Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Solve Traffic Congestion, Make Revenue and Be Happy Paying a Toll

With road pricing, Stockholm, Sweden has reduced traffic congestion dramatically, and generates revenue for public works. Most remarkable outcomes also include that motorists do not feel that they had to change their driving and habits, and that 70% of residents approve of the road pricing.

Watch this 8-minute TED talk by Jonas Eliasson, Director of the Center for Transport Studies at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology. It is a 10-year before-after real-life, real-city experiment documenting success.

Honolulu is a prime candidate for road pricing because of its limited lane capacity and ineffective traffic congestion plans such as TheRail.

I would not be surprised if road pricing is adopted in Honolulu after 2025 or so to sore up TheRail financially, nudge more people to it, and reduce peak traffic demand, as in Stockholm.

Monday, November 26, 2012

EPA and Caldwell Are Costing Honolulu $4.5 Billion for Sewers

October 2012 was the 40th anniversary of the landmark Clean Water Act (CWA). On this anniversary, the U.S. Conference of Mayors voiced concerns with what is seen as an increasingly unequal partnership with the federal government. The nation’s towns and cities face a “fiscal crossroads with affordability” as a result of the costs associated with the CWA.
Jim Suttle, the mayor of Omaha, Nebraska and former director of its public works department states that the EPA’s reliance on consent decrees is a factor that has impeded the search for innovative solutions to sewer overflows and other problems pertaining to clean water. He argues that the federal government must stop pursuing consent decrees and instead rely on the permitting process to manage water quality problems.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors brings up as an example Lima, Ohio, a town of 39,000 residents. To comply with the Clean Water Act, Lima devised a $60-million long-term control plan, but in 2005 the EPA rejected the plan, and has sought to impose a consent decree that would entail $104 million in capital costs. As a result, Lima’s population will face sewer rates amounting to 4% to 7% of their household income. The CWA compliance costs come to about $2,700 per Lima resident.

Honolulu is in a similar predicament with the overreaching consent decree that Mayor Hannemann signed with the EPA for secondary sewage treatment which is expected to cost no less than $2 billion (The $1.2 billion figure in this article is old and partial.) The same consent decree mandates a number of other replacements and upgrades that will cost about $2.5 billion for an approximate total cost of about $4.5 billion. The CWA compliance costs come to about $4,600 per Oahu resident, almost twice those for Lima residents.

These figures indicate that EPA has gone wild with its requirements for small and large cities. Michael Bissonnette, the mayor of Chicopee, Massachusetts has requested revisiting the consent decrees that are already in place. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is calling on Congress to amend the CWA to make it less burdensome to local governments. The group wants a cap placed on costs to ratepayer associated with unfunded water mandates.

In Honolulu, KITV has already reported that local residents are calling the Board of Water Supply because they can’t afford to pay the rapidly escalating water and sewer rates. (View KITV story.) Therefore, high on the agenda of the new mayor of Honolulu should be the revisiting of the exorbitantly expensive EPA consent decree. This however, would be highly unlikely with mayor-elect Caldwell because he considers this outrageously expensive agreement as an accomplishment.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dr. Panos Prevedouros Honored by Honolulu City Council

Dr. Panos Prevedouros is being honored here today because of his expertise, his service to the community and its elected officials, and his willingness to act on the simple fact, that when traffic moves, the economy does so with it.

Certificate text by Councilman Tom Berg:

 In 1990, Dr. Panos Prevedouros received his doctorate in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University and in that same year, became an Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dr. Prevedouros became a Professor in 2005 and continues to this day to teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in the discipline of Traffic and Transportation Engineering.

Dr. Prevedouros may be best known locally for his advocacy for cost effective traffic solutions such as synchronizing traffic signals, utilizing grade separation at congested intersections, the implementation of managed lanes and other bottleneck relief solutions. In the community of Ewa Beach alone, Dr. Prevedouros has held over four town hall meetings at the calling of area officials.

In addition to countless invited speeches in Hawaii, Dr. Prevedouros has lectured at several US Universities as well as Universities in Austria, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Nepal, Singapore and S. Korea. He was instrumental in establishing a cooperative agreement between the Engineering Colleges of University of Hawaii and University of Saitama, Japan. In June 2009, Dr. Prevedouros organized and chaired a Transportation Research Board and Federal Highway Administration sponsored scientific conference in Honolulu. The 2nd International Symposium on Freeway and Tollway Operations was attended by over 300 experts.

Dr. Prevedouros is a court-qualified Traffic and Transportation Engineering expert in the State of Hawaii, has chaired the transportation committee of the local Chapter for the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was a founding member of the Hawaii Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. He developed and advised the UH chapter of the Institute of Transportation engineers and he developed and managed UH’s Traffic and Transportation Laboratory. He’s subcommittee chair on traffic simulation at the National Research Council since 2006.

Dr. Prevedouros has received a number of international awards including Transportation Research Board awards in 1995 and 2009 (TRB is a unit of the National Academy of Engineering), Outstanding UH Faculty award in 1996, Van Wagoner Award for Urban Underpasses by the Institute of Transportation Engineers in 2005, and Best Paper on Transportation Sustainability Award from World Road Association (2011.) He co-authored the 2nd and 3rd editions of internationally adopted textbook Transportation Engineering and Planning (Prentice Hall, 1993 and 2001.)

Today the central part of the H-1 Freeway runs at least 10% better than it did 12 years ago. Every improvement to the H-1 freeway done between 2000 and 2012 has been analyzed and justified by Dr. Prevedouros, including the upcoming PM Zipper lane and the lane addition at the Middle Street merge. He has testified at several hearings, helped modify bills and served at Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization’s TAC.

Dr. Prevedouros was appointed to the City Council Transit Advisory Task Force in 2006 and was the only member out of seven that did not approve elevated rail as the LPA. He was appointed by Council Chair Barbara Marshall to the Transit Technology Expert Panel in 2008 and was the only member out of five that did not approve the steel wheels on steel rail technology for Honolulu. He ran for Honolulu mayor in 2008 and 2010, and assisted mayoral candidate and past Governor Benjamin Cayetano in 2012 based on his expert opinion that elevated rail for Honolulu is a boondoggle.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Re-elected. Market Drops 2%. So What?

I am sure that my Obama loving friends celebrated well last night. I'm glad they did because it's pretty much downhill from here.  This market reaction is only a tiny harbinger of what's to come.

Nothing personal with the President, but as Margaret Thatcher put it, Socialism lasts only as long as other people's money last. The math is both simple and brutal.

I hope you don’t think that only the top 1% of income earners lost a bit of wealth overnight.  Government and private company retirement funds, individual 401Ks, university endowments and most other savings and investments of the remaining 99% are in the stock market. (And in US bonds and T-bills that pay less than inflation so people's savings diminish with time while pension under-funding is growing.)

Of course Californians voted for added taxation to themselves. The outcome of this will be none other than ... Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound..."

These days the world is running at the speed of the Internet. Trends develop and bubbles burst quickly. So all of us under 75 stand a good chance in finding what Greece is all about where, among other things, unemployment for people under 25 yo is at about 50%.

Celebration will quickly turn into sequestration. The Treasury has quietly informed the President that the debt limit will be reached before the year is out.


On November 7, the day after the election the DOW dropped from 13,300 to 13,000. Some said that this was a temporary knee-jerk reaction. By November 15 the DOW had slid further to 12,500.