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.”


Thursday, July 20, 2017

CITYLAB: Honolulu's Rapid Transit Crisis

National publication CITYLAB which used to be Atlantic Cities covered the Honolulu rail boondoggle in Honolulu's Rapid Transit Crisis.


Despite a famously laid-back culture, Honolulu’s traffic is about as bad as it gets. In a bid to unsnarl its highways a bit in 2011, the city embarked on a $5.2 billion Honolulu Rail Transit Project. At the time, the planned 20-mile elevated electric train line was expected to ease traffic congestion on Hawaii’s most densely populated island by 18 percent, with the first trips planned for 2017.

Fast forward six years and the still-sputtering project looks very different. The city now estimates that the rail will cost $10 billion—almost five times the city’s annual budget and twice the original project cost estimate—while civil engineering specialists forecast a price tag closer to $13 billion.

Per capita, the Honolulu rail could become the most expensive transit project in U.S. history, according to the conservative public policy think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. What’s more, the funding source of at least $3 billion in projected costs remains unseen. Meanwhile, the city’s traffic problems have worsened and state lawmakers are left divided and scrambling to craft a plan to pay for the cash-strapped project. All told, 75 percent of the contracts needed to bring the project to completion have been awarded, and the first planned trips along the full track are no longer expected to run before 2025.

So when is it too late to quit a major public-infrastructure project gone awry?

“The project is objectively terrible,” says Panos D. Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, whose two failed campaigns for mayor embraced an anti-rail platform. “It reminds me of some proclamations that Trump makes with the beautiful wall he wants to build. Well, in this case, it’s the beautiful train. But it is not beautiful. It’s useless for our population.”

Read the Full Article at CITYLAB.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Professor Randall Roth: HART Blames Massive Cost Overruns on Lawsuits to Stop Rail. It’s a Lie.

There were two lawsuits. The one in federal court briefly affected the City’s ability to buy land in the downtown segment, but had no impact on rail construction or construction bidding.

The other lawsuit was brought in state court by Paulette Kaleikini. She sued because the City had started construction without first completing an archaeological study, as is required by law. A unanimous state Supreme Court ordered construction stopped until the City completed the study, which took 13 months. Blaming Ms. Kaleikini is comparable to blaming an abuse victim for seeking legal protection. The City and its contractors simply ignored the law (and the law's purpose) in their rush to get construction beyond a point of no return. The dollar impact of the state lawsuit was slightly more than $39 million, according to HART.

While the federal lawsuit did not stop or even slow down rail construction, it did provide access to FTA’s internal email that referred to the City’s “lousy practices of public manipulation,” use of “inaccurate statements,” culture of “never enough time to do it right, but lots of time to do it over,” the observation that the City had put itself in a “pickle” by setting unrealistic start dates for construction, and concern about the City’s “casual treatment of burials.”

The federal lawsuit took longer than it needed to take because the City’s lawyers used every trick in the book to drag it out. They wanted our legal costs to soar, which they did. Raising the money simply to see that lawsuit to a conclusion was like crawling over a constantly expanding field of broken glass. The City spent more than $3 million on lawyers and expert witnesses, and the delay increased costs by another $3.3 million.


According to HART, the lawsuit delay costs come to about $46 million, see figure above, which is only 0.46% of the current cost of HART rail. Rail's final cost before it started construction was proclaimed to be $5.17 Billion, by mayor Carlisle. Rail's current cost was stated at $10 Billion by mayor Caldwell. HART current cost overrun is 93.4%, of which 1% is due to the two lawsuits.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

HART Rail: Local Cost 34 Times More than H-3

I'd like to thank the Honolulu Star Advertiser for publishing my article with Cliff, originally titled HART Rail: Local Cost 34 Times More than H-3.

Rail will never be as practical as roadways
By Panos Prevedouros and Cliff Slater
July 11, 2017

Oahu’s H-3 freeway endured political controversy and major engineering challenges, such as the boring of two miles of tunnels through solid rock of the Koolau mountains and erecting 160-foot columns for the windward viaduct. Even so, the rail’s construction cost is exorbitant compared with the H-3’s — and that cost to local taxpayers, as explained below, shows how poor the rail choice was and how irrational it would be to continue.

If Mayor Kirk Caldwell is to be believed, the 20-mile elevated rail system will cost $10 billion from Kualakai Parkway to Ala Moana Center, minus $1.55 billion (hopefully) covered by the Federal Transit Administration; and about 15 percent paid by Oahu’s unsuspecting tourists. The rail guideway could instead be used to run buses, providing one traffic lane per direction for a total of two lanes. So its cost to the local taxpayer is $180 million per lane-mile.

The H-3 has two lanes per direction, four lanes total. Because the federal government provided 90 percent of its funding, the cost to local taxpayers was only $5 million per lane-mile, after being adjusted to 2017 using the Price Trends for Federal-Aid Highway Construction Index. Therefore, the lane-mile cost of rail to local taxpayers will be 34 times greater than the cost of the H-3.

The long-term cost difference is actually much greater when operating and maintenance costs are considered. Keeping the trains running will require an annual subsidy of $130 million, according to the city. This is dramatically higher than the annual cost of maintaining the H-3. This would be a new annual cost for Oahu, and it is roughly equal to the $150 million that the state Department of Transportation receives annually from the federal government.

But what about the benefits?

Unlike rail, H-3 connects to existing networks to provide door-to-door transportation options, which most residents and visitors require. Unlike rail, the H-3 directly benefits the military, emergency responders, police, commercial service providers, and public health officials.

The H-3 and other highways also facilitate public transportation by buses, taxi companies, ride-hailing services, and stand ready to serve the future dominance of autonomous, on-call vehicles. The vehicle fleet could be mostly electric in a few decades, which diminish the rail’s “green power” advantage claimed by its proponents.

Last but not least is the economy: Without roads, our economy is dead. Without rail, the economy is better off: That’s according to University of Hawaii economist James Roumasset, who explained that a project with benefits lower than its costs shrinks the economy and thereby shrinks employment. He also has pointed out how rail’s astronomical costs freeze out funding for the adoption of many sensible solutions to Oahu’s traffic congestion problem.

