Thursday, October 20, 2016

55 All Around

55 year old driver driving his car through the 55,000 mile mark at 55 mph in a 55 mph speed zone at 1:55 pm. It took a bit of engineering and planning to get all these done legally and safely on I-55*!
* Alas, there's no I-55 in Honolulu, so I did it on the H-3 Fwy.

New Commuting Data: Same Old Trends

The informative summary below was developed by Robert Poole at the Reason Foundation.

Last month brought the release of the 2015 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census. The data on commuting from ACS are generally accepted as the most-representative national-average figures. And what is most notable about these latest numbers is how little change they reveal, compared with their counterparts over the past decade.

Commuting expert Steve Polzin of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida posted an excellent summary, with 10-year graphs, on Planetizen.

Most of the commuting mode-share data show very little change over the decade from 2005 through 2015. Drive-alone remains the choice of slightly over three-fourths of all commuters (76.6%), with virtually no change over this time period. Interestingly, nearly as many millennials (age 20-24) drive alone (72.5%), despite all you read about them being new urbanists who walk, bike, or use transit.

The two most significant trends over the decade are the continuing decline in carpooling and the ongoing increase in telecommuting. Despite all the guff about the sharing economy and future "mobility as a service," there is no sign of this so far in terms of increased willingness to share rides with others; carpooling is down to 9.0%, from nearly 11% a decade ago (and from just under 20% in 1980). Telecommuting has increased from about 3.4% in 2005 to 4.6% in 2015 and seems to be catching up with transit's mode share of 5.2%. Biking (0.6%) and walking (2.8%) are largely flat over the decade.

Polzin notes that average commuting time (heavily influenced by the drive-alone super-majority) is now 26.4 minutes, up from 25.1 minutes a decade ago. But he also provides some useful perspective by comparing the 2005 U.S. figure with average 2005 commute times in other OECD member countries—e.g., 33 minutes in Spain, 36 minutes in France, 40 minutes in Belgium, 45 minutes in Germany, and 46 minutes in the U.K. These countries all have a higher transit mode share than the United States, and since transit trips generally take longer than driving trips, that may help to explain the difference between the U.S. numbers and Europe's.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Honolulu Rail: From $4.6 B to $8.6 B In Eight Years. Now What?

My article "Honolulu Rail: From $4.6 B to $8.6 B In Eight Years. Now What?" with Cliff Slater and Randall Roth was published in New Geography, a national urban issues and news website.

With its official cost now having risen to $8.6 billion and a funding gap of $1.8 billion, both of which are certain to rise, Honolulu’s rail project will run out of money before construction reaches the downtown area, perhaps even before it reaches Middle Street.
The Federal Transit Administration says it will demand a return of all federal money if rail does not reach Ala Moana Center, which is possible only if the state Legislature or Honolulu City Council increase taxes dramatically:  An average family of five would have to pay more than $1,000 per year just to complete rail, according to the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. Once completed, the annual cost of operating and maintaining a safe and reliable rail system would require comparable tax payments each year for the lifetime of the rail system.
State and city lawmakers are reluctant to raise taxes so dramatically, but abandoning the project at this late date would make those who had been supporting it look like idiots.  They must be asking themselves, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Federal Funds Will Help State Conduct Study on New Ferries

Kevin Dayon reports in his article Federal funds will help state conduct study on new ferries in the Honolulu Star Advertiser that "The U.S. Maritime Administration has agreed to help finance a feasibility study for establishing a publicly financed Hawaii ferry service, a plan that may reignite public debate over one of Hawaii’s hot-button transportation and environmental issues."

I was quoted in the article as follows:

Honolulu established a ferry dubbed TheBoat in 2007 that ran between Kalaeloa and Aloha Tower during former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s administration, but the city scrapped the effort in 2009. That ferry ran at about 30 percent of its 149-passenger capacity.

Prevedouros said the door-to-door travel times for TheBoat* were long, including the time needed to get to the docks to board the vessel, and to get from the docks to the passengers’ final destinations. The small boats used for the service were also unreliable, and provided a bumpy ride, he said.

“The people were not pleased with the whole experience, and the passengers never showed up,” he said. “Unless you really have a very good, stable and very fast boat, you’re going to have issues with travel times.”

Prevedouros is more optimistic about interisland ferry service, which he calls “a necessity” for an island state. The Superferry was popular with the public, and the community lost out when it was forced out of business by litigation, he said.

It is unlikely any private investor will want to invest in a ferry in Hawaii now, and publicly run enterprises in Hawaii tend to be expensive, he said. “I don’t like public systems in Hawaii,” he said. “Like everything that we touch, it becomes double and triple the cost.”

In a 2008 comprehensive study of commuting alternatives for Honolulu we estimated that the cost of removing one peak hour commuter from the traffic for 20 years was about $4 million for TheRail, about $1 million for TheBoat and about $80,000 for an express toll lane.

Below is an example of a high people and vehicle capacity vessel operating between the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea: