Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Honolulu Rail Forecast 2 to 4 Times Higher than Actual Systems

The City estimates that TheRail will have a ridership of 116,000 (boardings) in 2030, about 10 years after the system is supposedly completed.

While TheRail is actually a fully elevated, steel-wheel-on-steel-rail heavy rail system, it is designed to fail by combining two poor choices:
(1) It is fully elevated which means it costs well over 5 times the typical light rail system.
(2) It does not use large, heavy rail style, high capacity trains, but smallish light rail trains.
These two choices make it a high cost and low capacity system.

Because of its low capacity, it is comparable to existing light rail systems. The table below includes all US light rail systems that (a) may be characterized as "modern" by having been developed after 1980, and (b) are over 8 miles of length. This comes to 11 comparable systems with route miles ranging from approximately 10 to 42 miles.

The average daily boardings of these 11 existing systems is 38,852 and the average route miles is 28. This yields 1,536 daily boardings per mile or 1,500 boardings per mile for a round number. (Remember we are talking about year 2030 and roughly 20% of TheRail’s users have not been borne yet.)

When one looks at statistics, it is advisable to remove the highest and lowest values and re-check the averages. By doing so for daily boardings and route miles, systems 3, 6 and 9 drop out. The resulting average daily boardings of the eight systems is 37,822 and the average route miles is 27. This yields 1,528 daily boardings per mile. This again rounds to 1,500 so this estimate is quite robust.

Using this estimate of 1,500 times the 20 miles of TheRail yields 30,000 daily boardings. Now let's give a huge break to Honolulu because of the H-1/H-2 congestion, the high cost of living and the higher average density (although high density does not apply west of Middle Street): Let's double this estimate to 60,000 boardings. This will be the likely maximum boardings of TheRail.

What's the City's estimate that FTA approved? 116,000 daily boardings, which is laughable.

Both Parsons Brinkerhoff and FTA received dozens of eggs on their face for the island heavy rail Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico where they estimated 80,000 boardings on the opening year and they got 25,000 in 2006.

There is no lesson for PB, FTA and HART to learn. There is no accountability or penalties. They are all dedicated promoters of TheRail. Honolulu's ridership estimates simply prove that history (and unabashed deception) simply repeats itself.

1 comment:

Scott Wilson said...

Panos,
Thanks for a great article. The City's ridership numbers are grossly inflated. To be fair, I believe they were based on the original 29 mile system from Kapolei center to UH Manoa and Waikiki. After the project got downsized to 20 miles long (and eliminated 3 major commuter destinations), the City should have adjusted the ridership numbers accordingly, but they didn't want to give people a fresh reason to question the system. They just hoped no one would notice that ridership wasn't affected when almost 1/3 of the system was chopped off!
By comparison, current Bus ridership is 235,000 people, which shows where the real transit ridership on Oahu occurs.