Efforts to continue rail past the intermodal transit center at Middle Street is wasteful and irresponsible public policy. No additional funds should be appropriated for rail. HART’s sole effort should be to bring the project to its end at Middle Street with the funds available, and use city funds for any shortage.

After the acceptance of the system for revenue service, HART should be dissolved; Oahu Transit Services should run all public transit so that good transportation service is provided islandwide. This would mitigate the problem experienced in other cities where the high costs of rail operations have resulted in major cuts of bus routes and service. (The rail’s final environmental impact statement states that 24 routes of The Bus will be eliminated or terminated at the nearest rail station.)

The costs of rail clearly show the massive present and future fiscal impact to Oahu and the state. The brave choice is to convert the project to an automated bus operation — but such bravery, imagination and public-duty responsibility are absent.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ala Wai Canal?

I am surprised that the proposal for a bridge across the Ala Wai canal is being discussed again... 15 years ago I wrote a report that included this:

"Adding a bridge to Waikiki across the Ala Wai canal is not a new idea. There has been community opposition to it because a new two or four lane bridge to Waikiki will bring a lot of additional traffic (and increase noise and accident risk) in the neighborhood and park between the Iolani School and the Ala Wai Field. However, my BRT alternative calls for a one-lane limited access bridge which will serve pedestrians, BRT vehicles, and emergency response vehicles."


A shorter version of the report appeared as a Star Bulletin* commentary and then several knives flew in my direction because the Ala Wai is on the National Historical register for its uninterrupted "mirror vista" similar to the reflecting pool in Washington, DC I am not sure that those in charge are aware of this huge limitation for any new bridge across the Ala Wai.

(*) Honolulu's evening newspaper that merged with the Honolulu Advertiser to form the one current newspaper, Honolulu Start Advertiser.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Marjorie Morgan: Riding the Rail Means an Endless Parade of Buses

On July 4, 2017, the Honolulu Star Advertiser published this humorous and poignant account of rail usage in Honolulu in 2030 (maybe):

My family can hardly wait. We can see how rail will change our lives forever.

First thing each weekday, we’ll walk from our home to the shuttle bus stop. It will take only 10 minutes, and the weather will probably be accommodating.

We will patiently wait for the bus, and hope it comes within 10 or 15 minutes. Sooner or later it will take us to the nearest train station, where within minutes we will be on our way to town.

The 20 stops will be humbug, but we will dependably reach the Ala Moana train station not much more than an hour after leaving our home.

Unfortunately, that won’t be the end of our commute. From the Ala Moana rail station, Mommy will then take bus No. 1 to work. Daddy will take bus No. 2 to work. Mikey will take bus No. 3 to Saint Louis School. Sally will take bus No. 4 to Saint Francis School. And baby will take bus No. 5 to preschool.

Oh wait, baby can’t go on the bus alone. I guess Mommy will take baby on bus No. 5 to the preschool. After dropping baby off, Mommy will patiently wait for a bus No. 6 that is headed back to the rail station. From there, Mommy will transfer to bus No. 1.

After work, Daddy will walk back to the bus stop closest to his office, which in his case is only a half-mile and partially protected from the elements. After waiting there for 10 to 15 minutes, Daddy will take bus No. 5 to within a quarter-mile of Mikey’s baseball game. Sally’s walk from her school to her bus station will take only 10 minutes, and the wait for her bus only another 15 to 20 minutes, but her bus stop will be only 5 to 10 minutes from the ballpark where she will join Daddy at Mikey’s game.

When her workday ends, Mommy will take bus No. 1, transfer to bus No. 6, pick up baby, wait for a bus No. 6 headed in the opposite direction, eventually transfer to bus No. 5, so that she and baby can meet the rest of the family at the game.

Afterward, the family will walk to, and wait for, bus No. 8 … transfer to bus No. 9 … and eventually reach the downtown rail station where everyone can enjoy a wonderful dinner.

Oh wait, too expensive. Instead, we’ll just ride the train back to the west side, find seats as riders start getting off at 20 stations, walk to our bus stop where we will eventually take bus No. 10 to within a 10-minute walk of our home.

Unless something unexpected happens, we will enjoy the walk and be home by the kids’ bedtime.

Oh, wait. I forgot about dinner … and working out tomorrow’s transportation plan. Except for Sally’s swim meet at a cross-town school, baby’s doctor’s appointment at Queen’s, and Mikey’s soccer practice, it will be a lot like today’s terrific schedule.

Oh wait, what about stopping off at grandma’s place to wish her a happy birthday? That could be a problem. We don’t expect to have money in the budget for an occasional side trip by taxi once the city raises our property taxes to pay for rail operations.

And to pay payments on all the rail bonds as they come due, the city will need to cut many corners, but that’s OK. I’m pretty sure my kids will get used to not having air-conditioning, clean seats, or any form of security in or around the rail stations.

The trains may be dilapidating, cement guideways crumbling, steel rusting, and escalators stalling, but at least my family will have rail.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Passenger Train Evacuation on Elevated Guideways

Following a major subway derailment in New York City, Michelle Matsuo asked many questions on a transit forum. I answered them below.

In Honolulu, if a train derails, will it hurtle off the guideway?  
Normally it will not and HART route alignment, unlike Chicago's L for example, does not have 90 degree turns. While unlikely, under extreme conditions a HART train can jump the tracks and fall off the guideway.

If there is a malfunction somewhere on the track, will a train get stuck between stations?
If a train breaks down, then it will be stuck. A following train may be commanded to push the broken down train to the nearest station.

If there is grid power loss, then nearby stations have generators to provide enough power to pull the train to the nearest station.

Do the windows open?  If they do, is it enough to keep people from cooking in the train?  
Typically windows do not open. There may be vents that can be opened.  Unless there's loss of grid power, the train may break down mechanically, but the a/c should still be functional. If the a/c dies, then people will need to be removed within a few minutes during hot conditions.

