Monday, January 24, 2022

The Causes of Inflation

Consumer prices are up 7% year over year, the highest rate of increase since 1982. It's causing major headaches for the White House. Until we diagnose what’s really causing the inflation, we won’t be able to treat it, said economist Stephanie Kelton. (Axios, 1/24/2022)

The causes of inflation are rather obvious now. Free government money has created a substantial INCREASE in DEMAND. On the other hand, worker shortages worldwide due to free money from governments (why work... often for less $$$), and more worker shortages due to Covid illness/fears/deaths, retirements and fatigue (see nurses, teachers and cashiers) have caused a substantial DECREASE in SUPPLY. 

The reduced supply of materials and workers to create products and services that people demand has pushed costs up, which is inflation.

These are the main causes for the inflation. Other parts of the cost increase include infrastructure problems (capacity at ports and warehouses), energy jitters due to political games (Russia) and due to renewable and other expensive mandates, regional weather problems that compound the difficulties above, and various national or regional controls and restrictions for Covid that reduce productivity or directly increase costs.

The worst is not over, because now there is pressure for wage increases in both public and private sector. Income increases will affect both demand and production costs, adding more fuel to the inflation fire...

Friday, January 14, 2022

In Defense of Plant Based Meat

My Letter to the Editor

Reno Gazette Journal

January 12, 2022


"No Future in Manufactured Meat" by Jim Hightower (RGJ 1/2/22) will be one of the most erroneous editorial opinions this year. The article is peppered with scientific jargon to scare the reader about substances in plant-based meat. But these substances can be found in many foods consumed routinely. Hightower states a hyperbolic past cost, but today a 4oz plant-based meat hamburger putty is about $2 at Costco. 

Hightower asks, “who needs a meatless burger?” Everyone who likes meat does! The cattle industry is the number one agricultural source of greenhouse gasses worldwide, a major source of climate change that affects everyone. In June 2020, UC-Davis research estimated that livestock are responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gasses. 

Based on a large US-based study by the Harvard School of Public Health, in 2012 the National Institutes of Health informed that red meat is linked to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers: “one additional serving per day of unprocessed red meat over the course of the study raised the risk of total mortality by 13%”. 

Last month, the White House stated that high meat prices are caused by four monopolists in the US meat-processing controlling 85% of the market: Beef prices in November were up 21% from a year ago and climbing. 

Other benefits of increased substitution of red meat by plant-based meat include the reduction of animal slaughter, the reduction of water and land pollution from massive amounts of animal waste, and reduced handling, transportation and energy consumption because plant-based products are produced closer to the consumer.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Robert Poole: Problems on the Road to All-Electric Transportation

Excellent summary of opportunities, impediments and realistic timelines for surface transportation electrification by Robert W. Poole Jr. of Reason Foundation.

------------

Over the past few years, I’ve become convinced of the superiority of electric vehicles. Part of this was an exhilarating ride in a friend’s Tesla and more enthusiasm has come via keeping up with technology advances. As electric vehicles (EVs) mature, with next-generation battery systems having much greater range and/or much shorter recharging times, I’ll be happy to trade in my current vehicle for the cleaner, quicker, and less maintenance-intensive EV that is coming.

That said, there are some major problems preventing the emergence of an all-electric personal vehicle fleet. (I’ll discuss all-electric trucks on another occasion). As a starting point, I recommend renowned energy analyst Daniel Yergin’s recent piece in Politico Magazine, “The Major Problems Blocking America’s Electric Car Future.” His article discusses supply chain transformation, modernization and expansion of the electricity grid, and public acceptance of very different vehicles. Another good introduction is former U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) research and technology advisor Steven Polzin’s Q&A session at Arizona State University.

Here is my brief overview of the problems the industry and government must address to get beyond idealistic projections of no more fossil-fuel vehicles sold beyond 2030 and a completely carbon-free electricity sector by 2035.

Enough electric generating capacity

Most attempts to quantify a complete phase-out of fossil fuel electricity generation by 2035 take the objective to be replacing the current 4.13 terawatt-hours generated in 2019. Reason science editor Ron Bailey earlier this year wrote a good summary of the Energy Information Administration’s estimates of what this would take. For example, it would take 290 new nuclear power plants to replace the 62% of current electricity generated by coal and natural gas, at an estimated cost of $3.6 trillion—and in just 15 years. Alternatively, aiming to get 90% there via wind and solar (with some natural gas backup) was estimated by a University of California—Berkeley Center for Environmental Public Policy study to cost $1.7 trillion.

But that is just to replace current electricity uses. If even 60% of all US cars were electric vehicles by 2050, the nation’s electricity capacity would need to double by that date, according to the January 2021 electrification futures study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Reuters’ Nichola Groom and Tina Bellon provided a good summary of this challenge in “EV Rollout Will Require Huge Investments in Strained U.S. Power Grids.” I will venture to say that neither replacement of all existing electricity capacity by 2035 nor doubling its current capacity by 2050 will happen.

