil fuels left to burn a few hundred years from now. See graph of oil reserves from The Economist, below. In addition, technology moves fast towards cleaner options, and heavy polluters like China and India cannot afford to burn coal uncontrollably because their large cities are already suffocating; more on this at The Future of Oil

Therefore, oil based global warming over millennia is not possible!


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The New York Times Drops the Ball on Automated Vehicles

The New York Times Drops the Ball on Automated Vehicles
By Baruch Feigenbaum

At times the popular media coverage of transportation makes me cringe.  Many news outlets lack a dedicated transportation reporter, and the person whose job it is to cover the story often has little background and even less interest in transportation policy. Automated vehicles, in particular, seem to bring out some of the oddest, most uneducated assertions of all areas in transportation.

Exhibit A is Emily Badger’s New York Times piece, “Pave Over the Subway? Cities Face Tough Bets on Driverless Cars” (July 20, 2018). The article confuses facts and makes bizarre assumptions but its biggest weakness is leading those with limited knowledge to think her piece represents mainstream AV thinking. Princeton AV expert Alain Kornhauser described the piece as “not even … half-baked.”
Several times Badger takes the viewpoint of a small minority and presents it as mainstream. Beth Osborne of Transportation for America argues that city council members, state legislation, and decision-making have been unduly influenced by people who “have imbued autonomous vehicles with the possibility to solve every problem that was ever created in transportation since the beginning of time.”

AVs by themselves don’t solve problems; good policy solves problems. And if most people thought that AVs by themselves could fix all of our transportation issues, that would be a problem. But most people don’t. In fact, polls show that more Americans fear AVs than welcome them. Sixty-four percent of millennials don’t think automated vehicles are safe. Some futurists may have an unrealistic view of AVs, but the public as a whole does not.

Badger repeats this problem with transit—twice. First, she uses the opinion of one person to argue that cities will have to pave over obsolete heavy-rail lines such as the New York Subway. That person, Brad Templeton, is a pioneer AV thinker who comes up with many creative ideas, but he is an expert in technology and software, not mass transit. Ten out of 10 transit experts will tell you the New York City subway will never be paved over. Heavy rail, where it works, transports huge numbers of people. In very dense central cities rail simply cannot be replaced with bus, and I say this as a member of a Transportation Research Board bus transit committee.

Badger then uses Templeton’s idea to suggest that opponents of light rail projects in Detroit, Indianapolis, and Nashville are falling for the “AV will fix everything” argument.  Detroit, Indianapolis, and Nashville are nothing like New York City. New York has the super-high-density to make heavy rail work, a large number of jobs and residents near the central business district, and geographic boundaries (rivers) that make car travel challenging. The other cities have very low densities, very few jobs or residents in the central business districts, and no geographic boundaries. As a result, the three struggle to make even quality bus service work. In fact, the transit experts in those three metro areas did not recommend light rail; they recommended bus. Yet, Nashville’s political leadership chose to ignore the recommendation and place a light rail measure on the ballot that polling indicated would fail—as it did.

The lack of understanding that not every U.S. city has the spatial structure of New York or Washington, DC, is pervasive throughout the article. For example, Las Vegas is lauded for planning a light rail line, because there will not be space in downtown for everybody to drive their own AV. Yet no one is suggesting most folks will drive their own AVs. Early predictions are for a large increase in ride-sharing, as automation significantly reduces its cost. But even if many people buy their own AVs, Las Vegas could build a BRT line for less than one-third the cost of a rail line. Las Vegas already has a successful BRT line starting in downtown and running along the Vegas strip. Similar to Nashville, Las Vegas does not have the density to support light rail.

Badger makes one good point about the inflexibility and lack of creativity of many transit agencies. Twenty years ago, city manager Frank Martz of the Orlando suburb Altamonte Springs suggested using computers or kiosks to let people order smaller vehicles with optimized routes. But the leadership of the local transit agency, Lynx, was focused on buses, unions and drivers. The agency simply could not conceptualize on-demand transit. Finally, 20 years later, the city completed a two-year pilot program where it offered discounts on Uber rides. If transit agencies lack creativity and have made mistakes in the past, doesn’t it make sense to consider the uncertainties of automated vehicles when deciding on a transit technology?

This isn’t the first time The New York Times has published a poor transportation article. Earlier this year the newspaper argued that the Nashville rail plan (that the city’s own transit experts argued was bad policy) lost at the polls not because it was bad policy but because Americans for Prosperity bankrolled a campaign of transit-haters. The newspaper mentioned Randal O’Toole’s Nashville speech that compared rail transit to a diamond-encrusted watch. But it did not mention my Nashville presentation on why a bus-based system was a better alternative or other presentations from transit experts on automated vehicles and personal mobility.


The Times should re-assess its goals in transportation policy. If its goal is to run balanced, intelligent articles that are well-respected by professionals, it should follow the lead of the Washington Post (and many other newspapers) and hire one or more dedicated transportation reporters to write balanced feature articles on transportation policy. If the newspaper’s goal is to produce flashy headlines with little substantive news, it should stay on its current track (irony intended). But the New York Times’ leadership should not be surprised when transportation professionals continue to dismiss its work as drivel.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Hybrid Cars Do Well in Assessments of the Environmental Impact of Urban Vehicles

This is my contributing brief as the newest member of the invitation-only Scholars Strategy Network.

Transportation uses vast amounts of energy and has a major environmental impact. As a result, rigorous assessments of the sustainability of various modes of moving people and goods are critically important.

Alternative fuels and electric vehicles are two major developments that can help transportation planners reduce the detrimental environmental impact of transportation. After many studies, it turns out that the highest environmental-friendly scores go to hybrid diesel-electric buses, while the lowest scores go to vehicles reliant on gasoline internal combustion engines. Among all passenger vehicles, fuel cell and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles have the highest sustainability indexes.

READ MORE

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Scarcity of Engineers in Hawaii

Interviewed by Sara Mattison for the KHON2 story on Pearl Harbor Shipyard competing for qualified candidates.