If they open, then will people be tempted to walk along the guideway, and will they get electrocuted by the third rail? 
There is an emergency walkway in the middle as shown in the picture below. In an emergency with smoke, extreme heat or other need to abandon the cab, people should be advised to exit on the narrow walkway, walk a short distance away from danger, then sit down and wait for rescue. In such extreme conditions, walking on the track may be necessary and can be safe as long as people stay well clear of the third rail (see gray line on the left side of the picture.) Given the design of HART guideway, if evacuation of the passengers is needed along the guideway, then the situation will be risky for several reasons.

What is the repair protocol for the trains and the tracks?
At frequent intervals there are switches (see sample train track switch below) so trains can go from the left track to the right track (and vice versa) and in effect "overtake" the disabled train. Eventually the control room has to decide the best time and method to deal with the problem, such as sending crew for on-site repair or pulling the broken down train to the yard.  A disablement that cannot be fixed quickly on site will cause delays to the operations.

The tracks should be inspected and maintained on a schedule so that they do not generate failures during operations. These are usually done off peak or at night.

If the track is neglected, as at the Washington Metro, then multi-day closures of the line may be needed if the condition is deemed unsafe or difficult to fix at night. It may be still be possible for HART to run trains on a single track while the other track is being repaired, but intervals between trains will be long.


Apparently this is an area that is lacking sufficient attention, as federal guidelines seem to date back to 1985: Recommended Emergency Preparedness Guidelines for Rail Transit Systems.

A 2014 technical article A new approach for modelling passenger trains evacuation
procedures states: "In most emergency situations, a successful evacuation and rescue can mean the difference between life and death. In passenger trains, the crew are responsible for passenger safety." HART trains have no crew on board.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Honolulu Driverless Car Poll 2017


Given how little is actually known about driverless cars, more so in Hawaii where there are no autonomous vehicle pilots or any major funded research, it is surprising that so many newspaper subscribers who answered the poll have a specific opinion.... 41% opposed; problematic, 32% very positive; great potential, and 27% mixed.

I'd speculate that this is almost purely based on information about Teslas. East Honolulu probably has more Teslas than any other comparable high income community in the US.

At the present time, the correct answer is: Problematic 100% and Great potential 100%.




Monday, June 26, 2017

Super-long Commutes in Hawaii?

Recently I received this question from a The Pew Charitable Trusts investigating journalist: "I noticed that Hawaii had a big increase – an almost 40% in increase in commutes of 90 minutes or more between 2010 and 2015 (American Community Survey) – I saw you quoted in a business journal on a similar issue, how driving is on the upswing in Hawaii, and wondered if you could comment on why this would be a bigger issue now in Hawaii, and growing so fast."

I replied as follows:

Tourists and tourism jobs generate a lot of travel.  In Hawaii tourism roughly accounts for one third of the local economy. Travel was down mostly due to the recession... in 2008-2010 tourism and all related sectors of the economy were hit hard; see linked report for some numbers:  A major recovery was observed in 2015-2016 and this came with a strong growth in travel.

Another large contributor was gas price. In 2010 gas prices jumped from approximately $3.50 to $4.50 (in Hawaii). Sharp increases in trip cost resulted in sharp changes in trip making (curtailed trips and more car pooling). The price in 2015 was "normal" at $3.25 or under. See link.

Indeed, hotel pay is modest and these workers tend to live far from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu (in more affordable, remote towns) which come with 75+ minute commutes.

The 90 minute cutoff creates a "definitional" problem by itself.  During recession times, traffic is lighter and fewer trips take 90+ minutes, even from far out locales. When the economy is booming and traffic is heavy, even suburbs that are closer to Waikiki will experience occasional 90+ minute trips, thus in good times the 90+ count goes up much more.


Progress on Autonomous Vehicles

By Baruch Feigenbaum, as reported in the June 2017 issue no 164 of Robert Poole's SURFACE TRANSPORTATION INNOVATIONS

Last month I attended an automated vehicle conference at Princeton and read the Eno Center for Transportation's new AV policy paper. Both make excellent contributions.

The 2017 Smart Driving Car Summit in Princeton was created and organized by AV researcher and professor Alain Kornhauser. Kornhauser has been researching the intersection between technology and transportation for 50 years; he also writes a useful and amusing weekly AV newsletter. The summit was divided into two days. The first day featured presentations on AV technology, safety, and insurance while the second consisted of workshops on AV planning, insurance and artificial intelligence.

On the first day, AV researcher Bern Grush gave a very good presentation on how AVs could affect communities, highlighting that while most experts expect AVs to increase VMT, uncertainty about a transformative technology makes planning challenging. Adriano Allesandrini from the University of Rome gave a forceful presentation on how automated vehicles are available and on the road today; they are called buses. CityMobil 2 has demonstrated automated slow-speed buses in many European cities. The challenge is that buses traveling at 8 mph have limited ridership potential, so the technology needs to be improved before these buses are viable. He also challenged conference attendees to think about what is best for urban areas rather than what is best for car companies.

Danny Shapiro from NVIDIA presented a fascinating discussion of machine learning. He discussed how, using CAD simulation software and a graphics processing unit, researchers have been able to build a car's brain. It is the same technology used for facial recognition software, and the improvement in machine learning over the past five years has been revolutionary.

In the afternoon we had several presentations on the availability/effectiveness of AV features. Auto dealer Sheldon Sandler revealed that the two most valued AV features are a rearview camera and blind-spot warning. They are the only features that more than 60% of buyers request. Manufacturers offer advanced AV features on a limited number of models only, and they often require customers to buy a package of features that they don't want. For example, the Hyundai Sonata offers a safety package. But it costs more than $5,000 because in order to get the safety features, customers have to order the Limited Tech package with a premium audio system and heated rear seats. Manufacturers offer these packages because most consumers don't put a high value on safety features. So despite what buyers claim in stated preference surveys, car buyers are not willing to pay much for advanced technology. More depressing was a presentation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that showed many of today's Level 2 AV features, such as automatic braking, don't work in many real-world situations. In almost 50% of cases, automated braking did not engage fast enough to avoid hitting a car or a pedestrian.

