Friday, October 31, 2008

Initial Comments on the City Released Untitled and Undated Draft EIS Summary

  • This document is endless blah-blah with very few project specific numbers.
  • Cost has escalated from $3.7 billion in 2006 to $4.8 billion in current dollars and FTA contribution remains in $900 million 2006 dollars resulting in an FTA contribution of under 25%, the lowest contribution of any recent rail system in the nation.
  • This document makes it clear, that the only system in question is from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. It does not include any information about west Kapolei, UH and Waikiki which are now “anticipated future plans.” Up till now we believed that anticipated future plans were Mufi’s obfuscations about extensions to Mililani, Waianae and Hawaii Kai.
  • 212 condemnations including 1 church and 67 business is a substantial impact. Also 84 affected historical resources is a substantial impact. It is not clear whether any of these impacts and their mitigation costs are in the price tag.
  • Extensive utility relocations (sewers, water, gas, electric lines) will be needed. They are not mentioned and are not likely included in the price tag.
  • Total congestion reduction estimates of 23% are pure fantasy. No such relief can be achieved even if trains can be filled to their theoretical maximum capacity of 6,000 passengers in the peak direction. Throughout the nation, rail studies show that for modern rail systems only up to 25% of rail riders are ex-motorists. The rest are ex-bus riders, ex-carpoolers and new trips. Thus rail may reduce traffic on H-1 by 6%. This rail will never provide a two digit congestion relief.
  • Current City presentations assert that the project covers a corridor that includes 60% of Oahu’s population. The summary says that a Project Station Area is one half mile around each station. The stations are the only relevant point of the system. The station areas cover less than 5% of Oahu’s population.
  • The 2003 FEIS used a lower Oahu population and a far cheaper gas price (which works against transit) but it produced much higher ridership for a bus system than the 2006 rail estimates. But this alternative is not in the EIS.
  • There is no form of exclusive busway in the EIS. It is rail or nothing. What a poor payoff from a 100+ million dollar consultant contract!
  • Visual and aesthetic impacts include “project components that are out of scale and character with their setting.” This is one exceptionally precise statement this DEIS summary makes. The whole project is out of scale and character with Oahu.

One must be cautious in interpreting this FTA approval. It is not a federal approval of the project and its impacts. It is approval as to form and not as to importance of the impacts. In other words, the FTA approval of this DEIS means that it is sufficiently comprehensive in looking at potential impacts and the proper models were used to analyze the impacts. The FTA did not approve of the impacts. Two examples:

The FTA is not in the business of approving the demolition of churches and the destruction of 100+ year old trees. The community must decide if those are acceptable impacts or if the project needs to be rerouted.

The FTA is not in the business of reassigning right of ways from city to state and vice versa. The rail project takes away all the median and some sidewalks of Kamehameha Hwy. in Aiea. That’s State DOT property and the state has to determine whether this permanent loss of their right of way is acceptable.

FTA’s signature to release the DEIS does not mean
-- that the impacts are minimal or approved
-- that the mitigation of impacts is adequate
-- that all outputs are accurate and that the benefits are large
-- that the financial plan is good, or that a better one would be hard to obtain.

All of the above are to be considered by the impacted community and its agencies, and decide on the weaknesses of the study, on the severity of the impacts, on the mitigation strategies, and on the financial details vis-à-vis the ability and willingness of the population to pay.
Once the community and all involved and affected agencies sign off on the impacts and mitigations (as amended), then FTA may give federal approval. It usually takes more than two years from the release of the Draft EIS to the completion of the Final EIS.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pavement Maintenance

Hawaii at 0.39, had the second lowest score in the nation in Interstate Pavement Serviceability in 2004. The average score of Pavement Serviceability in the U.S was 0.82. The situation is even worse for Honolulu.

Pavement Serviceability Index or PSI is a standard pavement quality metric ranging from one (1) excellent to zero (0) for terrible. In 2006, for 66 urban areas with population of 500,000 or more:

• Los Angeles had the lowest average score of 0.16 and San Francisco-Oakland with next lowest score of 0.17. Honolulu and San Jose had the third lowest score of 0.19.
• There were 25 urban areas within the score range of 0.25 to 0.50 including Albuquerque with a score of 0.39.
• There were 29 urban areas within the score range of 0.51 to 0.75 including Salt Lake City with a score of 0.59.
• There were nine urban areas within the score range of 0.76 to 0.87 including Jacksonville with a score of 0.86 and Tampa-St. Petersburg with the highest score of 0.87.

As much as a 71% saving can be realized if preventive maintenance were performed in a systematic way. The core of PMS is rating the pavement surface quality for every street in the city. From that the system recommends a program of annual expenditures that will help maintain good quality streets at that level or higher by preventing or reducing the wear from weather and vehicles.

To keep a road in good condition its surface needs to be maintained. Failure to maintain the surface leads to failure of the entire layer of pavement and sometimes the subsurface base, forcing the replacement of the entire pavement layer with new asphalt – an expensive process. An easy way to think of pavement (asphalt) preservation is to liken it to changing engine oil in your car. If you change the oil on reasonable recommended schedule, generally, the engine will last a long time. The same goes for a properly built street – with a refresher coat every 7-10 years it will last twice as long as normal.

Breaks in the surface can lead to hairline crack formation which allows the entrance of water into and below the pavement, leading to a shortened pavement life and early failure of the pavement subgrade base. Seal coating restores the oxidized surface and seals the pavement to prevent water entrance as well as adding a new wear course and adding improved traction.

Seal coats such as chip seals are more environmentally sound than paving. Three applications of chip seals over a 30 year period will use less than half the rock and oil of a conventional asphalt overlay.

One mile of collector arterial can be chip sealed in one week. If it had been repaved, it would have taken one month. Sweeping of loose gravel begins immediately after the chip is laid down eliminating the need to close the road to traffic. A final top coat of light oil is placed on the chip a few days after the chip is laid down, locking down any remaining loose chips.