..."Retirements have disrupted the workforce, but UH Department of Civil Engineering Chair Panos Prevedouros tells us there's a shortage of engineers because of an increase in construction projects. Plus, recruitments from the mainland are not staying.

"Engineers hired from the mainland, they are sort of a revolving door type of problem. They come, they work, but within two three years they feel like mainland is where they belong and that's not very good for local agencies and companies," said Prevedouros.

"We need to compete with cities, counties, and transportation departments on the mainland, and there the pay is much higher in some respects," said Prevedouros."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2016: Caldwell and Hanabusa Agree to Stop Rail at Middle Street.

Back in 2016, Caldwell and Hanabusa were sensible, as quoted in Star Advertiser's Mayor recommends halting the rail route at Middle Street by Marcel Honore.

“I wish we could go all the way to Ala Moana now. That’s for another day,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell told [HART Board].


“It’s not a perfect-world situation,” HART board Chairwoman Colleen Hana­busa said at the Thursday meeting. “But … we don’t have the money.”


Fast forward two years ... Rail is nowhere near Middle Street, yet utility work past Middle Street has been authorized: HART awards $400 million contract to relocate utilities to make way for Honolulu rail

So the fleecing of the taxpayer continues:

"In 2012 HART estimated it would cost about $528 million to build rail’s final four miles. In March it estimated it would cost $866 million. Now [June 2016] it estimates it could cost as much as $1.5 billion to complete that same stretch."

But in May 2018 the utility relocation contract alone is $400M. Can they build a 4 mile bridge with 8 stations, etc. for $1.1B?  I say $3B at least!


Sunday, June 3, 2018

‘Complete Streets’ Is Just an Excuse for Government to Spend

My invited commentary in Honolulu Star Advertiser


For decades, traffic engineering meant moving cars. Planners decided that this is wrong and moved the discussion from moving cars to moving people; they said streets are not just for cars, trucks and buses, but also for pedestrians, bicycles, street cars, etc.

However, in the typical medium-to-large American city (i.e., with a metro area population of 1 million to 5 million people,) over 90 percent of the people move in cars and buses, and nearly 100 percent of the goods, move in trucks and cars. Also, in traditional and current traffic engineering practice, the service and safety of pedestrians is top priority.

So what are “Complete Streets” about? They are an excuse for government spending with undesirable economic, environmental and safety consequences, typically presented in the form of neighborhood beautification plans adorned with pleasant descriptions.

READ MORE

Friday, May 25, 2018

Major Driverless Vehicle Faux Pas


In this video the April 2018 Uber/Volvo driverless vehicle accident is analyzed on Israeli TV. The Israel/US (Mobileye/Intel) technology is extolled as superior. Then the superior technology with journalists aboard goes through a red light with schoolgirls about to cross! 

Go to minute 4 and watch the last minute or so of the story. This is a stunning faux pas!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Critical Challenges in Transportation

I received a survey distributed to transportation committees of the National Academy of Engineering on future challenges that will affect transportation. My main responses are as follows.
====================

Please indicate to what extent you are interested in being engaged in activities related to the following critical challenges (not at all interested, not so interested, somewhat interested, very interested and extremely interested).

I was very interested or extremely interested in five out of the 14 critical challenges presented, as shown below along with my rationale.

Changing Characteristics of New Technologies & Innovation Environment (autonomous, shared, data-intensive): Potentially disruptive to traffic and freeway operations because we could get rid of most of roadside/ government data collection and tolling equipment, and rely on the big data generated by Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAV).

Rapid Entry of Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs in Transportation Technology and Services: We’ve got to watch this one. If the "ITs" succeed in taking over a big chunk of transportation, their next goal will be controlling a big chunk of the government.

Changing Demographics, Values, Preferences, & Behaviors (age distribution disparities, evolving service expectations): Demographics are the most predictable among the future unknowns. But "safety behavior" will become a major challenge as driving progressively becomes a secondary task.

Climate Change (increased disruptive events, concern for sustainability): Major concern for sustainability but due to consumption and resource depletion, less due to climate effects… at least till 2050.

Challenges to Planning and Forecasting (forecasting under rapid change, addressing uncertainties, implementing new methods): 20+ year forecasts are exercises in political appropriation of funds and social engineering. Long term forecasts for facilities and services subject to a lot of possible automation aren't useful.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Uncertainty surrounds $8B Honolulu rail project

National professional news outlet Construction Dive looked into HART in the article Uncertainty surrounds $8B Honolulu rail project after reviewing the Honolulu Civil Beat article What Honolulu Rail Officials Know They Don’t Know.


  • The total cost of the project is in question. Panos Prevedouros, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, estimates that it will cost at least $13* billion. The price tag for the mostly elevated rail line could rise as crews move into the city and navigate unmapped utilities, encounter various types of subsoil, come across potential native burial sites, and possibly damage existing structures as they excavate nearby. In order to provide the public with a rapid rail option and stay within the budget, officials could opt to shorten the system
  • Polls suggest a majority of the public wants to finish rail and stay within the existing budget. Both can be achieved only by finishing rail at the Middle Street Transit Center, where riders can transfer to coordinated options such as pooled ride-hailing and high-tech versions of Honolulu’s award-winning bus service.
  • Prevedouros believes such a plan would give taxpayers substantial value for their money already spent on rail, by getting people beyond both the H-1 and H-2 and the Middle Street merges while avoiding untold billions in construction costs and freeing up any saved construction financing to pay for operations and maintenance.
  • Most rail commuters will need to transfer at least once in any event. Consider this example: If rail were built to Ala Moana Center, it would take 12 minutes to get there from Middle Street by rail, and then another 16 minutes by bus to University of Hawaii Manoa — a total of 28 minutes. But if rail terminates at Middle Street, a UH student can get to Manoa by express bus in about 20 minutes.
-------------------------

(*) Back in 2009, FTA's consultant Jacobs of Dallas, TX conducted a risk analysis on HART's budget (actually Honolulu rail became the HART project after 2010) and showed a 10% chance of the project costing $10.5 billion. During the Legislative session of spring 2017, Mayor Caldwell mentioned that for all practical purposes the cost of the project is $10 billion. See "Mayor Kirk Caldwell and City Council Chairman Ron Menor think Oahu taxpayers are so rich we can pay not only for a $10 billion rail system that’s $5 billion over budget and climbing, but also for road projects on the neighbor islands."