The Eno policy paper, "Adopting and Adapting: States and Automated Vehicle Policy," is a 30-page report worth reading. It provides an overview of AVs and offers recommendations to states. My focus here is on the recommendations section that is broken into three parts: Regulations, Infrastructure Investment and Funding, and Research and Workforce Training.

The paper suggests relatively relaxed regulations, including not overdoing reporting requirements, and creating non-binding statements or principles. It recommends states work with NHTSA on liability and safety issues. I believe this means that NHTSA should stick primarily to federal issues such as safety standards, and states should control licensing. Federalism suggests a certain balance between federal and state-level rules. I generally agree with these recommendations, as nothing that I have seen so far in AVs suggests that balance should be upset.

For state AV infrastructure investment, the report recommends focusing on keeping highways in a state of good repair. The report also recommends that automated vehicles pay mileage based user fees (MBUFs) instead of a gas tax. So far, MBUF acceptance has been slow due to the development of the technology and the political resistance to paying by the mile. Eno believes that MBUFs can be implemented more easily using vehicles with new features such as AVs.

The document also recommends funding research to explore how AVs may affect the broader economy. One recommendation suggests revising procurement processes so research keeps up with innovation. Governments seldom keep up with new technology because internal processes are designed to be slow and conservative. For research to be useful it cannot be developed at the typical government pace. Finally, Eno recommends investing in programs to train people for AV repair. Today's colleges and technical schools need to think about the skills tomorrow's workers need. And those are not the skills needed to fix a 2005 Dodge.

The Eno report has two weaknesses. The first is that it examines states only; it does not look at metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) or cities. MPOs are the federally designated planning entity for regions; they are interested in AV guidance as well.

The second is the suggestion of digital short-range communications (DSRC) pilot projects. DSRC has a host of problems: it's outdated and inferior to 5G, it takes up valuable wireless spectrum, and it is really expensive to build the needed infrastructure. For the past 18 years, part of the 5.9 Ghz band has been reserved for DSRC, but the technology is still not ready. With the advent of 5G and the need for connected vehicles still some years off, there is simply no point to pursuing DSRC.


April 2017 Poll: No More Willingness to Pay for HART Rail.


Middle Street Rail Station Will Be Built Over Water


Hawaii News Now reporter Rick Daysog investigated the odd choice of building the Middle Street station of HART rail over the flood prone Kalihi stream. I opined as follows:

  • “At a minimum, the foundation problem will double in cost. And I'm talking minimum compared to dry land,” said rail critic and University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros.
  • Prevedouros said he expects the costs to be in the $60 to $70 million range due to the complexity of building over water.
  • He said HART could have located the station further east on what is now a parking lot at First Hawaiian Bank's data center, but chose not to.
  • First Hawaiian's former CEO was chairman of HART for years. Prevedouros and community activists question whether that influenced the decision to leave most of the First Hawaiian parking alone.
  • "I don't know if it's taking care of their own or some other sensitivity to the property. Or it could be some malfeasance there,” Prevedouros said.
  • Prevedouros and other rail critics said that a proposed forensic audit of HART’s operations would have shed more light on HART's decision to build the Middle Street station at its current location.
  • Prevedouros and other rail critics said that a proposed forensic audit of HART’s operations would have shed more light on HART's decision to build the Middle Street station at its current location.
  • “People who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. If you don’t learn from your mistake, how can you possibly improve in the future,” Prevedouros said.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Chris Urmson Reflects On Challenges of Driverless Cars

Chris Urmson reflects on challenges, no-win scenarios and timing of driverless cars is a summary of six important points (written by Chuka Mui in Forbes) that summarize the current state of the art and the future likely path of driverless technology.
  1. There is a lot more chaos on the road than most recognize.
  2. Human intent is the fundamental challenge for driverless cars.
  3. Incremental driver assistance systems will not evolve into driverless cars.
  4. Don’t let the “Trolley Car Problem” [ethics] make the perfect into the enemy of the great.
  5. The “mad rush” is justified.
  6. Deployment will happen “relatively quickly.”
Most articles that cover Transportation as a Service or TaaS including this neglect to address the environmental trade-off... much less need for parking, but much higher VMT and energy use.

Death spiral for cars. By 2030, you probably won’t own one shows possible trends in costs and adoptions, but I think that it is way off the mark.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bad Things Come in Threes


Bad things come in threes?

Who believes in these things?

Well, life has its way with things...

ONE -- On Saturday, I leave the office, by car, a little after 3 PM, and enter H-1 Freeway at the University Avenue on ramp. I had picked up my car at 7 AM from the dealer after its comprehensive 20,000 service was done.

One mile down the road, at about 3:15 PM, all hell breaks lose all of a sudden. Dashboard becomes orange, and the car self regulates its speed to 10 mph. On the freeway.  Thankfully I am past the Punahou Street on-ramp and thanks to the perennial congestion on that past of the H-1 freeway, almost nobody notices.

Chassis stabilization. (Now that's a warning lost in translation from German)

Drivetrain: Vehicle cannot be restarted (Really? Ever?)

Drive moderately (10 mph is not moderately. It is slug-ly)



Policeman in a big Ford Taurus stops me on Keeaumoku Street as I was limping back to the dealer.  He comes by my window with a smile and a little contempt in his voice.... "Run out of gas, huh?"

But then he sees all the orange flashing decorations on the dashboard... "Nope, I'm limping back to the shop" I said.

Four miles and half an hour later I arrive at the dealer and the service advisor from this morning became all flush with embarrassment because he had released my car earlier this morning all serviced, washed and ready for the next 10,000 trouble free miles... only to be back in less than 10 miles.

I get a free ride home in a better vehicle and about an hour later I get a call.  "An air hose got disconnected. All good now."