Repaving of a typical residential street with three inches of pavement, in 2008 dollars, runs the range of $25 – 35/square yard, depending on the complexity of the project. In comparison, chip seal runs $3-3.50/square yard. In a 30 year life cycle (assuming three chip seals) that translates to as much as a 71% savings. Savings sorely needed to rebuilt streets that have failed, improve substandard width streets, put in sidewalks and take care of aging traffic signals.

Maintenance and rehabilitation can be cheaper if performed early and methodically instead of lately and on a random, ad hoc or “plotical whim” basis. For example, Orange County, California implemented a Pavement Management System (PaMS) two decades ago. Before its implementation, 50% of the pavements in the network were in good condition and 24% in bad condition; while twenty years later 78% were in good condition and 5% in bad condition, while at the same time both funding and personnel in maintenance decreased (Allen and Lorick, 2007). Additionally, the Michigan Department of Transportation has calculated that savings in maintenance are $6 for every dollar invested in Pavement Management (National Cooperative Highway Research Program, 2004).

The sketch below clearly shows the deterioration of pavement condition over time.

Pavement Management “involves the identification of optimum strategies at various management levels as well as the implementation of these strategies. It is an all-encompassing process that covers all those activities involved in providing and maintaining pavements at an adequate level of service. These range from initial information acquisition to the planning, programming and execution of new construction maintenance, and rehabilitation, to the details of individual project design and construction; to periodic monitoring of pavements in-service”.

Pavement Management may use a large number of measurements for distresses in asphalt pavements: Alligator Cracking, Bleeding, Block Cracking, Bumps and Sags, Corrugation, Depression, Edge Cracking, Joint Reflection Cracking, Lane/Shoulder Drop-Off, Longitudinal and Transverse Cracking, Patching and Utility Cut Patching, Polished Aggregate, Potholes, Railroad Crossing, Rutting, Shoving, Slippage Cracking, Swell, Weathering and Raveling.

Pavement Management has been successful on many occasions, e.g., in the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) which has used a PaMS since 1980. The ADOT found out that the roads after PaMS implementation deteriorate later than prior to its implementation. The Tolerable Roughness Level (93in/mi) at 16.8 years of age, instead of the 14.8 years they used to last before reaching that level prior to the implementation of PaMS. In the case of the Interstate Roads of the State of Arizona, the pavements last 31.6 years within the Tolerable Roughness Level once the PaMS was implemented and before PaMS they reached that level at 18.9 years of age. The savings in budget provided by PaMS in Arizona are estimated to be up to $423 million during the 16 year period that last from 1981 to 1996. The benefit/cost ratio procured by PaMS is 51 to 1.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Letter to U.S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters

I assisted Cliff Slater of in preparing this important letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. It speaks volumes of the conspiracy to disqualify all superior alternatives and promote rail as the "locally preferred alternative."

October 28, 2008.

Mary E. Peters
U.S. Dept. of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Peters:
We wrote to you on January 15th this year requesting the reinstatement of the Managed Lane Alternative (MLA) in Honolulu’s Transit Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We have received no reply from you even though the DEIS is now pending.
In addition to the MLA, we also request the inclusion in the next iteration of the EIS the Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) Program as fully described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that the Federal Transit Administration approved in 2003.
We have lately noted that this BRT FEIS had forecast ridership six percent greater than is forecast in the Alternatives Analysis (AA) for the rail alternative (fixed guideway). Further the capital cost projected was one-fifth that currently forecast for the rail line’s MOS.
Dr. Panos Prevedouros, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii, has kindly provided us with the following basic data showing these forecasts together with some of the assumptions made at the time:
It seems rather strange to us that this BRT alternative was not considered during the AA process especially considering that Parsons Brinckerhoff was the principal consultant in both the BRT FEIS and the AA for rail. And also in light of their comment at the time that,
The light rail transit alternative was dropped because subsequent analyses revealed that Bus/Rapid Transit using electric-powered vehicles could accomplish virtually all of the objectives of light rail transit at substantially less cost.
We therefore request that this BRT program, with a suitably modified In-Town section, be reinstated in a Supplemental Draft EIS together with the MLA.
Cliff Slater

FTA Ron Fisher
FTA James Simpson
FTA Ray Sukys

InfraConsult Goes Ballistic about the EZWay

InfraConsult is a private company hired by the Mufi administration to manage the rail project. Mike Scheider of InfraConsult recently wrote a review of the Kobayashi and Prevedouros plan of the EZWay plan which provides real traffic congestion solutions. It is modular, efficient, affordable and based on solid local expertise for design and construction. All these of course are major threats to the overseas design, engineering, equipment and operation expertise required for trains.

Below is a point to point response.

InfraConsult: A 3-lane wide, 15-mile long elevated highway for “guided buses,” unguided buses, carpools, and single-occupant high-MPG cars will cost more to construct than an elevated rail guideway. A 3-lane highway is more than twice as wide as a guideway for electric trains, and will require considerably more structural reinforcement. Furthermore, anyone who believes that this highway in the sky can be built without a full environmental impact analysis is in serious denial of environmental reality and has little knowledge of state and federal requirements. In fact, work could not begin on such a facility for many years after the first phase of the train is already under construction.

EZWay: The EZWay is a simple elevated structure that cost only $30 million per mile to construct in Tampa, Florida. The EZWay is complete at 15 miles. It has no requirement for guided buses. The rail has a 20 mile starter element that is used in local promotions to deceive the public that it is a four instead of a six billion dollar system. The whole rail system is 30 to 38 miles depending on which politician or land developer you try to please. Although the rail may have a narrower guideway, 20 to 30 massive stations will more that make up the amount of concrete “saved” on the guideway. The EZWay will need an environmental review but the 2.5 mile Nimitz Flyover of it already has a full EIS and was about to go to bid in 2004. It can be built much sooner than rail.