As of 2018, the project is at least 6 years late (and likely to have further schedule slippages).
  • Taking the Jacobs $10.5 B projection and compounding it by 4% over 6 years gives a year of expenditure (YoE) cost of $13.29 Billion.
  • Taking the Mayor's $10.0 B projection and compounding it by 5% over 6 years gives a YoE cost of $13.40 Billion.
  • If you dislike compounding inflation and prefer the simple inflation of costs, then the corresponding numbers are $13.02 B and $13.00 B.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Onion on Transportation

Satirical publication The Onion has at least three priceless articles on transportation, as follows:


  • November 29, 2000, Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others

WASHINGTON, DC–A study released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association reveals that 98 percent of Americans support the use of mass transit by others.
...
Anaheim, CA, resident Lance Holland, who drives 80 miles a day to his job in downtown Los Angeles, was among the proponents of public transit.

"Expanding mass transit isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity," Holland said. "My drive to work is unbelievable. I spend more than two hours stuck in 12 lanes of traffic. It's about time somebody did something to get some of these other cars off the road."

Public support for mass transit will naturally lead to its expansion and improvement, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.

"With everyone behind it, we'll be able to expand bus routes, create park-and-ride programs, and build entire new Metrolink commuter-rail lines," LACMTA president Howard Sager said. "It's almost a shame I don't know anyone who will be using these new services." READ MORE


  • March 10, 2004, Urban Planner Stuck In Traffic Of Own Design

PITTSBURGH, PA—Bernard Rothstein, an urban planner and traffic-flow modulation specialist with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, found himself stuck in rush-hour traffic of his own design for more than an hour Monday.
...
As Pittsburgh, America's steel capital, made the transition to high-tech and service industries in the 1980s, many thought its rusting, blighted urban landscape was obsolete. According to Rothstein, it was then that the Urban Redevelopment Authority, along with several private urban-planning firms, began the slow process of rethinking the city's roads, parks, and commercial and residential districts. Today, the city's designers are regularly lauded for their elegant, modern buildings and stuck in traffic of their own making for hours at a time. READ MORE


  • February 5, 2018, MTA Reminds New Yorkers They Can Fucking Walk

NEW YORK—In response to numerous complaints regarding recent delays and route changes to the city’s public transportation system, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials at a press conference Monday reminded residents that they can fucking walk. “While we always do our best to avoid inconveniencing our customers, city residents should be aware that at any time, they are more than welcome to get off their asses and use their two fucking feet to reach destinations,” said MTA spokesperson Reggie Dawes, adding that the city’s comprehensive street grid system is easily accessible on foot ... READ MORE

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ban the Bike! How Cities Made a Huge Mistake in Promoting Cycling

Summary by Robert Poole of Lawrence Solomon's article. Solomon is an environmentalist whose career with Canada’s Energy Probe Research Foundation spans several decades.


"  Expanding the role of bicycle travel in urban areas has been government policy in developed nations for several decades. As Lawrence Solomon wrote in a recent piece in Canada’s Financial Post, “At no expense to taxpayers, the bicycle took cars off the road, easing traffic; it saved wear and tear on the roads, easing municipal budgets; it reduced auto emissions easing air pollution; it reduced the need for automobile parking, increasing the efficiency of land use; and it helped keep people fit, too.”

Yet despite these ostensible benefits, something of a “bikelash” is under way, in cities that include Amsterdam, several major cities in China, London, Singapore, and elsewhere. As The Economist reported in “The Bikes That Broke Free” (Dec. 23, 2017), one emerging problem is dockless bike-sharing systems that have plagued cities with bikes left all over the place. Amsterdam has banned such systems, and a growing number of Chinese cities have called a halt to any expansion of existing systems.

Solomon—once a strong advocate of urban bicycling—has concluded that bicycling today “is a mixed bag, usually with more negatives than positives. In many cities, bike lanes now consume more road space than they free up; they add to pollution as well as reducing it; they hurt neighborhoods and business districts alike; and they have become a drain on the public purse.”

Many of his examples come from Europe and Australia, where cities have been far more aggressive in promoting bicycle use than is typical in the United States. Transport for London has spent large sums to create a “cycle super highway” that has taken away traffic lanes and increased traffic congestion, sparking a significant backlash. Paris is spending €150 million on cycling infrastructure, Amsterdam €120 million just on bike parking spots, and Melbourne is under way on a $100 million cycling plan.

Negative health impacts are an unexpected consequence of aggressively expanded urban bicycling, Solomon notes. Congestion caused by taking away traffic lanes leads to idling traffic, which increases emissions. Cyclists are the most-exposed to PM2.5 soot from idling vehicles. A study by the London School of Medicine found that cyclists in London have 2.3 times more inhaled soot than walkers, because “cyclists breathe more deeply and at a quicker rate than pedestrians while in closer proximity to exhaust fumes.”

Although Solomon doesn’t mention cyclist deaths and injuries due to driving in close proximity to motor vehicles, my traffic engineer friends tell me (off the record) that they are appalled by the proliferation of bike lanes on major U.S. arterials that, because they are a vital supplement to the freeway system, increasingly have traffic signal timing aimed at providing rolling green lights and 40-45 mph speeds. They would much prefer that bicycles be kept away from such high-volume traffic arteries.