Battery problems

News articles regularly appear about the limitations of current electric vehicle batteries. They don’t provide enough range for trips beyond urban travel. They take far longer to charge than refilling a conventional car’s gas tank (which is why nearly all of today’s gas stations lack the room to serve more than a handful of EV charging customers per hour). The current lithium batteries cost way too much (which is why EVs cost far more than a conventional car of the same size), they can catch fire and explode, and they require a number of rare and expensive metals, whose sources are mostly in either China or underdeveloped countries. The good news is there’s a fortune being invested in new kinds of vehicle batteries, but no one can predict how soon and how much better the next generation of EV batteries will be.

Far more (and much faster) EV charging

The “more” problem is one focus of the Biden administration’s environmental agenda, focusing mostly on subsidies for electric vehicle charging stations. If successful, this risks putting lots of new capacity in place before there is enough demand for it, but leave that aside. The administration and the Senate have shown no interest in changing federal law to allow EV charging facilities on rural Interstate highway rest areas, unlike the House, whose Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act reauthorization bill includes such a provision. An informal business/environmental coalition is trying to build support for including this provision in one of the pending infrastructure bills, but the White House and DOT have remained silent on this.

Faster EV charging is being developed by researchers and battery companies (established and startups), but even cutting it from 45 minutes to 15 still means much longer waits for customers and far more acreage needed due to durations several times longer than at gas pumps. This will be a much bigger problem for long-distance car and truck trips than for urban travel, where much EV charging can take place overnight at home, or at workplaces.

Environmental opposition

Experts know that the kind of electrical transformation desired by the Biden administration and (in theory) by nearly all environmental groups will require a huge investment in new long-distance electricity transmission lines, huge areas to locate a vast expansion of solar panels and windmills, and a very large expansion of mining rare-earth minerals, such as lithium and others. Yet as these efforts are starting to get underway, we see various environmental groups, often allied with local NIMBYs, seeking to block new transmission lines, large-scale solar arrays even in deserts, a major expansion of wind power installations, and domestic attempts to start mining lithium and other rare earths. Since this is a surface transportation newsletter, let me just say that there are numerous examples and they are taking place with increasing frequency. The major environmental groups need to start speaking out against this kind of opposition if we are to take their commitment to widespread electrification seriously. And the Biden administration needs to reform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to reduce endless opportunities for litigation that seeks to block just about every kind of new infrastructure project.

For all these reasons, I have to be skeptical about grandiose electrification goals for 2030, 2035, or even 2050. And if achieving those goals will actually take a lot longer, we need to think through what is actually possible, let alone cost-effective. A completely EV America will require a much larger electricity sector.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Honolulu Rail Critic Pushes for Middle Street Endpoint

"Longtime Honolulu rail critic Panos Prevedouros advocated that the project should hit pause, finish the line to Middle Street and the route should be reassessed. A city councilmember introduced a resolution this week with a similar stance.

A vocal critic of the Honolulu rail project, UH Manoa civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros has never held back on his opinion of the decision to build the mass transit system.

"I'm totally exhausted about the inability of our decision-makers to do the right thing, after all the proof they have in front of them," he said. "These are crazy numbers by any standard of infrastructure project delivery."

I said so on May 11, 2021 in an interview with Hawaii Public Radio

Then on August 3 came devastating confirmation from a respected FTA agent. The retired FTA director, who evaluated every rail project for 30 years, said:

“The Honolulu project is way beyond anything that I’ve observed….I’m shocked. … Whenever I see the costs going up, I’m personally flabbergasted. It is way beyond and unmatched by anything that I have observed. Of the projects we’ve done in the last few decades, there’s nothing that even approaches that cost overrun. It’s extra­ordinary by any measure…. Because the shortfall’s so dramatic, there are questions about where should we stop the project… this project can no longer proceed."

More details of his opinion were published on August 9:

"One former, longtime FTA official who helped launch Honolulu rail more than a decade ago said the dramatic cost overruns that have plagued the project ever since construction started are worse than anything he’s seen. 

I’ve never seen anything close,” Ron Fisher, former director of the FTA Office of Project Planning, said of rail’s persistent and growing budget woes."

Fisher, meanwhile, said that rail is in an unusual situation among the nation’s transit projects because it’s woefully short on cash and essentially has been pushed back into a planning phase. 

Local transportation officials should pause the project, he said, in order to study different endpoints to the line as well as their impacts to ridership, rail operations and the surrounding environment. 

That study of the various costs and benefits of stopping at different places should involve credible experts, and it should include legitimate public input and participation, Fisher added."


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Is Hawaii Becoming a Perfect Contradiction?

