Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CitiBike? No, SillyBike

  • "The CitiBike program aimed at putting 10,000 bikes in 600 locations around New York City for commuters to share in the name of environmentalism, health and being hip."
  • "CitiBike has put out 6,000 bikes at 325 locations at a cost of $6,833 per bike."
  • "For a $95 annual fee bike-share members in Manhattan get all-you-can-use access to the silly looking CitiBike in 45 minute increments."
  • For $200 one can find a good used bike from an online list, pay $200... and keep it!
  • Worse yet: "In recent months, the program’s operators approached the administrations of Mr. Bloomberg and his successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, about raising the cost of an annual membership, proposing rates up to $140"

Sample Sources:
Another Liberal Amenity for the Urban Upper Class Courtesy Taxpayers

Citi Bike System Successful, but Wobbly From the Start

Bike Share’s Rough Ride

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hawaii State Task Force Recommends Jones Act Exemption

This is a very informative article written by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council.

Debate in The U.S. over the Jones Act is very lively these days. For example, on April 25th, Mark Perry, a University of Michigan-Flint business professor wrote: Want energy independence? Waive the Jones Act.

To which a pro-Jones Act shippers lobby quickly responded: Missing the mark on the Jones Act.

In my opinion, the Jones Act, hurts all U.S. island and non-contiguous regions. At a minimum, non-contiguous U.S. states and territories, and the LNG trade must be exempted from Jones Act immediately!

AIKEA FOR HONOLULU No. 36 – Offshore Nuclear Power Plants Can Be Effective. Well, I Said So Four Years Ago!

The Economist: Researchers find advantages in floating nuclear power stations. You may recall that I proposed this as mayor candidate in 2010: Nuclear Power in Oahu's Future?  I know that my proposal went nowhere, but it feels great to be four years ahead of MIT. Furthermore, my idea is more economical than theirs. There is no need to construct floating platforms.  The Navy has many large decommissioned ships that float just fine and can be refurbished at a lower cost.

Before Honolulu hits the energy wall and desperation sets in, problems with potable water may arise due to drought, sea level rise or other reasons. So another billion dollar project may be needed for Desalination, as I explain in this article based on a large desalination plant currently under construction in San Diego.

The impact of executive priorities is clear if one compares the economic trajectories of a few countries say since 1990: Greece vs. Israel, Russia vs. China, Argentina vs. Brazil, and France vs. Germany to name a few. All of them faced a number of local and regional adversities but each pair has a clear economic winner now. Priorities and selection of wise transportation, infrastructure, energy and investment options made most of the difference.

Here are two examples of infrastructure where Hawaii made major wrong choices and placed itself in the loser column.

Renewables. They are expensive and their intermittency is highly problematic.  They depend on heavy subsidies.  To deal with intermittency HECO plans to invest heavily on … batteries. (Our politicians needed wind mills with giant labels: Batteries Not Included.) See Hawaii Wants 200MW of Energy Storage for Solar, Wind Grid Challenges. This is purely throwing good money after bad.

Rail. Simply put, rail is way too much buck for the bang. For the five billion dollars of Honolulu heavy rail we could have spent:
  • One billion dollars on LNG conversion and a modest floating nuclear power plant to reduce Oahu’s dependence on oil from over 75% to 25% or less, instead of blowing tens of millions in the wind.
  • Two billion dollars on HOT lanes and other mitigations to truly reduce traffic congestion.
  • One billion dollars to redevelop ex-Navy lands and buildings at Kalaeloa to preserve the rich history of the site and relieve Oahu’s pressing homeless and low income housing problems.
  • And one billion on desalination to anticipate water shortage problems.

Join me at the 38th Annual SBH Business Conference, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Hibiscus Ballroom, Ala Moana Hotel. Luncheon keynote speaker is entrepreneur, author, coach and motivator, Patrick Snow, who will speak on “Proven Principles for Prosperity.”

The business  program features Mike McCartney (Hawaii Tourism Authority), Tom Yamachika (Tax Foundation), Bob Sigall (Author and Educator), Mark Storfer (Hilo Hattie), Naomi Hazelton-Giambrone (Element Media), Dale Evans (Charley's Taxi), and Peter Kay (Your Computer Minute). Contact: Sam Slom (349-5438) or SBH (396-1724). Don’t miss it!


Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD
Professor of Civil Engineering
Member, SBH Board of Directors

Monday, May 5, 2014

Desalination Works but It's Expensive

A recent large deployment of desalination in San Diego is useful to Hawaii where Oahu and Maui may approach the need for manufactured potable water in the next 20 years or so if population and tourism growth trends continue and appreciable sea water rise continues (e.g., 0.32 cm water rise was noted between 1993 and 2013, which, if remains steady, results in 32 cm or 13 inches mean sea level rise every 100 years.) Recall that as sea water rises it makes larger parts of the aquifer brackish, thus unusable for drinking and irrigation.

The project in San Diego was smartly located right next to a large powerplant which means that a comparable location for Oahu would be next to the Kahe powerplant and Electric Beach.  This is because desalination requires vast amounts of both water and electricity, and pumping requirements can be reduced by taking advantage of the seawater pumped into a pre-existing powerplant.

The deployment in San Diego is currently under construction. It is designed to produce 50 MGD of water, that is 50 million gallons per day. This amount of clean water can supply 112,000 typical single family homes or more than one third of the current s.f. homes on Oahu.  This would be the upper limit of desalination plant that would be needed for Oahu. This plant would require more than 30 MW of electricity which is what the H-Power plant was producing for decades, before its boiler capacity was doubled in mid-2013.

The budgeted price of San Diego's Carlsbad desalination plant?  One billion dollars including a 10-mile distribution pipe, if the project is completed on time and on budget in early 2016.  Come 2020, Oahu may need to start budgeting for such a large project.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Transportation Engineers Would Be More Relevant if They Did Not Peddle Ineffective Transit Systems

As I opined in the Journal of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Mr. Schwartz’s call for making the transportation engineer relevant is important. Sharing this realization, I ran twice for Mayor of Honolulu on an infrastructure preservation and traffic congestion relief platform and I garnered almost 20% in both 2008 and 2010.  Mr. Schwartz' advise to transportation engineers is good except for his instruction to “get people out of cars.” New York City may boast that 70% of commutes occur on non-auto modes, but it’s an exception. The next U.S. city with a low auto-mode share barely has 30% of commutes occurring on non-auto modes. Telecommuting is surpassing transit. Car-sharing, and intelligent and autonomous zero emission vehicles will maintain the auto mode’s dominance.

In 30 years or so, my kindergartener son and his cohorts will be commuting in driverless electric cars that can reach 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, follow at a headway of under 0.5 seconds on narrow high capacity lanes (some four lane urban highways will convert to automated guideways with six 8 ft. lanes), be a full office away from home or work, and still be exciting to drive in off-drivereless mode outside the city.  

The future of transportation engineering in the U.S. will be great as long as we do not expend substantial resources on modes of the past millennium such bicycles and ordinary trains, except for limited applications where they may be both practical and cost-effective.