Solomon also points to concerns of local merchants who depend on metered street parking for their customers. In some cities, bike lanes have replaced street parking. The result is to replace a multi-function lane (traffic lane during AM and PM peaks, parking and truck delivery space at other hours) with “a single-function piece of under-used pavement.” Cities lose the former parking meter revenue, and in some cases have to build expensive parking structures nearby to replace the street parking.  "


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Honolulu Rail Creates One Tenth of Jobs Promissed

Quoted in Marcel Honore's article in the Honolulu Civil Beat Rail Promised Lots Of Jobs But There’s No Sure Count Of What It’s Delivering.
  • “It’s not the kind of project that lends itself to a huge amount of workers working at the same time,” said Panos Prevedouros, a longtime rail critic and one-time mayoral candidate who chairs the University of Hawaii’s Civil Engineering Department. “The way they did it, it’s much simpler to manage. It takes a longer time, but it keeps the (job) count quite low.”
By "the way they did it," I explained to Marcel that HART rail is being built one segment at a time by a single builder, instead of having, say 4 builders building 5 miles each, simultaneously.

  • Prevedouros said the city should keep better track of the actual jobs that rail is generating since that was such a strong part of the pitch years earlier to build the project.  “What was presented and promised, it was all rhetoric around the Great Recession we had. So it was a big selling point,” he said.  “Really, 1,000 jobs doesn’t make or break anything.” [in Honolulu]
It wasn't difficult for me and unbiased economists to see the lies in the jobs numbers. Back on April 14, 2010, I exposed this in my article Proposed Rail Creates 1,000 Local Jobs and Destroys 4,000 Jobs.

See Scott Ishikawa serving city propaganda for the 10,000 jobs... and an interesting comment underneath.

On March 23, 2012 I simply wrote that HART's Job Estimates Are Wrong.

So, let's recap... So far I was right about the cost of rail will be much higher than advertised, the delivery of rail would be much longer than advertised, and that the advertised job numbers were fake.  There are two big ones left: Reliability and Ridership.

Reliability may be better that mediocre now that Hitachi has put its name on the Ansaldo trains. Ridership will be, at best, one half of what the city proclaimed in the EIS (see my estimate.)


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Behaviour of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles


Hot off the press and pleased to be coauthor of Chapter 5 of the newest book on lithium batteries for transportation. I co-authored this article with my 2011 PhD student Dr. Lambrosw Mitropoulos.

Our chapter is titled Conventional, Battery-Powered, and Other Alternative Fuel Vehicles: Sustainability Assessment.

ABSTRACT:   The substantial impacts of transportation on environment, society, and economy strongly urge the incorporation of sustainability into transportation planning. Major developments that enhance transportation sustainability include alternative fuels, electric drive and other novel technologies for vehicle propulsion. This chapter presents a sustainability framework that enables the assessment of transportation vehicle characteristics. Identified indicators are grouped into five sustainability dimensions (environment, technology, energy, economy, and users). The method joins life cycle impacts and a set of quantified indicators to assess the sustainability performance of seven popular light-duty vehicles and two types of transit buses. The hybrid diesel electric bus received the highest sustainability index and the internal combustion engine vehicle the lowest. Fuel cell and hybrid electric vehicles were found to have the highest sustainability index among all passenger vehicles. The sustainability performance of some new technologies currently suffers from limitations in engine and battery performance, comfort and convenience, and availability of charging stations.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

26 UH Engineering Undergrads Achieve Professional Certification

More than two dozen students in the civil and environmental engineering program (CEE) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa became Envision Sustainability Professionals (ENV SPs) before the end of the fall 2017 semester.

All the students were enrolled in the College of Engineering‘s CEE 444 course on infrastructure sustainability.
To become ENV SPs, they passed a comprehensive assessment of sustainability credits that are applicable to any type of infrastructure project, including new projects and expansion or rehabilitation projects.
The exam was developed at Princeton University and is administered by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.
Encouraged by discussions at the National Civil Engineering Department Heads Conference last summer, Civil Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros contacted local ENV SP engineer Jon Young and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design engineer Amber Takenouchi about presenting lectures to his CEE 444 students.
Both had facilitated an envision course in February and were willing to help. They created a 40-question homework assignment and, with Prevedouros, prepared and presented three lectures.
The students were given a choice. If they took the envision exam and passed it by December 12, it would stand in for their final exam. Prevedouros emphasized to the students that this would be a personal decision to build up their own records and not a course requirement (the final exam is 30 percent of the grade in CEE 444).
Nearly all of the students chose to take the exam. Prevedouros was ecstatic at the results.
“I thought that this addition to the course would have been a small success if about a dozen students tried the exam and maybe half of them passed it,” he said. “It would have been a clear success if just ten passed, but 26 of our undergraduates now have a professional certification before they actually have their degrees.”

[Originally posted by University of Hawaii: 26 UH engineering undergrads achieve professional certification, on December 27, 2017.]

Hawaii Wakes Up to Fake Missile Attack


Hawaii suffers from government unions which are the institutionalized protection (if not cultivation) of incompetence, laziness and un-accountability. These unions have become so big and powerful that most of the time succeed in electing politicians of their choosing, and control them to their liking. All this dysfunction lead to today's international embarrassment of the fake ballistic missile attack.

This must not be another day in paradise. Heads should roll. Preferably 38, one for each minute of absurdly incompetent failure to recall the alarm.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

MidWeek, Old Friends, November 29, 2017

Mahalo to Jaimie Kim Farinas for my profile in Midweek. I'm on page 11.

On page 10, retired UH professor Dan Boylan covers the other "gearhead" professor, psychology professor Mark Hanson and his documentary film Hao Welo (Hot Metal) about car racing on Oahu.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It’s Not Too Late to Build Rail Better

Quoted in Honolulu Civil Beat's editorial board opinion about HART.

Honolulu’s prophets of doom for the rail project — Randall Roth, Cliff Slater and Panos Prevedouros — believe they were right all along that the city’s ambitious mass-transit plan is a mess.
...

Roth, Slater and Prevedouros have imagined exactly that. And that is why they’ve accepted the reality that rail is “happening,” as Prevedouros put it in a recent editorial board meeting with Civil Beat. It comes in the wake of the Hawaii Legislature approving a $2.4 billion funding package to continue building the rail line, now pegged at $8.17 billion.

What Roth and Co. are are not accepting, however, is that the city and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation should go ahead and build all of the planned 20 miles and 21 stations. Instead, they want rail to stop at Middle Street.
...