The car could actually drive OK with the hose busted, but this small defect was made into a big deal by the on-board computer.  That's the price of progress... all the digital nannies for getting 25 mpg from a 300+ horsepower engine.

TWO: Sunday 9 AM. My son Endie and I walk up our steep street with our bikes to load them on the old Mazda truck to go for a ride in the flat lands (Kapiolani Park is our favorite.)

Bad surprise... Something fell, or someone threw something and cracked the windshield!


It's a small set of cracks, but it can no longer pass safety inspection. Who pays $400 for a new windshield for a 1986 truck valued at $1,500 at best?

Buh humbug... Kidney Car or parts car on Craigslist.

But we loaded the bikes and went bike-riding anyway.

TWO AND A HALF: Sunday 10 AM at Kapiolani Park.

Glorious day for biking. Lots of people and bikers enjoying the park.  We had just finished the back straight of the Honolulu Zoo and ready to make a left down Kapahulu Avenue. But I nearly took a spill.  Front tire suddenly all flat!



There goes our pleasant bike ride. Rode back to the truck with the cracked windshield on the flat tired bike, on the grass for a sweaty and aerobic experience.

... AND THE ANOTHER HALF MAKES THREE: Sunday 12:30 PM.

Our family of four boards the now repaired and fully serviced sedan of Thing One and heads to Kahuku for shrimp.

I wanted the car to "stretch its legs" on the freeway, so I chose the H-1, H-2, Haleiwa route instead of the trans-Koolau route via Kaneohe.

At 1 PM we hit the wall at the Joseph Leong Haleiwa Bypass. The longest and slowest queue I have ever seen at this location.  About half of the progress we made was because others gave up and looped out of the queue.

The five minute trek to Laniakea (Turtle Beach, which causes the congestion) took 50 minutes.

It was slow at Pupukea too. Very slow. Another 10 minutes of delay at the single traffic light by Foodland for a total of one hour extra time to reach Romy's Shrimp Shack where we had to wait 40 minutes in line to order, and another 40 minutes to get the food ready for pick up at around 3:15 PM.

And that's my 24 hours of three bad things.

Thankfully all my first world problems summed up to six or seven hours of delays, a cracked windshield, a bike tire that needs a new tube, and somewhat elevated blood pressure.  It can get a lot worse, so I'll take these and move on!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Amid Funding Woes, Rail Officials Say Cost of Killing Project Could Be $3B


Quoted in Rick Daysog's story about HART rail not having enough funding.

Rail critics don't dispute the $3 billion shutdown costs – they just say completing the project will cost much more than that [the $3 billion suggested by HART.]

"That's really where the math begins to fall apart," said University of Hawaii Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros.

"You would need $7 billion to $10 billion to get to Ala Moana. ... Even in the worst-case scenario of abandoning the trains, the fixed guideway could still be used for a bus rapid transit system."

Off camera I offered this commentary:

We need to ignore the drama by mayor Caldwell and the hysteria of council member Pine. The rail has GET funding to 2027 and the ability to float bonds for emergency cash. They are crying wolf to take advantage of the fact that the local economy is booming.

What do you mean they need to satisfy the FTA? The FTA is co-responsible for this massive failure. They need to be sued, not appeased.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hawaii Preparation for North Korea Nuke Attack far from Complete

Please to see Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and be part of her on-site research for this important story.

“The worst thing people can do is to take the freeway. They should shelter in place nearby,” said Panos Prevedouros, a world-renowned transit expert and professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dumb and Dumber: Why Honolulu Should Abandon Rail

Quoted in Dr. Randy Roth's and Cliff Slater's opinion in Honolulu Civil Beat: Dumb and Dumber: Why Honolulu Should Abandon Rail.

The city tells us that rail can be taken all the way to Ala Moana Center for $10 billion. Panos Prevedouros, chairman of the University of Hawaii Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, forecasts $13 billion.
If you believe the city, that additional cost of not stopping now would be $6 billion.  If you believe Dr. Prevedouros, it would be $9 billion. All to get a 1 percent traffic reduction?
I like their conclusion:
It is dumb to be out of pocket $4 billion and have nothing worthwhile to show for it. It is even dumber to spend another $6 billion to $9 billion for a 1 percent improvement in traffic at an annual financial cost of $130 million and permanent harm to our environment. That’s really dumb.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Businesses Worried as Emergency Repair Work Begins on Pensacola Street



Quoted on KHON Elyssa Arevalo's story on emergency culvert lanes that reduce street width from 3 or 4 lanes down to one...

According to Panos Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, “they should have a minimum life of 30 years, not much maintenance, but anywhere between 30 and 50 years, they ought to be replaced.”

Prevedouros says there could be more culverts nearby that will eventually need repairs.

“Some of them are susceptible because Kakaako part of the time it’s under the water horizon [water table], so a lot of them are under conditions that they lead to deterioration, faster deterioration,” he said.

Red Light Cameras Could Soon Be a Reality in Hawaii, but Major Concerns Remain


On April 7, KHON's Alexander Zannes reported on the proposed red light camera law to be enacted in Hawaii. I'm quoted as follows in his report.

Panos Prevedouros, Chair of the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UH says a typical yellow light is three seconds, followed by a full second of red. “But some places they allow you to take the three seconds but then once the extra second of all red comes up they give you a ticket, which is by engineering standard illegal so the possibility of cheating is very much there.”

According to AAA most red light camera studies do show reductions in traffic crashes, cutting down on t-bone type crashes.

But to go with that reduction, comes a rise in rear end collisions, and Prevodouros says the cameras don’t affect accidents caused by distracted driving, or people that are intoxicated. “So no matter how many threats you put with red light camera etc. that’s not going to solve it because at that time you’re not paying attention.”


Friday, April 7, 2017

City draws the line to thwart speedsters along busy Aiea road

Quoted in a story by Alexander Zannes in the Channel 2 News (KHON2) on narrower lanes for neighborhood streets, as follows.

