Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rail Final Environmental Impact Statement -- What is the Rail Going to Do about Traffic Congestion?

The residents and commuters of Leeward Oahu expect traffic relief from rail. Congestion reduction is an important goal and many taxpayers are willing to pay for congestion relief. So what is the conclusion of the FEIS regarding congestion?
  1. Traffic congestion in 2030 will be far worse than it is now (basis is year 2005).
  2. Traffic congestion in 2030 will be the same with or without rail.
The remainder of this post provides some pertinent explanations using direct numbers from the FEIS. City statements proclaim that the planned rail will remove 40,000 cars from the traffic. This sounds good. Is it?

Let’s look at the FEIS. (That’s the Final Environmental Impact Statement.) Is this number correct? Sort of. It’s not 40,000 cars, but 40,000 car trips. The FEIS says that rail will reduce 40,000 car trips from the total number of trips made in a typical weekday on Oahu in 2030. The FEIS also says that the total number of daily trips on Oahu in 2030 will be 3,989,300. That’s four million trips and rail will reduce those by 1%. That's a $5.5 Billion expenditure for a 1% reduction!

Various other statements by pro-rail politicians and city administration representatives proclaim a substantial reduction in traffic congestion. The answer is in the traffic analysis, and their own FEIS Tables 3-9 and 3-10 show that rails produces no traffic relief. Let me back track a bit to explain this.
The U.S. standard description for quality of traffic flow (accounts for speed, wasted time, etc.) is called Level of Service or LOS. It is a simple rating from A to F. A is great, B is good, C is acceptable, D is bad but tolerable in large urban areas, E is very bad and F is unacceptable.

To give you an idea of what congestion relief means, in the early to mid-1990s, the town-side of Likelike Hwy. operated in LOS E. Once the H-3 Freeway opened up in 1998, the LOS for Likelike Hwy. improved to C. There was a clear and substantial improvement in traffic conditions. H-3 Freeway after 12 years in operation still operates in LOS A or B. That is a win-win outcome for two major roads.
Something similar was realized when Kal. Hwy. from Kahala to Hawaii Kai was widened from 4 to 6 lanes. I remember nightmarish Saturday visits to Hanauma Bay taking about an hour. Now under 20 minutes is the norm. From level of service F to B. That’s what adding 50% capacity in lanes does!

So what’s in the future of Leeward Oahu’s residents in Kapolei, Makakilo and Ewa who commute to and from Honolulu? Will the rail change their E and F level traffic into a C or D? What change in traffic quality does the FEIS predict without and with the rail? The answer is summarized in the table below or it can be worded as follows: NONE!

Instead of rail, a city, state and private partnership can deliver express lanes and real congestion relief: Level of service B on the express lanes and LOS D or better on the existing roads. No modern rail has ever succeeded in congestion relief.

In contrast, no modern express lanes have failed to provide major congestion relief. There are many more express lane projects planned in the nation’s congested cities as there are rail systems.


Anonymous said...

Πάνο σου εύχομαι καλή επιτυχία. Ολη η Πάτρα είναι μαζί σου.
Κωνσταντίνος Φλαμής
Εκανε ένα αφιέρωμα η Εσπρεσσο σημερα για σένα.
Θα κάνω κάτι ανάλογο στον "Κόσμο" μια εφημερίδα που ξεκινήσαμε το 2005 και εχει ξεπεράσει σε κυκλοφορία την Πελοπόννησο

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. Thank you for this post!