But what Roth, Slater and Prevedouros argue now is that, because Middle Street is home to Oahu Transit Services — home of TheBus, The Handi-Van and the Kalihi-Palama Bus — it can be the future of what they envision as a multimodal hub.


What’s central to this thesis is that transportation technologies and business models are developing faster than once thought possible. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have altered the way consumers view short trips, while automated buses and cars are already being tested and deployed.
...

Roth and Co. believe the FTA would be open to a new plan. The built guideway could eventually be modified to accommodate shared or automatic transportation systems.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Could Self-Driving Cars and Buses Replace the Last Leg of Rail?

Quoted by Marcel Honore in his article in Honolulu Civil Beat.

It’s been nearly three months since state leaders approved their latest, $2.4 billion funding package to bail out the largest public works project in Hawaii’s history.

But don’t tell Randall Roth, Cliff Slater or Panos Prevedouros that Honolulu rail transit is finally in the clear to reach Ala Moana Center. For the three longtime outspoken rail critics, who’ve previously predicted budget overruns, it’s not a question of “if” the $8.17 billion project will again run out of cash — it’s “when.”

...

Despite the latest influx of cash to move rail forward, Roth, Slater and Prevedouros haven’t given up their efforts. They have adjusted their message, however.

Now, the trio advocates stopping rail at Middle Street and exploring whether the growing popularity of ride-hailing services such as Uber and future self-driving technologies could then get Honolulu commuters from that transit hub further into town.

Prevedouros, a UH civil-engineering professor who previously ran for mayor as an ant–rail candidate, suggested the city could run automated buses along Dillingham Boulevard and Nimitz Highway from the Middle Street transit hub.

The city’s existing road grid could potentially handle more vehicles if they’re self-driving because they would travel more closely together, he added.

However, there’s been no local studies to examine whether this might work, and the idea is only preliminary, he acknowledged.

“This is part of the discussion that hasn’t happened here at all and, it is time that we make that discussion and make that connection to the rail,” Prevedouros said Wednesday.

“What’s the choice of investment? Nineteenth century versus 21st century and this discussion is not even happening in this town. No one is talking autonomous,” or self-driving vehicles, he said.

Slater, meanwhile, pointed to Uber’s recently announced plan to buy 24,000 sports-utility vehicles from Volvo to launch its own self-driving car fleet.

==================

And I add this to the discussion presented in the Civil Beat article:

In November 2017 Google's Waymo unit specializing on driverless technology posted a video of autonomous vans providing a prototype "suburban service." Now fast forward to 2020 and it's not hard to imagine:

1. A dozen Waymo vans roaming on routes in Kapolei and taking people to/from the rail station. They'll be smart too. Midday they'll park at key spots until they are called; unlike buses that clock many miles mostly empty. This has a number of positives in terms or resource consumption, pollution, and wear and tear.
2. Six to ten automated buses connecting Middle Street with downtown, each one departing a few minutes after a train arrives.

Driverless transportation is a low cost, high tech way out of perpetuating the rail black hole. What a way to get Honolulu ahead of most cities in transportation innovation!


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Rail Expansion to Manoa and Waikiki Is Impossible

Quoted in Jim Medoza's story that Rail expansion to Manoa, Waikiki impossible — at least on current route.

UH traffic engineer Panos Prevedouros said the situation is, simply, "poor planning."

He thinks rail planners should scrap any idea of an alternate route.

“They're talking about expansion of a system that we don't have enough funds to complete as it is. It's premature,” he said.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Recycle or Incinerate? The Battle of the Blue Bins

Quoted in Honolulu Civil Beat article on Recycling and Waste to Energy issues.



  • Panos Prevedouros, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Hawaii Manoa, said burning recyclables would be better for the city’s pocketbook and the environment.
  • The way Prevedouros sees it, more trash burned at H-POWER also means less fossil fuel consumed use to produce electricity.
  • “We are resource-poor when it comes to generating electricity,” Prevedouros said, adding he thinks Honolulu should even consider importing trash from neighbor islands for incineration.
  • Glass could also be crushed and mixed with asphalt to create “glassphalt” for road construction, said Prevedouros.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Duke Professor Henry Petroski on Future of Transportation



Thank you to Hawaii News Now for covering our guest, Duke University civil engineering professor and infrastructure historian Dr. Henry Petroski.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What Lies Beneath? Questions Raised About Infrastructure Below

Quoted in Gina Mangieri's "Always Investigating" extensive coverage of the problems with underground cavities and sinkholes in Kakaako, What lies beneath? As Kakaako develops up, questions raised about infrastructure below.

This broken culvert was discovered in spring 2017 and required emergency repairs.


...

Driving through Kakaako lately has meant navigating a maze of emergency road work after underground near-collapses and even sink holes have popped up in the area.

“We have so many streets,” explained Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii civil and environmental engineering professor, “so many likelihoods of a potential sinkhole.”

That’s because Kakaako was once a low-lying marsh, perfect for fishponds, salt, rice, and taro, but trickier for roadways and urban development we see now.

UH experts Always Investigating spoke with say the buckling roads are giving us signs of three things to watch out for:

Age of infrastructure like underground drainage culverts;
Rising sea levels and groundwater; and
Soil problems common to coastal areas.
“We have clay and sand, things that are easy to dissolve,” said Prevedouros, “and then because we have intrusion of sea water, or perhaps pipes, storm drains, and even sewers breaking, all that has the effect of diluting the soil and creating all kinds of cavities which pose a major threat to public safety.”

...

Experts agree the new structures are built to last and take all coastal-zone geographical challenges into account.

“The newer the buildings, the safer they are,” Prevedouros said. “The older buildings, they may start having problems with their foundations and they may have some tilting. Eventually they will have to have significant repairs and eventually demolition and reconstruction.”

...

“One of the side benefits of the rail project is they can help us with the geo-technical investigations they have done,” Prevedouros said, “and actually they can inform the neighborhood as to the stability of the soils, because they have to do it for their own foundations. Unless you plan to put a big rail or a big road in the area, you cannot simply start poking holes. It’s simply too expensive.”