The environmental requirements of having express buses use freeway shoulders are minimal. Some critical stretches can be operational before rail even breaks ground.

InfraConsult: The proposed elevated highway is clearly ineligible for Federal funding from either the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Section 5309 of the Federal code is unambiguous: No facility that permits single-occupant cars qualifies for New Starts funding from FTA, and no project that is unspecified in the O’ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OMPO) long-range plan can receive FHWA funding. Thus, the EZ plan’s major cost elements will have to be borne locally – more than $3 billion for the elevated highway and tunnels, plus the costs of bus facilities, numerous interchanges and grade separations, and over $400 million for new buses – a major cost item which was nowhere to be found in Kobayashi’s plan.

EZWay: One third of the EZWay is a bus-only facility and is fully fundable by the FTA. The rest is a high occupancy facility and can be funded by the Federal Highway Administration which also funded H-1, H-2, H-3 and other key roads throughout Hawaii. InfraConsult and the rail proponents have fixated their mind in the tiny FTA New Starts fund and ignore other relatively huge federal sources. Also, modular plans like the EZWay are far more flexible and eligible for earmarks, of which Senator Daniel Inouye knows a thing or two.

The EZWay does not encourage solo vehicle ridership. On the contrary, it provides a strong travel time savings incentive to carpool. The EZWay will be the first express facility in the nation to explicitly provide an incentive for green and highly efficient vehicles. EZWay allows Honolulu to be an international innovator. Of course, innovation is the last thing in the mind of rail supporters.

InfraConsult: It is unlikely that the transit-related General Excise Tax (GET) supplement will be permitted to fund Kobayashi’s plan, owing to language in the state statute that disallows these monies to be spent building new highway lanes.

EZWay: Fewer than 10 words need to change in the Act to strike out the discriminatory GET surcharge for Oahu. And if rail gets a NO in the ballot, the Act simply has to change and allow for the funding of real solutions.

InfraConsult: There are far too few access points along the proposed elevated highway to permit entry/exit for carpools and buses, causing significantly more driving for local residents and circulator buses to find and enter the elevated highway.

EZWay: This is by design because the plan addresses the huge mobility crisis between leeward and central Oahu on one hand and the primary urban center (PUC). It is not designed as a typical full access freeway between Waipahu and Honolulu. The ramps are designed to maximize quality of flow while serving very large traffic generators like Aloha Stadium, Pearl Harbor, Airport, Mapunapuna, Kalihi, downtown and Kakaako. This is more economical and entirely sufficient for providing substantial relief from congestion.

InfraConsult: Hotel Street simply cannot accommodate more buses without creating further transit gridlock. To assert otherwise defies logic.

EZWay: Only up to 20 express buses per hour destined to Moiliili and the UH may have to go through Hotel Street to connect to the University BRT. Hotel Street can do this. The current occasional peak hour mess on Hotel Street is a testament of mismanagement, not of overloading. TheBus is completely devoid of any tools of advanced fleet management. To give an analogy, many now use third generation cell phones, yet TheBus is run with Hawaii 5-0 style “Motorolas.”

InfraConsult: The operating costs of an all-bus system are 30%-50% higher than for a rail/bus system, which could result in an all-bus program requiring higher taxes for Honolulu residents. In addition, buses are typically replaced every 12-15 years, and rail vehicles every 30-40 years. The math is simple and straightforward.

EZWay: False. Rail alone is a largely useless mode given the densities along the route and the fact that very few people will walk more than a quarter mile to/from a station. Rail requires an extensive bus system. Only in very large cities of well over five million people does rail get sufficient midday and two directional use to make it worth some savings over bus. (But even in New York City buses carry more people than rail.) The proposed rail on Oahu is such a loser because it only offers some useful service for two hours per day per direction, so roughly it is only 10% efficient. Then account that almost half of the year the UH system is not is session and rail’s efficiency drops to 5%.

InfraConsult: Existing lanes for automobiles would need to be removed in and around Downtown to allow buses to operate in bus-only lanes, making traffic congestion in town considerably worse than with an exclusive rail alignment.

EZWay: False, because InfraConsult makes things up. The reason we opposed the Harris BRT was the lane-taking in town. The EZWay proposal has BRT on King and Beretania Streets and uses priority lanes only when parking is prohibited (during peak periods only.) This, along with signal priority provides a fast service to the UH-Manoa with no ill effects to the King and Beretania Street traffic. The EZWay avoids the disastrous Harris BRT plan to permanently take two lanes away from both Kapiolani and Ala Moana Boulevards. The EZWay plan includes no permanent lane taking.

InfraConsult: Regardless of “spin,” it’s clear to all serious-minded people that electric trains are more environmentally friendly than increases in auto and bus usage. Aside from costing commuters far less than driving, a modern rail transit system will aid in our long-range national goal of reducing dependency on foreign oil.

EZWay: The EZWay plan is an engineering blueprint and not a TV commercial made up with distorted statistics targeting the uneducated public and unaware environmentalists.

A significant fact that goes a long way in support of the EZWay is that the 2003 BRT study for Honolulu shows that despite using a lower population and much cheaper cost of gas, the total mass transit ridership with BRT is substantially higher that of the proposed rail and at one fifth the cost.

The EZWay is a substantial upgrade to the 2003 BRT system. The EZWay plan provides for a 15 mile exclusive bus lane which the Regional BRT did not have. So it will have at least 10% more transit riders than Rail at a much lower cost. Its FTA ranking will be far superior to Rail.

The 2003 BRT was part of the Oahu Regional Transportation Plan and EZWay can also become part of the ORTP once the required analysis is complete.

But then the likes of InfraConsult and the Honolulu Advertiser ask: Where is your bureaucratic paperwork, and where are your federal funding guarantees?

