Saturday, October 16, 2010

National Performance Metrics Comparison of Honolulu’s Elevated Rail and HOT Lane Proposals. Goal 2 of 3: Energy and Environment

Let’s briefly analyze how 20 miles of rail with 21 stations and 10 miles of HOT lanes would score in an application in Honolulu based on three goals and six NTPP metrics that were presented in a previous blog.

In order to reach a bottom line, the best alternative for each goal will receive a score of 10 and the second best will receive a relative score between 0 and 10.
Note that these metrics address deeper goals and treat congestion as an outcome. For congestion relief alone HOT lanes would score a 10 and rail a 1.

In this part we focus on NTPP goal 2 which is Energy and Environment. This goal has two metrics, petroleum consumption and CO2 emissions. Brief descriptions of the compared RAIL and HOT Lanes alternatives are provided here.

Petroleum Consumption

RAIL: While nationally rail may be powered by a mix of coal, hydroelectric and nuclear power, on Oahu over 95% of electric power is generated by burning oil and coal. Unfortunately during off-peak hours trains tend to run nearly empty. They draw a lot of oil-based electricity power for very little transportation work. Also the rail will only reduce car trips by 1.1%, so oil dependence for cars will not be diminished. Worse yet, congestion with rail will be terrible during construction and after it opens. Overall petroleum consumption and dependence will be high with rail. Score = 3.

HOT Lanes: Have the advantage that from day 1 they can serve hybrid buses, hybrid cars and electric cars. Lanes on the HOT lanes can also provide under-the-roadway induction conduits so electric buses can run on them. Electric buses will draw oil and coal based
electricity. However, electric cars and plug-in hybrids can easily be charged at home or work by solar panels and mini-wind mills as shown in this couple of installations near the UH-Manoa.

These devices provide an opportunity for distributed renewable energy which is heavily incentivized today: $7,500 federal tax credit and $4,500 Hawaii tax credit for an electric car; 30% federal tax credit and 35% Hawaii tax credit for solar panels; $2,000 federal and state credit for a car charger at home (actual cost to user ~$200.) The U.S. and Hawaii energy policy favors electric car purchases not usage of fixed rail. Construction of 10 miles of HOT lanes is only one third as disruptive as rail and after they open congestion will improve by over 25%. Score = 10.

CO2 Emissions

RAIL: Unlike the mainland where hydro and nuclear power accounts for almost 30% of electricity generation (and oil accounts for barely over 1.1%),
Oahu’s electricity is almost entirely based on oil and coal so the CO2 emissions of rail on Oahu will be terrible because they are proportional to oil dependence. Severe congestion during rail’s construction and its minimal benefit afterward result in a highly polluting final outcome. Oil and coal account for over 95% of electric power generation on Oahu. Strong incentives for solar power roof-top deployments affect individual users and do not lessen the rail’s dependence on oil-based electricity. Score = 2.

HOT Lanes: The future lies in electric automobility as the incentives above clearly demonstrate. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) demonstrated that wind turbine energy is best at night, but that is a time that society needs electricity the least… except for thousands of electric cars charging from the grid with wind energy. ORNL has identified this as a perfect synergy. HOT Lanes are perfectly positioned to serve electric cars, vans and buses and dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. HOT lanes dramatically reduce CO2 pollution from day 1 by reducing corridor congestion by 25% or more. Score = 10.


Based on the Energy and Environment goal and its two metrics, HOT Lanes score 20 points and Elevated Rail scores 5 points.

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