...


Friday, October 27, 2017

Rail Work Kicks off Airport Leg

Quoted in Jim Mendoza's coverage of rail construction Phase 3: Aloha Stadium to the airport and the Middle Street terminus.

University of Hawaii traffic expert Panos Prevedouros thinks that's where the contractors will face their biggest hurdle.

"When they hit Aolele Street there is essentially an S-curve, one right hand turn followed by a left hand turn which is quite challenging to do in infrastructure. There's also a lot of elevation. You have all the ramps from the freeway going to the airport," he said.

...

Kiewit's work on the first ten miles inconvenienced drivers and harmed businesses. Prevedouros expects STG's work to do the same..

"There will be disruptions and there may be at times major disruptions due to safety," he said.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bob Poole: Facing Reality on a Shared-Vehicle Future

The cover story of the current issue of Thinking Highways takes on the question of whether an autonomous vehicle future will be largely one of shared AVs or individually owned AVs. Authors Bern Grush and Blair Schlecter rightly begin by asserting that "the ownership question is more important than automation." They also start by telegraphing their conclusion: "That private ownership will cease or become rare is wishful thinking—at least for the next half-century and for any country whose government will not ban ownership."
This conclusion surprised me, because I've read a lot that Bern Grush has written on AVs, and he's made it clear that he would prefer a future in which shared AVs largely win out over individually owned AVs. But that makes his honest look at the obstacles to that future all the more compelling.
Blair and Schlecter begin by contrasting the two predominant views of the future, as follows:
  • According to the environmental and livability perspective, the ideal future would be based on vehicles that are automated, connected, electric, and shared (ACES).
  • But the ideal AV future for most drivers would be vehicles that are comfortable, affordable, fast, and instantly available (CAFI).
And they point out that "The ACES-CAFI difference is the divide between what planners wish and consumers want. This gap is now very wide. It has to be closed in order to achieve the holy grail of having most people use 'mobility as a service' (MaaS) rather than owning their own vehicle."
The key to understanding the authors' conclusion is their clear-eyed assessment of serving "travelers with non-routine needs." They identify eight such categories, as follows.
  1. Travelers with children, who may need car safety seats for young ones and will also be concerned about the sanitary condition of the vehicles;
  2. Travelers who trip-chain, e.g., making multiple stops on the way to or from work;
  3. Travelers who are disabled or elderly, and have difficulty getting in and out of standardized vehicles;
  4. Baby boomer travelers, a huge cohort over the next several decades, who hope to age in place and will relish the ability to preserve their current mobility via owning an AV;
  5. Travelers with pets or helper animals—another category not likely to be acceptable to the other passengers in a shared AV;
  6. Travelers who smoke—ditto;
  7. Travelers concerned about communicable diseases; and,
  8. Travelers who need carrying and storage capacity, which includes not only shoppers but also service providers such as pool cleaners, plumbers, electricians, etc.
This should be a sobering message for those who glibly predict the imminent displacement of individually owner vehicles by Mobility as a Service. I close with a concluding thought from Grush and Schlecter:

"Currently, the ideal [shared] vehicle fleet would satisfy only a fraction of user trips. For every pet taken in a pet-free vehicle or smoker using a smoke-free car, a robo-ride user might be disappointed and encouraged to buy a car or join an exclusive-car club, diminishing the pool of riders for massive robo-fleets and the efficiency of massive, relatively uniform, coordinated fleets."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kapiolani Blvd. Contraflow Lane Doing More Harm Than Good?



Quoted in Honolulu Civil BeatCouncilman: Contraflow Lane Is Doing More Harm Than Good, Honolulu, Natanya Friedheim, Oct. 11, 2017.

Panos Prevedouros, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Hawaii, thinks the contraflow lane is useful to Koko Head-bound drivers in the afternoon, and would change his mind only if data showed the lane causes inefficiencies. 

In 2016 DTS published a report on the effect of contraflow lanes on major Honolulu roadways. The study recommended the city keep the Kapiolani contraflow lane. It also found that while the restrictions on left turns cause drivers to alter their route, it provides a safer driving environment.

“My feeling is that there was a purpose why we did it and the purpose has not changed,” Prevedouros said of the contraflow lane. “(If there is) credible data saying going back to three lanes is OK, I’m somewhat in disbelief, but you can trust the data.”



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hawaii’s Infrastructure Upkeep Ranks Last


Quoted in Honolulu Star Advertiser, Hawaii’s infrastructure upkeep ranks last in a financial website’s assessment, Nanea Kalani, October 10, 2017.

University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros said that while Hawaii’s aging infrastructure tends to fare poorly in national rankings, he was surprised the state landed in the bottom spot. He said Hawaii typically earns a D+ or D- grade on the American Society of Engineers’ infrastructure report card, which comes out every four years and evaluates such areas as roads, bridges, dams, airports, harbors and public transportation.

“We’ve been doing poorly, but what is very surprising is that we came in dead last. Obviously, it’s not encouraging — we have hit rock bottom,” said Prevedouros, chairman of the Civil Engineering Department at UH-Manoa.

Within the categories of the “Falling Apart” report, Hawaii had the highest percentage of dams in the country with “high-hazard potential” ratings, at 93 percent. According to the National Inventory of Dams maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 124 of the state’s 133 dams have been assigned the hazardous classification, indicating that failure or mis-operation is likely to cause loss of human life and economic and environmental losses.

Close to 70 percent of the dams in Hawaii are on privately owned land. A spokesman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which runs the state’s dam safety program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“That’s almost a given when you have earthen dams,” Prevedouros said of the high-hazard risk ratings. “It’s very difficult to know how the structures are performing without careful inspection.” He said most of the islands’ dams are old and in need of more maintenance and upkeep to ensure public health and safety. He cited Nuuanu Reservoir as a particularly risky dam given its close proximity to residential areas.