It is preposterous for engineering firms with over one hundred million dollar contracts (of our taxes) to require of those opposing rail and offering detailed alternatives to have similar analyses done and have their alternatives included in bureaucratic lists and rankings. It is also sad that in the current state of politics and journalism on Oahu, many politicians and many of the mainstream media instead of questioning the contracted consultants, they too demand detailed analysis and federal guarantees from opposing citizens and engineers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Power of Performance-Driven Criteria

Performance Driven Contracting
is one of several techniques and technologies in contracting and construction that enable faster and less costly infrastructure project development and completion.

The following post is an abbreviated version of an article written by Pete Rahn who is president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and executive director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (Missouri DOT). He serves on the executive committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB,) as well as its task force on accelerating innovation in the highway industry. He can be contacted at

Accountability is a critical component to earning public trust and gaining additional resources. One approach that is working well for some departments of transportation is incorporating stringent performance-driven specifications into design-build projects.
Bloger’s Note: Hawaii has laws that enable Design-Build (DB) projects and the design and construction of the H-3 Freeway was a DB project. DB is a basic form of public-private partnership (PPP.)

The innovative approach of Performance Driven Contracting (versus the traditional methods-and-means specifications) is driving down costs, speeding timetables and helping agencies to be more responsive to citizens.

The key to performance-based specifications is not to tell the proposing teams how to deliver the project. Rather than providing detailed plans and expecting design-build teams to submit design details with costs and completion dates, the Department sets the dollar amount and delivery deadline and asks the team to supply the scope within these parameters. So teams compete on how much project they can deliver. As a result, they are responding with proposals of innovative financing, innovative design and innovative program delivery.

Texas, Utah and Florida use this new dimension of design-build. Missouri DOT incorporated performance-driven specifications into three of its design-build projects:
  • Reconstruction of Interstate 64 in St. Louis
  • kcICON, a major interchange and bridge construction project in downtown Kansas City
  • Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program, which involves rebuilding 802 bridges throughout Missouri.
Under the best circumstances, the Missouri DOT estimated the high-profile I-64 reconstruction project would be a six- to eight-year endeavor, costing $750 million.

The performance criteria, however, stated that the 10-mile project would need to be completed in three and half years and within the department’s budget of $535 million. The results have exceeded expectations: The team delivered 95% of the department’s wish list items in less time than stipulated in the contract.

The reconstruction was predicted by some to have an extremely negative impact on the region because it required the interstate be closed for two years—five miles per year—while work was completed. Word of the shutdown provoked “doom and gloom” speculations from citizens and news media. But those speculations never materialized. Instead, the project has transformed Missouri DOT’s image in St. Louis. And, the department has public accolades to prove it.

The I-64 triumph is due not only to performance-driven criteria but also unprecedented collaboration. All design, construction, department and federal highway representatives work in the same building and are empowered to make decisions on the spot.

The use of performance-driven criteria will become more commonplace as agencies discover how flexible and valuable these specifications can be in helping them promise and deliver transportation projects.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How Little We Know about Mufi's Rail

Of course it is my strong recommendation that Honolulu registered voters vote NO in the city charter amendment asking for the establishment of a steel wheel on steel rails fully elevated heavy rail system.

Linda, a person who voted for me in the 2008 primary election (who I do not know in person) sent me a very interesting email listing a litany of important questions. My answer to most of her question is: I do not know.

Because all these important questions remain unaswered and because the rail's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was not provided with sufficient time for public review and comment prior to the election, the public Must Vote NO on the Rail question.

Linda's e-mail is reproduced below with her permission, in its entirety and with no changes. If you have answers to the majority of her questions please send them over.


What is the real reason that Hannemann is pushing for the rail by 2009 even though we do not have any guarantee on federal monies? It must be that the unions, etc. were promised to get him elected as mayor, then next as governor.

Also, even though we receive federal monies, won't we still as taxpayers have to dish out the balance, which no one seems to know what the actual amount will be. Is the real reason to develop the rail to bring in money and create jobs for the next 10-15 years? I'm all for job creation, but in the end, we'll all be paying more taxes and only those connected with the rail will be taking in any money. What is the true cost of adjusting bus routes, building car lots, providing security (hopefully), training or bringing in mainland staff?

Have issues such as safety and security and maintaining the rail been addressed? I am very, very concerned about that. It seems that even the Bus has difficulty with upkeep. The seats and floors are not cleaned, and torn. How long will it take to fix anything on the train since we obviously have to bring it in? Even traffic lights, etc. take months and months to be brought to Hawaii. My daughter stopped taking the city bus because of the lack of security and this is on a bus in which the bus driver can see and hear the riders. What happens on a train that will not have any security person on it? It seems like the perfect situation for muggings and even worse crimes. How about the car lots - any guarantee on security for our cars? Or will our cars be open game?

Who will actually work for the train system? How many regular workers, including maintenance and repair people and at what cost? Will it be run by union workers? What happens if there's a strike? What is the actual daily labor/running cost that will be involved?

What actual bus routes will connect to the train? How long is the actual time for the person to get to the bus station, ride the bus, then ride the train, then maybe have to walk or take another bus? I think people are just thinking about the train riding time, not all of the logistics just to get on the train and get to where they have to go. If they take their cars, again the safety issue and how many car lots?

I think demonstrating the actual noise decibel was a great idea. Just telling people it's so many decibels, people don't understand what that means in comparison to freeway noise, noise from an ambulance, etc. I would not want to be near constant steel-on-steel noise especially if you live in a residential area. I lived in Japan, so you can hear the train noise late at night (among all the other city noises). They have noise decibel machines to help people be aware of the noise pollution - do we want to have to do that here? I'm not sure if they have some kind of law about what the decibel limits are.

I would be more open to a system in Waikiki up to the airport area, University - probably not steel-on-steel, if all of the above questions were answered clearly!