Panos Prevedouros, chair of the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii says is a proven method to reduce speed, “In general I will tell you that if it is a neighborhood street, narrow lanes to a point are actually good at controlling the speed, again you have to be careful of wiggle room and having sideswipes if they overdo it.”


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

State reviewing procedures after fiery Atlanta bridge collapse


Interviewed for Hawaii News Now story on State reviewing procedures after fiery Atlanta bridge collapse by Allison Blair.
  • "The hodgepodge of activity that we have under the freeway overpass, it's not appropriate," said Panos Prevedouros, Chairman of the U.H. Civil Engineering Department
  • Prevedouros says the combination of trash, vehicles, tires and tanks could be disastrous if fire broke out.
  • In 2016, firefighters responded to seven rubbish fires in the area. Fire department officials say all were small, with no damage or serious injuries reported. 
  • "It takes a really long time. A five minute fire cannot bring a bridge down," said Prevedouros.
  • But a fire burning at an extremely high temperature, for an extended period of time, can weaken the metal rebar that supports the concrete and cause a collapse. Prevedouros says its rare, but it's also why you shouldn't store a lot of combustible material underneath the viaduct.
  • Hawaii News Now asked Prevedouros if what happened in Atlanta could happen here, with the viaduct in its current state. Prevedouros said "potentially."
  • The fire department doesn't inspect state property, but said it would provide recommendations to the Department of Transportation if it was asked to.
  • Transportation department officials declined to be interviewed for this story but said bridge inspections happen every two years, and that inspectors will be reminded to check for combustible materials. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In this episode of Moving Hawaii Forward, Tim Apicella welcomes Dr. Panos Prevedouros, Professor of Transportation and Chairman of the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Hawaii (UH Manoa), to cover a variety of topics ranging from the Honolulu rail boondoggle, Hoopili traffic impacts, smart city street intersections and rapid transit.



Being Hyptonized by HART? Transportation Insights with Panos Prevedouros

Friday, March 17, 2017

HART on Fox News

I was included in the Fox News story featured today (March 17, 2017) about Honolulu's rail project.

"Honolulu's rail transit project is years behind schedule and billions over budget;" William La Jeunesse reports from Hawaii...

Troubled transit project a taxpayer boondoggle in paradise?



There is another, longer version that includes Pres. Trump:

How your tax dollars are being wasted on a railway in Hawaii

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Vehicle Taxation by Mileage -- California Simulation

At a recent ASCE* web discussion board the subject was VMT taxation which is scheme where the usage of roads (mileage or Vehicle Miles of Travel or VMT) is used as a base to collect highway taxes in addition to or instead of the fuel taxes.

I'll discuss the pros and cons at another time. There are many and quite complicated pros and cons because of the means and technologies involved, the rates involved and of course the "big brother" syndrome, all which open a Pandora's box of social, political and taxation implications.

Meanwhile a user on the board posted a number of interesting pictures of his simulated VMT highway tax collection along with a sample bill, as shown below.






Clearly, the system knows the driver's exact route, his speed compliance and provides ratings for his braking and cornering performance. Too much info in the hands of the government, right?

In California they still exempt electric vehicles from taxes, but part of the the VMT tax justification is to address the disparity of EVs using highways but paying no fuel tax. This is another controversy.

An overarching question is this: Is a complex system for VMT tax collection and the necessary big government behind its oversight and administration worth it? How much of the extra taxes will actually wind up spent of highway maintenance and improvement?


(*) American Society of Civil Engineers 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2017 Honolulu Rail: Advice to the Legislature

As the Hawaii Legislature is debating yet another round of requests by the "on time and on budget but no accountability in sight" mayor of Honolulu to extend the General Excise Tax Surcharge for rail, I offer these comments:
  • The best option since the expected costs for rail's construction surpassed $7 billion was to stop and demolish it. But that's a political non starter for the current regime.
  • The second best option to avoid a $10+ billion dollar hole is to stop the rail at Middle Street. This should be doable at a cost of about $8 billion. The Middle St. station is at the intermodal center of Honolulu, thus rail can seamlessly connect to a BRT circulator (Kalihi, Chinatown, downtown), and express buses to UH and Waikiki.
  • The recently floated Middle Street to UH on-street light rail option will get us past a $15 billion cost and will result in heavy in-town congestion and many accidents. In some places, the lane loss will be severe because of the need for space for stations. Honolulu is the most lane deficient city over one million population in the U.S. (e.g., lane miles per capita).
  • A rail system cannot operate without a rail yard. Mayor Mufi Hannemann started the rail out west because he could not find space for an in-town rail yard. Where's the space for a light rail yard anywhere between Middle St. and UH? We can't put it at Middle Street because the revised sea level rise and tsunami exposure maps have placed it inside an inundation zone.
  • Very few commuters will choose the proposed on-street light rail in town because car, taxi and Uber is door to door service and over twice as fast. Note that the rail EIS clearly states that in year 2030 with rail, all trips between Aiea and Ala Moana  will be faster by car than by rail. I should add that there is nothing that light rail will do in town that BRT would not do better with more flexibility, and cheaper.
The Legislature should not approve any extensions of the GET and it should pass a bill directing the city to handle current and future deficits with its own resources. This offers hope for some accountability and cost containment. The Legislature should also reduce the state share of the GET from 10% to 2%. These are the only reasonable actions by politicians who claim that care for the people.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2015 Traffic Accident Map of Honolulu

This is an interesting and useful result of an unofficial public-private partnership where the City and County of Honolulu provided a database of redacted accident records with geographic identification data and a private firm used geographic information system (GIS) expertise to provide a depiction and summary of these data by location. The 2015 Traffic Accident Map of Honolulu by the Law firm of Davis Levin Livingston lets one quickly identify traffic black spots.


For example, the portion of their map I captured above shows that the University of Hawaii area is generally light in crashes. Punahou Street near the freeway has a moderate amount of crashes. The set of blocks surrounding and including Ala Moana Cednter, one of the nation's largest shopping centers, is by far Hawaii's largest black spot, although, I guestimate that most of the reported crashes there are of low severity and the area depicted is of relatively low risk.