 

  1. The state depends on tourism but cannot guarantee covid regulations for conventions in 2022.
  2. An island state without ferries but more than enough "environmentalists" that killed the Superferry.
  3. A state with the best astronomy in the world, but with enough cultural opposers that killed the 30 Meter Telescope.
  4. A place where people have multiple jobs and things to do that they cannot carpool two or three at a time, but will take a train 500 at a time.
  5. A place where politicians such as Ige and Caldwell do not deserve one term, but were voted into top office twice.
  6. A state with a button pusher who drove us all nuts, and still kept his state job.
  7. The state with the most workers per capita, but 15 months after the lockdown does not have nearly enough workers to clear the unemployment benefits backlog.
  8. The Aloha State takes care of ohana, but has the most homeless per capita.
  9. A state with modest incomes and high cost of (basic) living has exorbitant housing costs and a high preference for private K-12 education at $20,000 or more per year!
  10. A state having among the highest taxation delivers among the worst public K-12 education in the US.
  11. A state that has a waste to energy plant that makes electricity, but prefers to ship recycled paper waste 2,000 miles away.
  12. A state that has no connection to external electric grids for help, but focuses on unreliable intermittent energy for baseload power supply.
  13. A state with a rich volcanic reservoir enough to solve its energy problem, but hates geothermal energy development (New Zealand has a profit sharing scheme for use of culturally sensitive geothermal energy for the benefit of the indigenous Maori.)
  14. A state that has an 85% dependency on imported food, but converts prime agricultural lands such as Koa Ridge and Aloun Farms to cookie cutter suburban subdivisions (that are primarily car dependent too.)

Monday, April 19, 2021

Irrational Covid Vaccine Fears

Excerpts from an article titled Irrational Covid Fears by David Leonhardt, of The NYT


Guido Calabresi, a federal judge and Yale law professor, invented a little fable that he has been telling law students for more than three decades.

He tells the students to imagine a god coming forth to offer society a wondrous invention that would improve everyday life in almost every way. It would allow people to spend more time with friends and family, see new places and do jobs they otherwise could not do. But it would also come with a high cost. In exchange for bestowing this invention on society, the god would choose 1,000 young men and women and strike them dead.

Calabresi then asks: Would you take the deal? Almost invariably, the students say no. The professor then delivers the fable’s lesson: “What’s the difference between this and the automobile?”

In truth, automobiles kill many more than 1,000 young Americans each year; the total U.S. death toll hovers at about 40,000 annually. We accept this toll, almost unthinkingly, because vehicle crashes have always been part of our lives. We can’t fathom a world without them.

It’s a classic example of human irrationality about risk. We often underestimate large, chronic dangers, like car crashes or chemical pollution, and fixate on tiny but salient risks, like plane crashes or shark attacks. [Or thrombosis from a vaccine.]

The vaccines have nearly eliminated death, hospitalization and other serious Covid illness among people who have received shots. The vaccines have also radically reduced the chances that people contract even a mild version of Covid or can pass it on to others.

Yet many vaccinated people continue to obsess over the risks from Covid — because they are so new and salient.

To take just one example, major media outlets trumpeted new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid. That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000. The chances of a getting a version any worse than a common cold are even more remote.

But they are not zero. And they will not be zero anytime in the foreseeable future. Victory over Covid will not involve its elimination. Victory will instead mean turning it into the sort of danger that plane crashes or shark attacks present — too small to be worth reordering our lives.

That is what the vaccines do. If you’re vaccinated, Covid presents a minuscule risk to you, and you present a minuscule Covid risk to anyone else. A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Finally an Article that Describes Me Well: Why Some People Are Willing to Challenge Wrongs


"The traits of a moral rebel

First, moral rebels generally feel good about themselves. They tend to have high self-esteem and to feel confident about their own judgment, values and ability. They also believe their own views are superior to those of others, and thus that they have a social responsibility to share those beliefs.

Moral rebels are also less socially inhibited than others. They aren’t worried about feeling embarrassed or having an awkward interaction. Perhaps most importantly, they are far less concerned about conforming to the crowd. So, when they have to choose between fitting in and doing the right thing, they will probably choose to do what they see as right."


That's right!


SOURCE:  Analysis: Why some people are willing to challenge behavior they see as wrong despite personal risk


Friday, April 9, 2021

Urban Transit After COVID-19

 Excellent input by transportation experts Robert Poole and Steve Polzin.

==============

Urban Transit After COVID-19

Here is a recent set of headlines from a couple of reputable sources, to introduce a discussion of how urban transit will need to change when we enter the post-pandemic period:

The reporters of these stories reflect genuine concerns, but my impression is that many in the transportation community have not fully thought through the implications for urban transit in the “after” COVID-19 times.

One expert who has is Steve Polzin, a former transit official, university professor, and most recently as a senior advisor for research and technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation. After reading a detailed paper that he and a colleague produced while at DOT last fall, Reason Foundation commissioned Polzin to write a policy brief focusing specifically on how transit will have to change, and why. The new report, “Public Transportation Must Change after COVID-19,” was published last week and you can find it here.

Polzin first reminds us that in the five years prior to the coronavirus pandemic, transit experienced a significant loss of ridership, before appearing to stabilize at a lower level by 2019. Then the pandemic led to former transit riders avoiding buses and rail transit in favor of cars, bikes, walking, and working at home. Comparing January 2020 (pre-pandemic) with January 2021, unlinked transit trips were 65% less (though transit vehicle miles of service decreased only 23% for the same months).