As for a system from Kapolei - no. I think the city should keep its promise made to the Kapolei residents 20 or more years ago, before they bought their homes. Create the 2nd City - so they don't even have to come into town. They can have free time to spend with their families - quality of life! Isn't that what was promised - to build offices out that side so they wouldn't have to come into town. More time, less traffic, better for our environment, better quality of life. All the money they plan to spend on rail - spend it on building the 2nd City for the sake of all of us.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mufi Misrepresentation about BRT

In a Honolulu Advertiser-sponsored debate on October 15, 2008 at the Plaza Club, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann explicitly mentioned that FTA funds very few BRT projects... maybe four or five in the last several years.

Here is a 2005 FTA list. I count 22, so the lie factor is over 400%.

Specific BRT projects authorized or funded under SAFETEA-LU include:

  • Studies authorized for FY 2006 and FY 2007:
Lane County, Oregon Phase BRT Phase II corridor ($500,000);
Proven-Orem, Utah BRT ($500,000);
Sevier County, Tennessee BRT ($500,000)

  • Final design and construction under existing full funding grant agreements:
Cleveland Euclid Corridor Transportation Project ($24.8 million for FY 2005 and $24,774,513 for FY 2006)

  • Final design and construction authorized for FY 2005 through FY 2009:
Boston, Massachusetts Silver line BRT Phase III;
Kansas City, Missouri Southtown BRT

  • Preliminary engineering for FY 2005 through FY 2009:
Baton Rouge, Louisiana BRT;
Boston, Masssachusetts Urban Ring BRT;
Chicago, Illinois Cermack Road BRT;
Jacksonville, Florida East-Southwest BRT and North-Southeast BRT;
King County, Washington I-405 Corridor BRT;
Lakeville, Minnesota Cedar Avenue Corridor BRT;
Las Vegas, Nevada Boulder Highway MAX BRT;
New York City, New York BRT;
Provo-Orem, Utah BRT;
Oakland, California Telegraph Avenue/International Boulevard/East 14th Street BRT;
Salt Lake City, Utah West Valley City 3500 South BRT;
San Antonio, Texas BRT;
San Diego, California First BRT;
San Francisco, California Geary Boulevard BRT;
Tampa, Florida BRT Improvements;
Virginia Beach, Virginia BRT

6 Questions for the EZWay

A past governor of the State of Hawaii sent me a half dozen questions about the EZWay Transportation Solution that I developed in collaboration with mayoral candidate Ann Kobayashi and her advisors as well as a number of local and overseas advisors. My personal responses are listed below:

(1) How will you respond to the criticism that federal funding will not be available?

The project is fully eligible for both FTA and FHWA funds. A busway fully qualifies as a "fixed guideway" by FTA definition and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are on priority funding for both FTA and FHWA.

The Federal Transit Administration is a strong proponent of Bus Transit and BRT in most cases is a better substitute for light rail.

(2) Does the legislature have to amend the law empowering the city to impose the 1/2% increase in the general excise tax to fund EZ-Way?

The key here is the "rail vote" on the November 4 ballot.

If the rail vote comes in favor of rail, then both candidates will likely embark on some rail route.

If the "rail vote" comes against rail, then the EZWay plan is ready for deployment or EIS. The Act calls for the "fixed guideway" and exclusive elevated bus-only lanes is a fixed guideway.

(3) Compared to Mufi's rail transit construction costs how accurate are the estimated costs for EZ-Way?

The Plan's costs are accurate. In addition to estimates I have, today I received the spreadsheet analysis from a local heavy construction estimation expert. His estimation includes a 50 ft. wide deck, railings, all drainage and lighting. The estimate for 15 miles of EZWay 3-lane guideway is $818,634,000 in 2008 dollars.

The EZWay project is 1/2 the length of rail and we maintain 1/2 of their contingency funds to cover uncertainties. This is conservative because EZWay does not have the techical complexity of rail or the total unfamiliarity of the local workforce in putting together a rail line.

(4) How do the estimated operating and maintenance costs compare for the two systems?

Throughout the nation buses in cities with rail systems carry over twice the load of passengers and cost less than half the per pax-mile cost of rail. Of course in places like LA, the contribution of light rail to total transit trips is minimal. Oahu knows how to run buses and has no clue about rail. The development of a Transit Authority will be a new and large government entity with large permanent costs in salaries, benefits and facilities. None of this is necessary for the EZWay plan.

Rail may save a few "drivers" but adds large numbers of personnel for security, rail station attendants, rail ticket inspectors, parking attendants, guideway and station maintenance crews, and a crew for the complex maintenance and storage rail yard.

Today a transit bus and its driver are stuck for 45 minutes on H-1 inbound in the morning. With EZWay, the same bus will go from Waipahu to downtown in 15 minutes, thus the same bus can do basically two or more trips instead of one. The existing TheBus fleet would be adequate if we were to deploy the system today.

5) What is the estimated cost of the so-called mini-tunnel?

If no utilities are there and require relocation and if and no iwi is found, it can be built for $50M to $75M depending on its exact configuration. If issues arise, the cost can reach the $100M to $125M range, but the Alakea and Halekauwila underpasses (collectively referred to as the downtowen mini-tunnel) would still remain a cost-effective project.

6) What is the point from which construction will begin?

Unlike the train to nowhere that will start in Kapolei and in three years it might reach Aloha Stadium (that's over two billion dollars and three years of pure waste of time and money,) the EZWay plan will reduce congestion by over 10% within three years. Basically in three years the EZWay plan will provide more congestion relief on Oahu than rail will ever do regardless of its length (10, 20 or 34 miles.)

The EZWay Plan is deployed in two phases, as follows:

For immediate traffic relief the Plan deploys the Nimitz Flyover from the Keehi junction to Pier 16. This can be built in 10 months or less and this project has an approved 1996 EIS. At the same time Phase 1 deploys the King/Beretania line of the University BRT.