“It’s pretty clear that the state and the city do not pay much attention to the condition and the operation of the roads,” Prevedouros said. “They’re both in poor quality and operating poorly with a lot of congestion. Clearly, now the numbers show we are in a lose-lose situation, where we are spending the money on the wrong projects, and the big categories that affect the well-being of the population are being neglected.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rail Critic Calls HART’s Financial Recovery Plan Shallow

"It's the same people trying to make the soup, and nobody's a chef, " said University of Hawaii Engineering Chairman Panos Prevedouros.
The outspoken rail critic poured over the financial rail recover plan as it was released online Monday.
He essentially concluded its another recipe for disaster.
He called the revised plan "shallow," lacking real meaningful data.
"There are not major updates, there is no information about how to make things better. Value engineering, mistakes we made, how we are going to fix those mistakes we made? Everything is dispatched in four pages. This is not really a sincere effort," Prevedouros said.
Prevedouros was also disappointed the report didn't include updated ridership numbers.
He isn't assured the new CEO Andrew Robbins who he called a train sales man is the right choice to complete the most complicated leg of the rail route.
"What does he know about multiple construction projects with big geo-technical problems, real estate problems and all kinds of issues of doing big construction in a very dense urbanized area?  Nothing!” said Prevadouros.
At last week’s HART meeting, Robbins praised the changes made in the last year under interim CEO Krishniah Murthy.
He did also acknowledge the risks in this last and most complicated leg of the 20-mile route and the expectation that HART will watch every penny given the directive from the state.
"We have to step up our game and perform we have been given this additional funding and we have to perform on that budget and that schedule,” said Robbins.
Prevedouros laments the loss of institutional knowledge following the departure of key HART personnel and isn't sure what to make of the defection of construction point man Brennon Morioka to Hawaiian Electric during this critical path of construction and under grounding of utilities.
It remains to be seen if the plan will pass muster with the Federal Transit Authority, but Prevedouros believes we need to do better to explain how we are going to save not millions, but billions.
"If you don't learn from your mistakes, you are bound to repeat them and they will, Prevedouros said.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Great Train Robbery

"The now nearly 50-year experiment with transit subsidies has fallen well short of expectations. A more practical result could be obtained by better prioritization of funding to meet the greatest needs in the metropolitan reality as it currently exists. . . . In the cities without legacy cores, and in the suburbs of cities with legacy cores, we should focus on the needs of those unable to provide their own mobility. This is far more socially responsible than adding expensive services such as urban rail that have shown virtually no evidence of reducing driving alone. . . . In the vast majority of markets, transit has not lured drivers from their cars to relieve congestion or improve air quality. And it is wasteful to commit transit funds to achieve purposes other than improved transportation, such as city-building or place-making. Transportation is too important to economic growth and prosperity to be subject to utopian notions."

–Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox, "The Great Train Robbery: Urban Transportation in the 21st Century," Center for Demographics & Policy, Chapman University, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Academic Critical of Overblown Budget on Hawaii Rail Project

Interviewed by Radio New Zealand:

"We should have put aside monies, which is really trivial given the overall scope, and a couple of million dollars at most would have done it, for a national forensic expert on transit systems to come and look at what is really happening here and how come our transit system is two to three times more expensive than other comparable US systems," Panos Prevedouros said.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Waves Eat Away Part of Kamehameha Hwy.

Allyson Blair reports on the worsening erosion along Kamehameha Hwy.


Traffic engineering expert Panos Prevedouros agrees.

"It's a major risk. The pavement is undermined so it can collapse in a small or large degree, to which I don't know, at any time," said Prevedouros.

Prevedouros says the road needs immediate repair. In the meantime drivers shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the undermined asphalt.

"Everything in that area seems to be completely eroded. Therefore even the crash guard that looks to be okay, although it has some rust on the backside, it may be structurally compromised," said Prevedouros.

Tourists to Help Pay for Beleaguered Honolulu Rail

Quoted in this article in Travel Pulse. I had no idea but Google found it for me...

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Flooding in Mapunapuna?

Quoted in Alexander Zane's story on KHON about the repeated flooding in Mapunapuna.

Several years ago, the city installed a duckbill drainage system to get storm water out and keep ocean water from coming in.

But according to Panos Prevedouros, chair of the UH Manoa Dept. Of Civil and Environmental Engineering, anything more would come with a hefty price.

“Basically you’d need to have a storage system and a pump system to pump the storm water out of it. Essentially close the connection. You have to cut the cord with the ocean so the ocean never comes in,” Prevedouros explains.

As for the option of installing a pump system to get water out of the area, Panos Prevedouros says it probably won’t happen.

“I’m pretty sure that the area does not generate significant county taxes to justify a huge investment. That’s probably what the problem has been all this time. If the area was upgraded with more expensive real estate so that the county can collect more taxes than a more sophisticated solution could be put in place, so it’s a trade-off kind of thing,” Prevedouros said.

-------------

A couple more things to add here:

Duckbills can get clogged by debris and then they remain open allowing ocean water to intrude. In all likelihood they do not work as City claims because the area flooded during king tides in July this year.

Given the relatively low property value of this area, it makes sense to provide incentives for small businesses to relocate and return this large parcel to nature. That is, treat this area as a small estuary:  The Mapunapuna pond.

In addition, Charles Hunt saw this story and contacted me with the following important perspective and information:

An added perspective that occurs to me is that such systems will become increasingly necessary, what with progressive sea-level rise, so the City will eventually have to start installing some. Mapunapuna could be an early prototype for the City to gain experience with system designs, learning which systems and consultants have “proven out” in other locales, which systems offer best cost/reliability characteristics, etc. Or – if tax-base is an overriding consideration – perhaps another locale like Waikiki or Downtown will become the first prototype.

Here’s a link to the gateway page for my report, there’s a full PDF of the report available at the page. We installed some instrumentation to record water levels and the pump on-off duty cycle and were able to tell a few stories about drainage from the watershed and how the pump-out system operated during a couple of rain storms over the year of study:

Hunt, Charles D., Jr.; De Carlo, Eric H., Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-4171: Hydrology and Water and Sediment Quality at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge near Kahuku, Island of Oahu, Hawaii, 2000.