Alas for those hoping for a post-pandemic return to “normal,” among the factors leading to permanent changes are, of course, some degree of permanent shifts to working from home, either part-time or full-time, along with the continued popularity of network companies like Lyft and Uber, a millennial generation that is getting older and buying houses in the suburbs, and a general movement of people and companies from higher-density to lower-density locations.

Polzin points out that even if many people work at home Mondays and Fridays, but still work in the office mid-week, this will “make it harder to justify peak capacity capital investments and complicate service scheduling.” In terms of permanent work-at-home shifts, he notes that if this share doubles from pre-pandemic levels of 5.7% to about 12% of people working from home, that could mean 15%-to-20% fewer downtown workers, a major change for downtown-focused rail transit systems.

Another section of the brief looks at declining vehicle occupancy by transit mode: bus, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail. All four are down significantly, but some much more than others. And this makes a surprising difference in the environmental friendliness of these modes. Here is his comparison of pre-pandemic vs. December 2020 fuel economy of various commuter modes, drawn from the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center plus estimated occupancies from the National Transit Database. The metric is passenger miles per gasoline gallons equivalent; hence the highest numbers are best.

Commuting Mode Pre-COVID Current
Heavy rail 50.4 18.0
Automobiles 41.7 41.7*
Commuter rail 39.6 10.9
Light trucks/SUVs 36.1 36.1*
Transit bus 26.6 14.5
Demand response (Uber, Lyft) 9.2 9.2*

*assumed to be unchanged

As of December 2020, the most fuel-efficient means of commuting was the car, followed by light trucks—but only because occupancy embedded in the transit calculations was so drastically low. Obviously, when we get past the pandemic those figures should rise but whether mass transit will be able to rebuild enough ridership to be more fuel-efficient (and hence more carbon-friendly) remains to be seen, and as you can see from the current numbers, transit has a long way to go.

A major premise of the Biden administration’s transportation agenda is to greatly increase federal spending on transit, compared with only modest, constrained increases for highways (with very little scope for adding highway capacity). This approach poses major risks of putting billions of taxpayer dollars into projects that will have costs far greater than their benefits (e.g., light rail systems for medium-sized cities, megaproject expansions of heavy rail and commuter rail systems, etc.).

At the very least, it is premature at this juncture to commit funding for major new rail transit projects before we have some idea of the extent of transit ridership in the first several years after nationwide vaccinations.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Inspections Discover Cracks in Rail Line Tracks

 Rick Daysog: Inspections discover cracks in rail line tracks. Also mirrored at Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren.

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - During a recent inspection, rail officials discovered cracks in several crossover tracks along the line that could cause further delays for the embattled project.

According to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation documents, the manufacturer of the crossovers ― called frogs ― was responsible for the casting flaws.

Recent inspections also found that some of the welds and surfaces on other parts of the tracks didn’t meet the specifications set under contract.

“Before we have an operating system, we have cracks and failures,” said rail critic and University of Hawaii Civil and Environmental Engineering Prof. Panos Prevedouros.

“That is really extremely disappointing. I don’t now how else to describe it. ... We’ve been had.”

Prevedouros said the rail system’s steel-on-steel technology was supposed to last for decades but can’t even last several hundred practice runs without cracking.


“We selected rail because supposedly it was bullet proof,” he said. “You build it out of steel and you’re done.”

How long the project is delayed will depend on how many of the cracked frogs need to be replaced and how long it takes to manufacture and install them.

Hawaii News Now asked HART spokesman Joey Manahan how many of these devices are damaged and how much of a delay replacing them will cause.

He declined to answer, saying that the rail authority planned to respond at its board meeting Thursday.

Prevedouros believes the initial opening of service between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium, which was scheduled for June, will now be delayed several months because HART won’t be able test their trains at normal speeds and under normal conditions.



HART Rail Cost Grows Past $12 Billion

 In January 2016, I projected that the cost to complete HART's rail will be $11 Billion (stated by HART as $6.9B at that time). Once again, that was the good news.

It's pretty clear that the people in charge need to do something about destroying the city's and state's finances while pursuing a largely useless, outdated and very expensive to run transportation "alternative."

We have great alternatives already... TheBus, Uber, Zoom, bikeways and soon enough, robotaxis. Plus people leaving Hawaii by the thousands

Monday, March 1, 2021

Why is My Car Insurance So High

 Quoted in this article on Why is My Car Insurance So High.

What steps can drivers take to get cheaper car insurance?

"Drivers need to do some comparative shopping for insurance rates every couple of years.

If they are considering purchasing another vehicle, they should investigate the insurance ratings and costs of their candidate vehicles and choose wisely; rates for vehicles in the same price range vary because of their varied repair costs, safety features and performance levels.

If the driver has a problematic traffic record, then he or she must consult with their DMV and insurance to go through re-education or other programs in order to lessen their risk score.

Other relevant decisions that affect insurance rates include location and distance driven. Some locations are much riskier than others (drivers who rent may have more flexibility to move to a safer area near by). Long commutes often correspond to higher annual premiums, so work or housing decisions affect vehicle operating costs including insurance."