The downtown underpasses need to get environmental assessment and preliminary engineering, so these two along with a few more potential underpasses are part of Phase 1. These are small localized projects costing between $15M and $50M each, so study, design and approvals can be obtained in 15 to 18 months.

Phase 2 is the "main course" which includes:
  • Elevated reversible EZWay from the H-1/H-2 merge to Keehi interchange
  • H-1 freeway shoulder improvements from Kapolei to the H-1/H-2 merge
  • Selected "queue jumpers" to get express buses over long lines of traffic at congested traffic lights.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Honolulu Pavements ala Mufi

Hannemann just dropped his latest propaganda piece. In it he claims that while in office he:

- Filled more than 244,323 potholes
- Resurfaced 566 lane miles
- Spent $124 million on road rehabilitation

My take on these "accomplishments" is as follows:

(1) That's nearly a quarter million ways of patching pavements the wrong way and at a huge labor and material cost. And with a poor visual, safety and ride-quality result.

(2) This includes fixes on 2, 4 and 6 lanes roads. Using a 4-lane road as an average and three years in the office, yields a tiny resurfacing record of 47 road miles per year. The city will never catch up with its $1.8 billion pavement repair backlog. Worse yet, most of the lane miles claimed are likely to be long patches and superficial half inch jobs which begin to deteriorate immediately and last but a few years. (A properly rehabilitated or resurfaced road will last a minimum of 10 and up to 25 years.)

(3) Only in the 2009 budget Hannemann allocated $77 million on rehabilitation and that's too low. Having spent $124 M in three years shows that he does not have a clue when it comes to priorities. And given his traditional thuthiness with the facts, this item may also include the cost of doing the potholes and resurfacing!

Friday, October 10, 2008

How Would Elevated Rail Look in Honolulu?

I visited Miami which has a similar open air system, similar weather and similar type of fully elevated rail. Parenthetically I should mention that Miami with which we share several geographic, weather and cultural similarities has the county's worse level of ridership for its massive and expensive fully elevated rail.

Miami's stations are longer but lower than the ones proposed for Honolulu. Take a look at this YouTube pictorial tour:

Imagine this structure along Farrington Hwy. and in the middle of Kamehameha Highway. But that's the good news. Try to fit it in your mind along Salt Lake Blvd., Dillingham Blvd., Ala Moana Blvd. and Queen St. and Kona St.

Miami had the room to put this thing on the side of a very wide artery which today is seven lanes wide. Honolulu does not have this luxury. Many properties and will be lost permanently to add this urban blight directly overhead along vital arteries with its pylons permanently closing traffic lanes.

We are all concerned that tourism is down now. Let's see what the impact to tourism will be when 30+ miles of permanent blight of this type is installed on Oahu.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Repeating a Lie does not Make it the Truth

The Honorable Ann Kobayashi
Chair Committee on Executive Matters
Honolulu City Council
530 South King Street, Room 202
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Dear Councilmember Kobayashi:

Attached for your information are two lists of documented misinformation. The first list compiles misinformation from several websites such as and The second list compiles misinformation from a Stop Rail Now ad that ran in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, September 14, 2008. Together there are 33 items that serve as a sample of the many misinformation items that are being spread by anti-rail organizations.

We hope this information will be useful to you.

Wayne Y. Yoshioka


My responses to Yioshioka's supposed misinformation that is attributable to my blog ( are listed below.


"Rail simply takes current conditions and makes them twice as bad in 2030."

The fixed guideway reduces future traffic congestion by 11 percent, according to the Alternatives Analysis. The statement in the blog is misleading. As Oahu grows in population and employment, traffic congestion will worsen. Fixed guideway transit does the best job of managing this congestion. Without it, traffic congestion would be worse.

Prevedouros response: Traffic congestion by rail could be reduced by 6% using 2006 traffic levels. In other words, if we suddenly had rail in 2006, it would reduce total travel times between the H1/H2 merge and Waikiki by a smallish 6%. Rail provides no relief if there is any more development in the Ewa plains. This is clearly shown in the Hoopili Permit Application for 12,000 new homes between Waipahu and Ewa Beach. Year 2030 traffic conditions with or without rail will be at level F. the worst possible. Rail is billions of tax dollars wasted for tiny current conditions relief, and no long term relief.


" ... the Hannemann administration has chosen to pursue, from the beginning, an elevated heavy rail system, which every analysis has shown to do little or nothing to reduce traffic congestion."

We have objectively pursued the best mass transit option to relieve future traffic congestion. The Alternatives Analysis examined the impact of four options on future traffic conditions - No Build, Transportation System Management Alternative (expanding bus service), Managed Lanes and a fixed guideway.

Prevedouros response: In November 2004, the search committee that was evaluating applicants for director of the City DTS for the new Hannemann administration had an explicit qualifying question: “Will you favor and support rail?” Rail did not exist as a recommendation in any DTS, Hawaii DOT or Oahu MPO documents. A politician made rail a priority. It’s that simple.


"Rail's immense construction costs and operating losses will preclude the use of funding for other transportation solutions."

The City, along with the State of Hawaii, is a partner in the Oahu Regional Transportation Plan 2030, which commits $3 billion to future transportation solutions, independent of the fixed guideway.

Prevedouros response: As soon as rail was proposed the Nimitz Flyover project which had a completed and signed EIS was mothballed. It is a project capable of providing substantial congestion relief, particularly if it is couples with a couple of underpasses in downtown.

Nothing of substance to relieve traffic ever gets done while a multibillion dollar boondoggle is on the horizon. The said $3B is expenditures over decades and do not provide any sizable capacity addition or congestion relief.


"A conservative estimate is that the proposed rail will require ... a 40% increase in property taxes in order to be built .... "

This is a scare tactic. The subsidy for rail could be funded without any increase in taxes, property or otherwise.

