Friday, July 25, 2008

City Transportation Priorities: Phoenix versus Honolulu

The American Association of State and Highway Officials reports this week that Arizona finished the freeway network in Phoenix area that was authorized by voters 23 years ago.

The Arizona Department of Transportation completed a 137-mile regional freeway network in July 2008. The $195 million project to finish the final 4.8-mile stretch of Loop 202 opened three months ahead of schedule. Its completion marks the end of a Phoenix regional freeway enhancement plan, known as Proposition 300, that Maricopa County voters approved in 1985. The proposition authorized a half-cent sales tax dedicated to freeway construction.

“The project represents the culmination of a 20-year partnership between the public, the Arizona Department of Transportation, local cities and tribal governments, and the Maricopa Association of Governments,” ADOT Director Victor Mendez said in a news release announcing Loop 202’s completion Sunday. “It is the final segment of Arizona’s largest-ever public-works project. On a national scale, our progress is unprecedented.”

ADOT is now working on a subsequent transportation plan known as Proposition 400. The blueprint, endorsed by voters in 2004, includes additional freeway, street, and transit construction. As can be seen in the Proposition 400 report the transportation revenue is allocated as follows: 56.2% on freeways, 10.5% on arterial streets and 33.3% on the public transportation fund which includes regional bus services, special transportation services (like Hawaii’s HnadiVan), and high capacity transit services such as light rail, bus rapid transit and express buses.

It is depressing to realize that if the proposed rail goes ahead on Oahu, about 70% of the entire transportation budget on Oahu will go to fund public transportation that will serve about 10% of the trips. This is why both rail and the current mayor must be stopped.

The same progressive city, Phoenix, in which people are flocking in (as opposed to oppressed and overtaxed Honolulu which is actually losing population) did a careful cost analysis of rail, HOT lanes and other major transportation infrastructure. The cost per passenger mile was reported as follows:

HOT lane = 1.2 to 2.7 ¢
General purpose lane = 1.9 to 4.2 ¢
HOV and bus lane = 2.6 to 5.7 ¢
Exclusive bus lane = 6.6 to 14.7 ¢
Light rail line = 16.1 to 35.8 ¢

Notably, for Phoenix, HOT lanes are roughly ten times cheaper per passenger mile than light rail. Furthermore, comparing these costs to the over 1,000 cents per passenger mile of Honolulu’s fully elevated heavy rail proposal, makes it clear that a $6 billion rail project is entirely inappropriate for Honolulu