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Car Insurance for High Risk Drivers.

Quoted by WalletHub on Car Insurance for High Risk Drivers.

Their slight editing made one of my comments non sensical..."such as the passing of a divided highway" should be ... such as passing on a divided highway.

What can high-risk drivers do to lower their car insurance?

They can do several things starting with re-reviewing the rules of the road and pledging to adhere to the rules. Besides, they can attend safe driving classes and, if available, simulation lessons that help realize the risk of crashes in a controlled environment.

What makes a driver high risk?

The typical ingredients of high-risk driving are inattention, aggression, distraction, and intoxication. These apply to drivers of both genders and all ages. Typically younger, male drivers are more susceptible to speeding and high-risk maneuvers such as the passing of a divided highway and aggressive cornering.

What can drivers do to become not a high-risk driver?

Drivers need to continually work on their safe driving habits such as never driving intoxicated, devoting full attention to the driving task, and leaving speeding and aggressive maneuvering for the racetrack (i.e., track days and exotic car venues.)

Friday, January 8, 2021

Updated Reality for Autonomous Vehicles

 Quote

In March 2018, Waymo confidently forecast that “up to 20,000” electric Jaguars “will be built in the first two years of production and be available for riders of Waymo’s driverless service, serving a potential 1m trips per day”.

Two months later, it added that “up to 62,000” Chrysler minivans would join its driverless fleet, “starting in late 2018”.

Today, there is little sign that any of these vehicles have been ordered and Waymo’s official fleet size remains just 600.

End Quote



  Financial Times, Rolling out driverless cars is ‘extraordinary grind’, says Waymo boss, January 4, 2021.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Experts Weigh in on Current Job Market Trends

 Career advice, including mine, for graduating civil engineers.


In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we'll see in the job market given the pandemic?

Panos Prevedouros Ph.D.: Most jobs will be in Engineering disciplines needed for infrastructure maintenance, upgrade and replacement. Also a lot of new developments have been deferred by the pandemic, and if there is no surprise in the lending rates, development will grow and possibly skyrocket in 2022 and beyond.

Engineering disciplines related to transit will shrink. Transit has lost about 80% of its riders and is unlikely to regain many of them, for reasons such as depleted municipal budgets, desire of people to avoid dense crowds well after the pandemic ends, and robocars becoming established in 5 to 10 years.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Rail’s Completion Takes Construction to 2033!

Even the rail project’s harshest critics think the mayor’s 2033 completion date estimate is overly pessimistic.

“He pushed it all the way to 2033. That’s 13 years. It’s like we’re restarting the project from scratch,” said University of Hawaii Civil Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros.

Under the city’s estimates, contractors would be building the remaining four miles of the guideway and the rail stations at a rate of about 1/3 a mile each year, which is very slow by most standards.

“Inch by inch, foot by foot ― yes,” Prevedouros joked.

But he also believes that both the city’s and HART’s cost estimates are overly optimistic.

“My anticipated total costs for this total project will be in the order of $13 billion,” he said.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Panos’ Estimates Rail Cost to Reach at Least $13 Billion

In fact $13 billion is a rock bottom estimate of total costs from project inception in 2006 to project completion and full commissioning into revenue service in 2026 (or later.)

If HART rail were to start operations today, it would get about 20% of the expected opening day forecast ridership.

Unlike a large metropolis with huge demand for commuting trips (where rail makes sense), HART rail will be a costly and environmental disaster for decades.

The only "solution" is to cut it short. Complete 16 miles to the Middle Street intermodal center and stop the bleeding there.

Many thanks to Dr. Keli'i Akina and the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for the ThinkTech interview.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Belated Praise from Bob Jones!

Praise from Bob Jones? It's 2020 after all! Mahalo for the acknowledgement. When it's all said and done, I'll be 3x correct. Plus one. The first three were cost, complexity of delivery, and low ridership (~50% off TheBus.) The plus one is the new normal: Zoom and telecommuting, distancing requirements, shrinkage of services, and Uber and automated vehicles/robotaxis.

===============

Covid-19 is, understandably, #1 on the news cycle in Honolulu these days. But we have a Primary election coming Saturday and I wonder if everyone will forget and forgive about the train cost and delay.

The local gadfly Panos Prevadouros — who’s probably a much better civil engineer and professor than a would-be politician — got some of it strikingly right in his long fight against the elevated train project.

When the cost was just $5 billion, he showed that even if it served 7% of Oahu travelers (the City figure) it would be an irresponsible expenditure.

Little did we guess that the final cost might be $10 billion and the finish date so far in the future that we might all be traveling by air cars or rocket packs by then!

And to think that we embarked on this project with just 50.6% of those who voted saying yes to it. Not exactly a resounding huzzah.

Picking Your Candidates? Don’t Forget The Train, The Train, The Train, The Train

================


Friday, June 26, 2020

My June Commentary on Trump and the Pandemic, Masks, and Hawaii Tourism

The late June Covid-19 situation in AZ, FL and TX (see 1) is a second chance for Trump to re-set his stance on the pandemic, for a chance to win. Or he can double down on absurdities and toast himself... because he isn't losing thanks to Biden's abilities and platform.