Prevedouros response: The 40% increase in property taxes is too low. In case Yioshioka has been asleep for the last four months, the national and local economies are in serious trouble. There simply is no money to complete projects in construction, let alone start new ones. This is particularly true for rail projects because FTA funding is tiny.

FTA does not have any
approved monies for the Honolulu project beyond current studies and paperwork. It cannot legally do that before a completed EIS. As of October 7, 2008, there is not even a draft EIS available.

The soonest that any FTA support may materialize is 2011. And all of it will be used to buy rails, rail yards, trains, maintenance equipement, electromechanical systems for 20 stations, and more than 20 emergency generators. All procured in the mainland and foreign countries. Not a penny of federal dollars will ever reach Hawaii shores. On the contrary, Hawaii taxes will be sent overseas.


"The city, therefore, after taking out the 10%, is receiving approximately $140 million annually, for a total of $2.1 billion over the life of the increase. That is just over a third of the cost of the $6.4 billion rail project without the federal money, and just under two-thirds of the cost if Honolulu receives all of the funds it would be asking for."

This is incorrect. The revenue projections in the Alternatives Analysis call for approximately $2.6 billion in GET revenues in 2006 funds. These projections [are] conservative and lower than those used by the state Council on Revenues and based on 15-year trends.

Prevedouros response: The city administration is in its own railigious world. It has simply lost sight of the fiscal reality of the country, the recession in Hawaii, and the federal government's funding ability.


"The City has never said how much it will cost to operate and maintain the rail."

Estimated annual operating and maintenances costs for a 20-mile fixed guideway are $60 million in 2006 dollars. This has been mentioned in Council meetings and in community meetings.

Prevedouros response: Really? Which route, which vendor and at what price of fuel to produce electricity? How much was gas in summer 2006?

On the one hand City says that motorists cannot afford high gas prices, on the other hand they keep their maintenance costs at mid-2006 figures. My estimate is that the rail's annual maintenance cost including transit authority, stations, rail yard and all person-hours related to the rail will be well north of $150 million in today's values.


"HOT lanes pay for themselves with toll revenues and federal funds."

Toll revenues would fund only about 20 to 25 percent of the cost of HOT lanes. No other funding sources have been identified.

Prevedouros response: Why not seek funding from the FHWA, the Federal Highway Administration? Its funding pot has been many times larger than the one of the Federal Transit Administration.

FHWA paid for 80% of the design and construction cost of the H1, H-2, H-3 freeways and for the Kalanianaole widening. But of course you have to apply…

In July 2008 U.S. DOT sectetary Peters provided 15 billion dollars of funding for Private Activity Bonds exclusively for the development of HOT lanes. In contrast, the annual FTA funding for New Starts (where Honolulu will be applying for funding) is under $2 billion.

HOT lanes is the nation's number one solution for solving traffic congestion. Washington D.C. is adding 14 miles of 2-lane, 2-way HOT lanes along the Capital Beltway.


"The bottom line is that 10 to 12 miles of a high occupancy highway (HOT lanes with express buses) has incomparably lower operational costs than a rail system with 20 to 30 stations."

Estimated operating and maintenance costs are about the same for Managed Lanes, and the accompanying sizable expansion of TheBus fleet, and the fixed guideway with a far smaller fleet expansion. Because of reduced traffic congestion with rail transit, not as many buses will be required.

Prevedouros response: No way! FHWA and APTA sources show that the total cost for a 10 mile trip is 40 cents on a highway and 400 cents on a mass transit system. With HOT lanes, TheBus can maintain the same fleet and provide a much better service. This is because, express buses will not be doing 15 mph on the congested H-1 freeway but 60 mph on the HOT lanes, so the same bus can do two trips in one hour.
No additional buses are needed.


"The Hannemann rail is being designed so that its maximum capacity is fixed from day 1 to decades in the future."

The fixed guideway is scalable - more transit vehicles can be added if ridership increases.

Prevedouros response: The proposed rail is minimally scalable. It will start with a capacity of 6,000 and it will top out at 9,000 which pales in comparison to the 25,000 people per hour that the H-1 fwy. carries today in the peak direction, in one hour. All of those 25,000 people are comfortably seated, but over 4,000 of the (theoretical) 6,000 rail passengers will be standees.


"Rail has the capacity of about one HOT lane."

Rail can transport approximately 6,000 residents per hour; Managed Lanes-HOT lanes can transport approximately 2,200 residents per hour, according to the Alternatives Analysis. P

revedouros response: The AA was a joke in nearly all respects. It added two HOT lanes and it removed the zipper lane for a net benefit of a single 10-mile express lane.

Three HOT lanes will minimally carry 12,000 people, but most likely they can carry well over 15,000 with a large number of buses and vanpools. HOT lanes are the nation’s number one priority in decongesting urban areas. DTS has not gotten that memo yet.


"Like The Boat, rail will not provide time competitive service."

For commuters from the West side and Central Oahu, future travel times with a rail system will be less than today. Examples include those traveling from Waianae, Kapolei, Ewa, Waipahu or Mililani to downtown. (Alternatives Analysis, table 3-6). For TheBoat, travel time at peak hour is approximately one hour from Kalalaeloa to Aloha Tower, which is competitive with a rush hour commute by private vehicle.

Prevedouros response: Door-to-door service by TheBoat is over 50% longer than by car and this will be also true for rail. One needs to remember that for 20 out of 24 hours in a day, rail will be slower than car for ALL trips. Rail may have a small advantage for a small portion of the population with long commutes during two to three hours on weekdays, but that’s about all that its good for. Too little for the price tag and that’s another reason why it should be a rejected.


"Bottom line: the EIS must include regional bus rapid transit (bus only based alternative with many express buses) and a mixed use transitway (Managed lanes/HOT lanes alternative with many express buses) in its detailed environmental assessment."

