Sunday, June 29, 2008

UH Congestion Study

Most of the students of the original team have graduated and I am happy that practically all of them have good jobs. This monumental effort at the undergraduate level was concluded in mid-spring 2008, except for a section of a large survey that was completed and coded in early June 2008. The abstract copied below includes the final, final results of the UHCS study.


Transportation Alternatives Analysis for Mitigating Traffic Congestion between Leeward Oahu and Honolulu

A Detailed Microsimulation Study Directed by Professor Panos D. Prevedouros with the Participation of Undergraduate and Graduate StudentsSpecializing in Transportation Studies

Honolulu, Hawaii – June 30, 2008 – Version 5 – Final Public Release



The rail system currently under consideration for the Honolulu Fixed Guideway project will cost over $5 billion, reducing total travel time by an average of 6% and delivering worse traffic congestion than today’s H-1 freeway after completion. Is this the most cost effective solution for Oahu’s traffic congestion problem?

A comprehensive study: To address this question, Dr. Panos D. Prevedouros at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering together with 16 students prepared Hawaii’s largest-ever simulation study of five different congestion relief alternatives. Over 100 pages of research and gigabytes of data summarize the following key findings:

Rail transit (Cost: $5 Billion): Using data from the city-generated Alternatives Analysis and simulating a commute from the H1/H2 merge to Aloha tower, a rail transit line would reduce H-1 congestion approximately 3%, reducing drive times from 34 to 33 minutes. A rail commuter would make the same trip in approximately 41 minutes. Note that rail takes longer than driving.

HOT lanes (Cost: $1 Billion): The proposed HOT lanes facility is a reversible two- or three-lane highway on which buses and vehicles with 5 passengers or more travel for free at an average speed of 60mph (vs. rail’s average 25mph). Unused capacity on HOT lanes is made available to private vehicles via an electronically computed toll which adjusts the price to keep lanes full but free flowing. Average toll price during peak commute times is estimated to be $3.50 per vehicle. HOT lanes need less or no tax subsidy; similar systems across the nation are privately funded.

HOT lanes would reduce H-1 congestion by 35%, reducing drive times from 34 to 22 minutes. An express bus commuter would make the same trip in 12.7 minutes. The greatest benefit of HOT lanes would accrue to those who never use them; they would pay no added taxes or tolls yet would experience dramatically reduced congestion.

Pearl Harbor Tunnel (Cost: $3-5 billion): A reversible 2-lane tunnel under the entrance of Pearl Harbor would connect to the Nimitz Viaduct. Drive times from Ewa to downtown would be reduced from 65 to 11 minutes and the load reduction on Ft. Weaver Road and H-1 Fwy. would bring those commuter times down from 65 to 40 minutes. The toll would have to be at least three times higher than for the HOT lanes to pay for the large cost of this option.

Four underpasses throughout urban Honolulu (Cost: $50M): One of the most cost-effective projects: introducing free-flowing underpasses in four of Honolulu’s busiest intersections delivers a substantial reduction in urban traffic congestion. Overall impact on travel times are nearly equal to rail’s performance, at a 99% cost savings.

Rail is the worst global warmer. Excluding New York City, transit averages 310 grams of carbon emissions per passenger mile, compared with 307 for the average 2006 model car and 147 grams from a Toyota Prius. Fuel efficiency trends clearly indicate that vehicles in 2030 will be largely non-polluting, whereas rail will still be drawing its power from today’s fossil-fueled power plants.

Bleak outlook. Rail’s immense construction costs and operating losses will preclude the use of funding for other transportation solutions. This combined with rail’s dismal performance will perpetuate Oahu’s unacceptable levels of traffic congestion for residents and visitors alike. Last but not least, people do not want rail. In a March-May random mail survey conducted as part of an independent research project: on highway noise attitudes people were asked about their attitudes on rail: 44.6% responded that Honolulu does not need rail versus 36.5% who responded that it does. The remainder had no opinion. More telling was that 66.1% reported that they would not use rail for school or work, whereas 16% reported that they would.


Disclaimer: This report is a product of faculty and students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but it makes no representation that it reflects the positions of the University of Hawaii at Manoa or any of its units. It also makes no representation that it reflects the positions of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH.)