A consistent, transparent and measured response to the virus will do it:
  • Promote open air activities,
  • Use disinfection,
  • Keep distancing,
  • Use masks in crowded environs, and
  • Educate people with Covid-19 pre-conditions to avoid crowded indoor environments (even with family and friends.)
The anti-mask rhetoric has become absurd: We all know that decades of use of masks by doctors, nurses and the Japanese did not asphyxiate them, and did not turn them into communist peons or face covering Muslims. Relax and protect yourself. Remember the virus loves a crowd and gets to you via the nose or mouth.

Use your common sense. For example, my common sense says to use the mask inside a Costco or any supermarket because some isles are crowded and usually someone will cough or sneeze during the time I am there. My common sense says to pass on using the mask at Costco gas or any gas station. It's open air, I'm there for 2-3 minutes only, and typically there's nobody near me.

It doesn't matter much what rules Hawaii will establish for tourism... Given the anti business mindset of the people in charge, Hawaii will make itself even less attractive than other sunny places, thus prolonging its economic misery.

The facts are these: (1) airport travel volume is around 10% compared to 2019, (2) no large hotels will open to operate at 10% capacity and at nearly 100% cost, and (3) marketing Hawaii as a safe destination makes little sense since it involves a 12 or 17 hour round trip in an airplane from California or Japan; this is a much higher risk than time spent at the beach or in a spaced out restaurant.

Bottom line, tourism will happen at its own terms, not at ours. Politicians and regulators are clearly part of the problem in this arena, in making rules that mostly inconvenience Hawaii based travelers.


Note (1): That's the problem with summer... hot and humid weather in AZ, FL, TX, etc. which makes the outdoors less inviting for long periods, and air conditioned spaces highly desirable... thus crowding many people in enclosed spaces with recirculating chilled air. Just what the virus needed for spreading. On a positive note, the crowds seem to include less vulnerable people, so in some states case numbers are way up, but Covid-19 fatalities are nowhere near what NY had in March.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Memorial Day Did Not Increase Covid-19 Cases in the US

Daily data on new cases of Covid-19 in the US show that Memorial Day celebrations, widely reported to have causes masses to enjoy themselves with no adherence to social distancing, did not cause a spike a cases. 

In the data below,
  • Week 1 ends on Memorial Day and has a total of 157,584 new cases
  • Week 2 follows and has a total of 140,056 new cases, and 
  • Week 3 has a total of 951 new cases

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Date for Rail to Be up and Running Pushed Back

KITV interview

I note that City DTS Director Frycztaki provided a lie instead of an applicable reason for the delay. He said the delay is due to the PPP bid deadline being moved due to Covid-19, but the PPP affects the final segment of the rail. The opening of the rail is for the "completed" segment from Kapolei to the airport...

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Letter to Governor to Open Up Small Business and Interisland Air Travel

I appreciate the written response by the governor's office to the letter I helped compose urging him to open up all small business in Hawaii that can comply with reasonable rules. I hope that he'll get to it soon.

WHEREAS every business is essential; there is no such thing as non-essential business when it comes to generating jobs and taxes for the state,

WHEREAS thousands of small businesses in Hawaii, many of them family owned and operated, are at risk of failure if the current restrictions are not lifted soon,

WHEREAS a recent AXIOS report indicated that 90% of the nation’s small farmers could go out of business if restaurants are forced to operate at diminished capacity during the height of harvest season this summer,
  
WHEREAS restoring the function and capacity of our community-based businesses is an essential first step in the long road to Hawaii’s economic recovery,

WHEREAS we small business owners are fully capable of caring for our employees and protecting our customers; we are confident that we can operate safely in the best interests of the community,

WHEREAS reopening interisland travel is critical for connecting our islands and testing inspection systems in anticipation of the recovery of tourism later this summer,

WHEREAS time is of the essence to reduce the long-term economic harm being done to our state, as each day that we continue with these restrictions deepens the pain and extends the recovery time by an ever-increasing amount,

THEREFORE, WE CALL ON our Governor and Mayors to reopen business within the State of Hawaii, support the efforts of small business to restore employment to tens of thousands of Hawaii residents, and provide the necessary monitoring and metrics to ensure the safety of the public as our state begins the difficult process of recovery.