One must keep in mind , that high accident spots are not necessarily high risk or high danger spots. As you'd expect, locations with high traffic are also high crash and accident spots. Only if we divide the number of crashes by the amount of traffic occurring in a typical day we can get a better representation of risk.

For example, Location A has recorded 1 crash and gets an average daily traffic (ADT) of 10,000 whereas location B has recorded 8 crashes and gets an average daily traffic (ADT) of 100,000. In this case, B has a higher number of crashes but A has a relatively higher risk for crashes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Center for Transportation Safety Equity for Rural, Isolated, Tribal and Indigenous Communities


UH-Manoa in collaboration with the universities of Alaska, Idaho and Washington was successful in receiving a 5-year Tier-1 University Transportation Center (UTC) from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Only 36 out of more than 400 proposals were successful.

UH's research budget share is $1.6 million over five years. The focus of the research is on Transportation Safety Equity for Rural, Isolated, Tribal and Indigenous Communities. The principal research investigators are Dr. Guohui Zhang and Dr. Panos Prevedouros.


The purpose of the UTCs is to conduct research that directly supports the priorities of the U.S. DOT to promote the safe, efficient and environmentally sound movement of good and people.  UTCs work with regional, state, local and tribal transportation agencies to help find solutions to challenges that directly impact their communities and affect the efficiency of the nation’s transportation system.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Brief Trump Presidency Forecast


It's about two months before Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the US. Here's my forecast for his presidency.

Trump will be full of surprises. Folks who adhere to “traditional values” and have no love for Hillary and Obama will be disappointed. Other than appointing one or two fairly conservative Supreme Court judges, I don’t think that he will do much about changing the status of issues that liberals hold dear such as abortion and gay marriage. (But there can be future implications, as with any conservative or liberal leaning court.)

Trump is basically a real world-based businessman and deal-maker, a New York City "lite-liberal" with soft Christian values. He’ll show a high preference for government investment in infrastructure and low preference for government-centered money redistribution schemes like entitlements and ObamaCare. 

Trump will be more US-focused rather than tackle global issues. More so if an economic recession hits, which is almost certain to occur in the next four years. He will attempt regulatory changes, especially in the energy, transportation and heavy industry sectors. Many will have negative implications to pollution but positive implications to domestic economy and employment.

Trump's biggest challenges will be managing the defense budget and the interest on the massive national debt vis-à-vis his ambitions for job creation and the Congress’ funding preferences. Pentagon may wind up being on the losing end. I doubt that Trump will push for a tax overhaul, although he may attempt one.

Two areas of Trump's inflammatory campaign rhetoric that will be subject to some sort of action are Islam-related and the wall between the US and Mexico. Islam-targeted (re)action is very likely if he is provoked by international or terrorism events; this is almost inevitable.  Some form of the wall will happen, mostly as an expansion of the existing portions; see below. The deportation of illegal residents will see a boost, mostly targeting criminals, human traffickers and drug operatives. (Many states want their domestic marijuana production and dispensation to succeed.)



Thursday, November 17, 2016

UH engineer: Speedier Traffic Lights Could Alleviate Congestion

Thanks to Jim Mendoza for covering the improvement of traffic signals yesterday on Hawaii News Now. Jim and Alan came to the intersection of Dole St. and University Ave. where I was with my 36 students in CEE 462: Traffic Engineering. 

Pleased to see it trending as a popular story: UH engineer: Speedier traffic lights could alleviate congestion


Monday, November 7, 2016

Better Ways to Fix Traffic on Oahu

Many thanks to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and Aaron Lief for this great summary of my recent presentation on traffic solutions for Oahu: Better Ways to Fix Traffic on Oahu.



Thursday, October 20, 2016

55 All Around

55 year old driver driving his car through the 55,000 mile mark at 55 mph in a 55 mph speed zone at 1:55 pm. It took a bit of engineering and planning to get all these done legally and safely on I-55*!
* Alas, there's no I-55 in Honolulu, so I did it on the H-3 Fwy.


New Commuting Data: Same Old Trends

The informative summary below was developed by Robert Poole at the Reason Foundation.
---------------

Last month brought the release of the 2015 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census. The data on commuting from ACS are generally accepted as the most-representative national-average figures. And what is most notable about these latest numbers is how little change they reveal, compared with their counterparts over the past decade.

Commuting expert Steve Polzin of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida posted an excellent summary, with 10-year graphs, on Planetizen.

Most of the commuting mode-share data show very little change over the decade from 2005 through 2015. Drive-alone remains the choice of slightly over three-fourths of all commuters (76.6%), with virtually no change over this time period. Interestingly, nearly as many millennials (age 20-24) drive alone (72.5%), despite all you read about them being new urbanists who walk, bike, or use transit.

The two most significant trends over the decade are the continuing decline in carpooling and the ongoing increase in telecommuting. Despite all the guff about the sharing economy and future "mobility as a service," there is no sign of this so far in terms of increased willingness to share rides with others; carpooling is down to 9.0%, from nearly 11% a decade ago (and from just under 20% in 1980). Telecommuting has increased from about 3.4% in 2005 to 4.6% in 2015 and seems to be catching up with transit's mode share of 5.2%. Biking (0.6%) and walking (2.8%) are largely flat over the decade.

Polzin notes that average commuting time (heavily influenced by the drive-alone super-majority) is now 26.4 minutes, up from 25.1 minutes a decade ago. But he also provides some useful perspective by comparing the 2005 U.S. figure with average 2005 commute times in other OECD member countries—e.g., 33 minutes in Spain, 36 minutes in France, 40 minutes in Belgium, 45 minutes in Germany, and 46 minutes in the U.K. These countries all have a higher transit mode share than the United States, and since transit trips generally take longer than driving trips, that may help to explain the difference between the U.S. numbers and Europe's.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Honolulu Rail: From $4.6 B to $8.6 B In Eight Years. Now What?