Hunt also suggested that a camera system can be used to monitor the operation of the duckbills.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Rail Project Audit Needs to Be Comprehensive, Independent

"Incredibly, the people now asking for another $3 billion without accounting for the first $7 billion, say independent forensic auditors with special expertise in rail engineering and construction would cost too much."

Honolulu Star Advertiser
Island Voices

Rail Project Audit Needs to Be Comprehensive, Independent

By Panos Prevedouros, Randy Roth and Cliff Slater
August 24, 2017

The Hard Reality of Honolulu Rail Costs



Dear Hawaii Senators and Representatives,
I hope that you will find five minutes to read my article on HART costs: The Hard Reality of Honolulu Rail Costs.
The disparity between the actual constructed or bid costs on one hand, and the overall costs presented by HART is way too large.  It is similar to buying a $20,000 vehicle and then the dealer charges you another $30,000 for delivery, fees, docs and taxes.
A major cause of this disparity is waste and fraud. You can't possibly approve more taxes for HART before you control waste and fraud. Otherwise you are more than partners in the waste and fraud; you are the enablers.
Aloha,
Panos

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

30 Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea



Panos Prevedouros joins Jay Fidell on Community Matters to discuss developments in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) plans on Mauna Kea.





Friday, August 11, 2017

State Explores Possibility of Taxing Drivers by the Mile

While the topic of a mileage based taxation for vehicle use on public road dates back to the 1990s, there have been no takers other than the large experimental deployment in Oregon. Now Hawaii wants to lead the way with an expensive implementation as shown in this KHON story by Manolo Morales.
We reached out to University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, who questions why the state is moving forward ahead of so many other states.
“I just wish that we waited a little bit more so bigger states, like California, Washington, can work through the details so we can get a more ready-to-use plan, instead of us paying to develop a ready-to-use plan,” he said.
So far, only Oregon has implemented the road usage charge at a rate of three cents per mile.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

HART Pays to Pave Prison Parking

From the bottomless pit of enough is enough that is HART comes this story in Hawaii News Now by Rick Daysog.

Repaving the Oahu Community Correctional Center’s parking lot, widening nearby Kamehameha Highway and other related work will cost about $650,000.

"It's clearly unnecessary in two ways. Why are we doing this in 2017? There is no rail project anywhere near that site,” said rail critic and University of Hawaii Civil Engineering Prof. Panos Prevedouros.

“Second, what has HART to do with OCCC?”

But facing a shortfall of about $2 billion, HART only has enough money to build to Middle Street. Prevedouros noted that OCCC is several hundred yards beyond Middle Street.

"If they had done construction and put some pilings into OCCC obviously they would have to do some finishing work around it.  But right now there is nothing happening anywhere near there,” he said.

He said the paving work makes even less sense because the prison will eventually be knocked down and relocated.

But other says it will be years before OCCC is moved and that the parking lot needs to be resurfaced in the meantime.

"We absolutely have seen no plans by the state of moving OCCC in the near future, within the next one or two years,” said City Councilmember Trevor Ozawa.

Ozawa , a rail skeptic, was the swing vote when the City Council voted to approve $350 million bonds for the rail project. He voted for the plan only after HART and city officials assured him that none of the bond money would be spent on heavy construction beyond Middle Street.

Ozawa said he's okay with the OCCC expenditures because it doesn't involved heavy construction, such as the elevated guideways.

Meanwhile, Prevedouros said the repaving project underscores a need for a forensic audit of HART's construction work.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Residents calls for emergency repairs to crumbling Hauula highway

Quoted in this news story by Allyson Blair of Hawaii News Now.

Transportation engineering expert Panos Prevedouros says that with the amount of erosion that's already occurred, the Department of Transportation should schedule emergency repairs.
"This is a site that needs immediate work right now," he said. "The holes are too close to the travel lane. At this point, they need to do some inspection with wave technology to find out if there are any cavities under the road."

[Pictures by A. Blair -- click to enlarge]





Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Honolulu’s Potholes Are Costing Drivers And Taxpayers Millions

Quoted in Courtney Teague's story in the Honolulu Civil Beat about the poor quality of pavements in Honolulu.

...

Local asphalt industry expert Jon Young and Panos Prevedouros, professor and chair of the University of Hawaii Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, agree that the city’s methods for filling potholes are cost-effective, but not the longest-lasting.

“Dramatic deterioration” of Oahu’s roads at the turn of the century forced the city and state to be more proactive about maintenance, said Prevedouros, who once ran for mayor on a platform that focused on fixing infrastructure. He said the city — and especially the state — could improve maintenance strategies.

The state paid UH $1 million over about five years for a report by Ricardo Archilla, associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, that looked at ways Oahu could improve its roads and created the recommendations, Prevedouros said.

Though the city did not pay for the report, Prevedouros said it has been quicker to adopt its findings and conduct field assessments.

....

Prevedouros described the city’s pothole repair methods as “amateurish,” but cost-effective.

He pointed to “very durable” European techniques as a superior example, which involve squaring off the edges of a pothole and using heavy trucks to pack the pothole down in 30-40 minutes. There’s no difference in the amount of time taken to fill the pothole, but there is a difference in quality and longevity of the repair — and cost, he said.

Pothole repairs on state roads take place at night, he said, and more time is spent on them because of the higher traffic volumes.

The city usually fixes potholes quickly during the day in 30 minutes to an hour, Prevedouros said. When crews have to leave for the next pothole, he said the new asphalt isn’t completely dry and is already being damaged by traffic.

...

Overall, Prevedouros of the University of Hawaii gave Oahu’s roads a D+ grade. The average lifespan of Hawaii roads is short and the powerful sun poses a constant threat, he said.

Road repaving should be prioritized over pothole repair, he said.

“We have made a business of (repairing potholes),” he said. “…It’s emergency Band-Aids and that’s not a way to run any system … it shows that (the road) is way past deterioration.”