SUGGESTED ACTIONS AND METRICS

  • Allow all businesses in Hawaii to open as soon as they can fully comply with state and county country mandates regarding social distancing (including mask wearing), hygiene and safety, without regard to their previous status as essential or non-essential.
  • Allow the Department of Health to enact emergency rulemaking to adapt National Restaurant Association best practices guidelines for all Hawaii food establishments. This will allow proprietors to procure the materials and adopt the procedures necessary to reopen safely.
  • Open airports to interisland travel with a safety plan that may include temperature scans at the arriving gates and holding space for those found having a fever.
  • Maintain Covid-19 testing and new case reporting against a clearly articulated set of targets. Establish metrics by which social and business restrictions may be re-imposed if deemed necessary to ensure that Hawaii’s health care system is able to meet the demands of this ongoing crisis.
  • Create an action plan for a private/public initiative to restore Hawaii’s small business sector, with a goal to reopen all small businesses no later than June 1.
  • Establish a task force composed of members of Hawaii’s small business community to help advise governmental decision-makers during the three phases of the economic restoration process: Reopening, Recovery and Revitalization. This includes giving voice not only to small business owners, but also the employees, vendors and customers who rely on their continued success.
SMALL BUSINESS SIGNATORIES
·        Steve Haumschild, Managing partner of 5 Hawaii-based businesses
·        Theodore A Peck, Holu Energy and Tian Shan Renewable Energy
·        Don Mangiarelli, General Manager, Enterprise Technology Solutions
·        Roy Skaggs, RJS Renewable Solutions, LLC
·        Elizabeth Kellam, Hawaii Association of Realtors, Honolulu Board of Realtors
·        Maki Kuroda, President, E Noa Corporation
·        Michael Kissel, Owner of Specities Hawai’i Inc.
·        Steven Sullivan, VP at Parallel Capital Partners and board member Kaka’ako Improvement Association
·        Natalie Iwasa, CPA, CFE
·        Laura Brown, Soundmix LLC
·        Phil Bruno, ARA Hawaii
·        Mark Storfer, VP Hilo Hattie
·        Dale Evans, CEO, Charley's Taxi
·        Suzanne Johnsen Green, Owner Plato’s Closet Honolulu
·        Forrest Shoemaker, Owner Hilton Group, Hawaii Candle & POS Paper Supply
·        Nancy Nino, Owner, Aloha Organizers LLC

OTHER SIGNATORIES
·        Clif Purkiser, Board of Directors, Pacific Historic Parks
·        Joseph A Ferguson, IT Admin-Leeward Community Church, U.S. Coast Guard Reservist
·        Peter Kay, Facebook moderator
·        Panos D. Prevedouros, UH Manoa
·        Byron Riddle
·        Richard M Fong
·        Miki Martins
·        Carol Ai May
·        Kendall Shimabukuro
·        Paul Orem
·        Gregg and Robin Stueber
·        Sharon Rasos

Monday, April 27, 2020

Why Did Gov. Ige Lock Hawaii Down Till May 31?

Governor Ige's position on Covid-19 for Hawaii makes little sense and lacks scientific base. Let me show you evidence of this fact first.

Let's compare Hawaii with several European countries. All the countries shown in the table below, except for Spain, had a moderate challenge with the Covid-19 epidemic. Although in Hawaii many more stores and businesses remained open in the last several weeks, and tourism is still occurring at roughly five percent of its usual pace, Hawaii's new cases of Covid-19 are tiny. Also recall that roughly one third of neighboring island new cases were centered at the Maui Memorial Hospital.


When adjusted for population, the four European countries shown in yellow average 27 daily new cases. At the same 7-day interval, Hawaii's case number is 10 and Honolulu's is 6!

Now let's look at the number of deaths due to to Covid-19 per one million population as of today:
  • Spain (472),  Germany (64), Denmark (68), Austria (59), Norway (35), and Hawaii (11)*
These five Eurorean countries in The Economist analysis are opening schools and small shops in the second half of April. At the same time, gov. Ige locked Hawaii down till May 31. As a result, Hawaii's already poor public education system will stay shut and deprive Hawaii's children from two months of education. Almost all small businesses are prohibited from opening.

So let's address the main question: The data clearly show that Hawaii's governor has taken caution and conservatism to an unusual level. Is this due to a lack of understanding or politics? It cannot be the former. Hawaii's Covid-19 case numbers are low both in absolute and relative terms; clearly the threat to public health and safety is minimal.

It is becoming increasingly clear that gov. Ige is waiting for other Democrat governors to show him the way, instead of doing what the numbers suggest: Reopen Hawaii (internally.) If he allowed Hawaii to re-open, then he'll run the risk of being accused that he follows the lead of Republican governors. Nationally, Republican governors plan to re-open their state economies or have kept them open, whereas Democrat governors tend to maintain lock downs.

Gov. Ige's 6th Proclamation of April 25, 2020 also included a provision that mayors cannot allow more freedoms unless he OK's them first.

Interestingly, the day before Ige's proclamation, the Wall Street Journal published a remarkable article titled: "The Bearer of Good Coronavirus News -- Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns." There is increasing evidence that outside regions that must flatten the hospitalization demand curve to a manageable level (i.e., New York City) lock downs are unnecessary and detrimental to the natural process of herd immunity which is the only real weapon against a virus for which there is no vaccine or treatment.

You may like to think that we are all in it together, but politicians are all about partisan politics and control. UPDATE: On May 4, The New York Times depicted the political divide in reopening America. See image below.