My article "Honolulu Rail: From $4.6 B to $8.6 B In Eight Years. Now What?" with Cliff Slater and Randall Roth was published in New Geography, a national urban issues and news website.

With its official cost now having risen to $8.6 billion and a funding gap of $1.8 billion, both of which are certain to rise, Honolulu’s rail project will run out of money before construction reaches the downtown area, perhaps even before it reaches Middle Street.
The Federal Transit Administration says it will demand a return of all federal money if rail does not reach Ala Moana Center, which is possible only if the state Legislature or Honolulu City Council increase taxes dramatically:  An average family of five would have to pay more than $1,000 per year just to complete rail, according to the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. Once completed, the annual cost of operating and maintaining a safe and reliable rail system would require comparable tax payments each year for the lifetime of the rail system.
State and city lawmakers are reluctant to raise taxes so dramatically, but abandoning the project at this late date would make those who had been supporting it look like idiots.  They must be asking themselves, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Federal Funds Will Help State Conduct Study on New Ferries

Kevin Dayon reports in his article Federal funds will help state conduct study on new ferries in the Honolulu Star Advertiser that "The U.S. Maritime Administration has agreed to help finance a feasibility study for establishing a publicly financed Hawaii ferry service, a plan that may reignite public debate over one of Hawaii’s hot-button transportation and environmental issues."

I was quoted in the article as follows:

Honolulu established a ferry dubbed TheBoat in 2007 that ran between Kalaeloa and Aloha Tower during former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s administration, but the city scrapped the effort in 2009. That ferry ran at about 30 percent of its 149-passenger capacity.

Prevedouros said the door-to-door travel times for TheBoat* were long, including the time needed to get to the docks to board the vessel, and to get from the docks to the passengers’ final destinations. The small boats used for the service were also unreliable, and provided a bumpy ride, he said.

“The people were not pleased with the whole experience, and the passengers never showed up,” he said. “Unless you really have a very good, stable and very fast boat, you’re going to have issues with travel times.”

Prevedouros is more optimistic about interisland ferry service, which he calls “a necessity” for an island state. The Superferry was popular with the public, and the community lost out when it was forced out of business by litigation, he said.

It is unlikely any private investor will want to invest in a ferry in Hawaii now, and publicly run enterprises in Hawaii tend to be expensive, he said. “I don’t like public systems in Hawaii,” he said. “Like everything that we touch, it becomes double and triple the cost.”

In a 2008 comprehensive study of commuting alternatives for Honolulu we estimated that the cost of removing one peak hour commuter from the traffic for 20 years was about $4 million for TheRail, about $1 million for TheBoat and about $80,000 for an express toll lane.

Below is an example of a high people and vehicle capacity vessel operating between the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea:


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Honolulu Star Advertiser: Road Woes Roll On


I was quoted extensively in the headline article Road Woes Roll On of the September 28, 2016 edition of the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the main newspaper in the state of Hawaii.

The latest Reason report found that Hawaii, with the nation’s smallest state-run road network at 1,016 miles, in 2013 spent about 2-1/2 times the national average in total costs per mile: $405,269.

Despite that heavy spending, the report further found Hawaii’s roads to be the worst in the U.S. for urban pavement conditions.

Unfortunately, it’s the worst of both worlds. We overpay and we under-receive,” said Panos Prevedouros, who heads the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

The statistics are reliable because these are self-reported numbers. They don’t paint a good picture for us,” added Prevedouros, who specializes in transportation.

...

Having the nation’s smallest road network also helps drive up the state’s average cost per mile, he said.

Prevedouros agreed.

“It’s like a small apartment and a big apartment — they still have the same appliances,” he said Monday, making a comparison to state road networks and the agencies that must maintain them.

It’s impossible for us to be at the top” of Reason’s list, Prevedouros said. But “there is a lot of room for improvement.

Hawaii might face some unique challenges, but it also avoids problems faced by mainland states, such as heavy interstate travel, Prevedouros said.

...

“The administration now is making significant improvements to make the maintenance better,” Sakahara said, adding that policy could lead to better grades in subsequent annual Reason reports for the Ige years.

Prevedouros said he believed the policy “may make the numbers even worse.”

Without adding more highway capacity, the state’s congestion grades for the Reason reports will likely worsen, he said.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Getting out of Gridlock: Should UH Start Later?

Last week Jim Mendoza of Hawaii News Now developed the story Getting Out of Gridlock: Should UH start later?

Traffic planners believe if UH started school at 9 a.m. instead of 7:30, 5,000 cars could be eliminated from the morning rush.  Students don't balk at the idea. "I can see it possibly alleviating some traffic," Ioane Goodhue said.

But UH communications director Dan Meisenzahl said that many students who start at 9 a.m. or later come to campus early anyway to find parking and eliminating early classes wouldn't change that.

In other words, he provided a reason to not look further into this.  But his statement is wrong.

First of all, many of the students who do not have permits come very early, park and go back to sleep or study in their car. But they are only 20% of the traffic-to-town generated by the UH.

UH-Manoa, HCC and KCC, that is, UH's three main campuses inside Honolulu, have a combined parking capacity of over 10,000 stalls of which at least 8,000 are assigned to annual or semester permit holders consisting of faculty, staff, seniors and graduate students.

Say half of those 8,000+ cats come from places west (Ewa) of Kalihi Street. If most of them arrive during the 6:00 to 8:00 AM rush, then these cars need a whole freeway lane to themselves.

As a result, when the UH is not in session, this lane goes back to non-UH traffic and congestion levels are markedly lower.

Another important point is this scientific finding: "Scientists have found that current school and university start times are damaging the learning and health of students. Drawing on the latest sleep research, the authors conclude students start times should be 8:30 or later at age 10; 10:00 or later at 16; and 11:00 or later at 18."

An additional advantage is that if UH started at 9:30 AM, it would be easier for its professors and lecturers to offer late afternoon and evening classes that working people can take. Now most of the classes are over by 3:30 PM.