The EIS will encompass proposed routes for the fixed guideway system, and their impacts on social, environmental, archeological and cultural factors, among many. Earlier in this process, during the Alternatives Analysis and scoping phase, a number of possible long-term traffic solutions were explored at length. These include: managed lanes, expanded bus service, ferry service, a tunnel connecting Pearl Harbor with Honolulu, a monorail, and a fixed guideway.

Prevedouros response: Bottom line, the City asked PB to do a steel-on-steel only EIS and therefore it will have its hands full with lawsuits and violations from the Council on Environmental Quality.


"The rail project is totally out of line for the size of our community."

Honolulu is fifth densest among cities with populations of 500,000 or more. We are the only one without a rail system.

Prevedouros response: This is not attributable to by blog, but I would like to take a stab at it. Density is one indicator, but if you don't have the population to pay for it then you should not build it. It is like saying that large people drive very expensive cars. Not true! Rich large people drive very expensive large cars. Honolulu is neither large, not rich. Keep the rails off Oahu.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Replace TheBoat by TheFerry

During my mayoral run I visited the Barbers Point dock of TheBoat but since the service is so slow, I did not have the time to leave my car there in order to personally test it and time it. However, both the Star Bulletin and Grassroot Institute have done so and the latter also analyzed TheBoat's costs.

During the mayoral debate I confronted the incumbent mayor with TheBoat as a fine sample of irresponsible public administration. His answer was a spin that alternatives are needed. In his book, alternatives that cost five times more than TheBus or TheCar and take twice as long for door-to-door service are worthy of a $40 to $60 subsidy per trip. Indeed it is sad that people with disregard for responsibility and accountability are elected.

If you wish to read a recent short but comprehensive appraisal of TheBoat go here:

The effect of the TheBoat is to remove up to two buses per hour from the H-1 freeway which carries over 11,000 vehicles per hour in the peaks. And for that we pay $5 million per year!

But on a positive note, a Kailua couple has posted elsewhere, that TheBoat is the world's best ocean cruise: Only two bucks for an one hour long ocean cruise with decent food aboard, tons of empty seats to choose from and free wi-fi. Those who take it are hopefully grateful to the rest of us for subsidizing over 95% of the cost of their ocean cruise.

If one wishes to use the ocean as a cost-effective medium to reduce traffic congestion, then I point you to our University of Hawaii Congestion Study:

The Pearl Harbor Car Ferry system is defined as a service with two or three large barges with four outboard engines and a crew of three people that transport cars and buses with their passengers staying inside them across the mouth of Pearl Harbor. The trip would take about 5 to 6 minutes but the short-cut in trip length is major. This system is tailored to Kapolei, Ewa and Ewa Beach areas and is designed with a 500 vehicle per hour capacity.

If such a ferry service is provided for $2 per car per trip, then the travel time from Ewa to downtown can be reduced from 65 minutes to about 37 minutes, or by 44%.

The ferry option provides a substantial relief for 500 vehicles per hour or nearly 1,000 people per hour. It is therefore highly advisable that the ineffective, unreliable and expensive TheBoat is replaced by TheFerry which can be operated daily between 5:30 to 8:30 AM, and 3:30 to 6:30 PM by a private licensed water taxi or similar contractor.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Federal support for rail is tiny -- Rail study cost for Oahu rail is exorbitant

Mufi Hannemman recently “lauded” the federal government’s “support for rail” because of a release of a little less than 30 million dollars in federal matching funds to support 15 rail projects, mostly in the form of rail-related studies and small system upgrades.

Of course 30 million dollars is only enough to build a couple mid-rise dormitories at the UH. But what is most startling here is the cost of studies (paperwork) for Environmental Impact Studies elsewhere. Just a few million dollars as one can see in the list of projects below from the Associated Press, dated September 30, 2008.

In contrast Honolulu spent 10 million dollars for the Alternatives Analysis alone in 2006!

Is it not ridiculous that Honolulu will be expending at least 107 million dollars for rail studies, propaganda and paperwork? (This is for the Mufi rail proposal only, not for all past failed attempts to install 19th century technology on Oahu.) Note that over two thirds of of $107 million comes from collections from the general excise tax.


Passenger rail projects receiving federal matching grants:

ARIZONA: Environmental impact study for rail service between Phoenix and Tucson, $1 million.

CALIFORNIA: Convert 4.5 miles of side track to a second main line on the San Joaquin Corridor, $5 million.

ILLINOIS: Install centralized traffic control and cab signals from Joliet to Mazonia, $1.55 million. Also, install cab signal technology from Mazonia to Ridgeley, $1.85 million.

NEW YORK: Albany Station track and signal improvements, $1.25 million.

OHIO: Feasibility study for startup service of two round trips per day between Cleveland and Columbus, and possibly to Cincinnati, $62,500.

VERMONT: Replace one mile of rail and redeck four bridges on route of state-supported Vermonter, $450,000. Also, rebuild two miles of track on route of state-supported Ethan Allen Express, $581,775.

MAINE: Portland area track improvements, $500,000.

MINNESOTA: Environmental impact study for new service from Minneapolis to Duluth, $1.1 million.

MISSOURI: Construction of one 9,000-foot passing track near California, Mo., and engineering for a second in Knob Noster to be used by the state-supported Mules and Anne Rutledge services, $3.3 million.

VIRGINIA: Construction of third track for passing in Spotsylvania County, $2 million.

WASHINGTON: Engineering, environmental review and right of way acquisition for 1.2-mile segment of Point Defiance Bypass project from Tacoma to Nisqually, $6 million.

WISCONSIN: Install 17.85 miles of continuously welded rail between Milwaukee and the Illinois-Wisconsin state line, replacing the last section of remaining jointed rail on the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, $5 million. Also, planning for the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, $297,000.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.