(*) All Hawaii Covid-19 data reported in this post were taken from Hawaii Department of Health Covid-19 website and are directly comparable to the data in the The Economist analysis.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Welcome Message to Incoming Fall 2020 Civil Engineering Students




Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD
Chairman and Professor of Transportation Engineering | Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
O (808) 956-9698 | F (808) 956-5014
2540 Dole Street, Holmes Hall 383 | Honolulu, HI 96822
pdp@hawaii.edu

Thursday, April 23, 2020

2nd Call for Re-opening Hawaii's Local Economy... We're Getting Closer

When I think of a small place with a vulnerable existence, I think of Israel. They are resource poor, dependent on outside support, too few, and their neighbors want them gone or worse. They cannot afford to die off due to disease or other internal reasons.

See slide 13 in the Governor's plan: Israel is reopening. What are Israel's statistics compared to Hawaii? (Scaled down 6x since it has about 9M population). 

Israel Covid-19 cases: 2,323, deaths: 30. Hawaii has 584 cases and 10 deaths.

There is no reason for Hawaii to have a lock-down and a closed local economy. We can open on May 1, with protections for high risk groups.

And after weighing outside risk factors, around June 1, we can start accepting a maximum of 1, then 2 and perhaps 3 flights per hour around 4th of July, from selected origins (for up to 10,000 tourists in late July compared to about 30,000 per day in 2019.) Keep the 10,000 cap until September and then re-assess.

The gradual opening in June with up to 3,000 K tourists per day in the first two weeks gives us time to finalize a process for the thorough screening, testing and paperwork for each visitor.


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Honolulu Rail Is a Massive Failure. It Will Be Public Health Enemy No. 1



Dear Elected Officials, Journalists and Media Experts,

After the Covid-19 scare and the face masks go away, the fear of infection will linger for a long while. And the threat of another type of infection in a few years is very real... SARS, MERS, H1N1, Covid-19... all came in the last 20 years. 

A major question is this: How many people will be willing to use a mode of transportation where others breathe, sneeze and cough 2-3 feet from their face, and should they?


 The information above should give you pause.  Honolulu Rail has been a massive failure. Continuing it makes it public health enemy number one.

Aloha,
Panos

Monday, April 13, 2020

First Call to Plan for Re-opening the Local Economy in Hawaii

My Facebook post is the first call I know of in Hawaii that offered some specific steps to re-open sectors of our local economy at specific dates given the tiny rate of infections and hospitalizations in Hawaii. As of this update, the post has 170 likes, 299 comments and 69 shares.

Hawaii hardly has a Covid-19 problem. Our hospitals are not busy. The calls for new curfews, more mask usage and policing beaches with drones are verging on the ridiculous! 

Local politicians are on an one-upmanship game for restrictions, instead of getting busy with charting a path for the long-term control of Covid-19 cases, and actions to recover our economy.

For example, the governor and his advisors should seriously consider this: All activities with up to two dozen people should be allowed starting on May 1... small businesses, small restaurants, small classes, small meetings, etc. Also, inter-island flights should be free to operate with no restrictions on May Day and beyond.


The majority of the comments were positive, but there were a few that fiercely opposed to any reduction in restrictions.  Clearly some of the latter were emotional.

I copy a few of the more interesting comments below:
  • Uniform mass quarantine is absolutely the wrong tactic. Select quarantine of elderly/high risk while the rest are encouraged to practice good habits and get us that herd immunity we desperately need but will not get under current conditions. This is just prolonging the issue.
  • New Zealand preparing to end lockdown after success in coronavirus battle
  • I think the blanket stay at home is probably not necessary after 4/30, but I’m not an epidemiologist, so I want them to look seriously at the best models relative to our state. I think some of what we are doing is just because they’re doing it in other states, such as the practices in some stores.
  • Has Sweden Found the Right Solution to the Coronavirus?
  • Everyone is walking around in complete fear. No one will look at another person if they pass in the street. I walk and people move to the street to avoid me. Someone posted walkers and runners beware, you could breath the air of an infected person. Seriously? People are ratting out their neighbors, others are cursing at people who came here on vacation. Get a grip!
  • I went and yeah the Hospital was a ghost town !!!!!!!
  • "... there are 535 ventilators in Hawaii and 65 are currently in use, while 97 ICU beds are being used out of 338." 
  •  For a fact I know that the employees at Straub on King Street have had their hours reduced due to a lack of patients. There are not enough COVID cases to make up for the denial of service to regular needs.
  • I didn't have time to read all 229 comments, But I spent 41 years in the wine and spirits business and it is time to open the Islands business. I suggest we continue to lock out "All" visitors ( for another month ) so we locals can enjoy, patronize our hotels, restaurants and shops on the Island for the good of the Island
  • Agreement with Sweden's actions -- Epidemiologist: Coronavirus could be ‘exterminated’ if lockdowns were lifted
  • No doubt NY is a mess, but it is  localized and the rest of the country is not in any panic stage. I think we all had it in Hawaii and California as we have many Chinese coming into our states.  We have likely developed herd immunity but the governors will take credit for keeping the curve down due to their quick response and unprecedented stupidity to kill the economy.
  • Citizen news on empty hospitals and media hype; New York, Ohio, Hawaii.