Tuesday, August 12, 2008

City Propaganda on Rail -- Hanneman's Fake Facts 7 to 10 out of 10

Myth 7: Operating costs for rail are lower than for managed lanes.

Fact: Even if trains are automated, rail requires many more people than managed or HOT lanes behind the scenes: security, transit police, inspectors, custodial staff, and a huge array of maintenance workers for rail cars, propulsion and brake systems, escalators, elevators, systems computers, ticket machines, lighting systems and the rail yard.

The maintenance of the managed lanes roadbed is minuscule compared to the wear and tear of the thousands of mechanical and electronic components of the rail. All rail technology is foreign to Hawaii and expensive specialized labor will be necessary.

Managed lanes will not require more drivers of new express bus routes because the same express buses will be able to offer two instead of one trip per hour given that in the congested direction, the bus will be traveling at 55 instead of 25 miles per hour.

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.

Myth 8: There is no more space for buses on the road.

Fact: Only a few streets, such as Hotel Street and Kapiolani Boulevard have conditions that may come close to being the “river of buses” for a few minutes like Hanneman's pro-rail ads claim to be warning against. These ads actually are proof of mismanagement rather than a built-in problem with bus operations in general. For even more evidence against this myth, please see this short video.

The vast majority of streets only see a single bus every five or so minutes during the peak times, and in cases were the current number of buses are insufficient to handle the peak load, the number of buses on a route can be increased or the standard buses could be replaced by articulated buses.

My proposed HOT lanes alternative to rail would also strongly support increased bus ridership, as express buses would be able to travel from the H-1/H-2 merge to downtown Honolulu at free-flow (55mph) speeds, as well as serving the door-to-door needs that only buses are capable of. For example, there will be direct express buses from Makakilo, Kapolei, Ewa, Waipahu, Waikele and Mililani to downtown, Ala Moana, Waikiki and the UH every 10 to 20 minutes depending on the level of demand.

This makes another advantage of buses obvious: Buses can be added or reduced depending on how demand (passenger loads) change over time. Buses can do that. In 1990 Kapolei to town demand was zero, now it is X, in 2020 may be 3X. We can simply add three times as many buses, but rail is fixed and not scalable. There will be no third track for express or additional trains. In the way the Hanneman rail is being designed, its maximum capacity is fixed from day 1 to decades into the future.

Myth 9: HOT lanes would only create more traffic by putting more cars on the road.

Fact: Unless there are people who go driving for fun during rush hour, all the HOT lanes will do is take the same people to their same destination, where they would park in the same parking stall, but in a fraction of the time that it takes for the same trip now. In order for there to be more cars on the road, there would need to be more jobs created in downtown Honolulu and more people commuting to those jobs. There is no plan to add jobs to downtown Honolulu.

Myth 10: There is no more space to park in downtown Honolulu.

Fact: First, as seen in the response to Myth 9, the high occupancy highway does not require additional parking downtown unless the number of jobs there also increases. However, there are lots both in and around downtown right now that have hundreds of empty stalls. Some of these lots could even be developed into larger parking structures to provide more parking and mixed use development, if needed.

Furthermore, a couple of these lots may be developed underground and a mini-tunnel can connect them to the end of the HOT lanes, so several hundred vehicles will go to park there directly and in fact "disappear" from the surface streets of Honolulu.

The picture below shows large parking lots east of Punchbowl Street. As of this writing in August 2008, one of the parking lots shown is used by a Honda dealer to store several hundred cars.

City Propaganda on Rail -- Hanneman's Fake Facts 4 to 6 out of 10

Myth 4: Rail is green.

Unlike cars or buses which become more efficient and green every year, a rail system would use the same increasingly inefficient technology (oil or coal to electricity) for the next 30 years. Cars like the 2009 Toyota Prius are beginning to move even further ahead, with solar panels being installed to recharge the car’s battery when not in use. Honda is offering a fuel cell vehicle in California; its emissions are water vapors. Cars are environmentally neutral as soon as they are turned off, unlike a rail system which runs nonstop for 20 hours a day, regardless of the number of people riding it. Typical passenger loads for metro rail outside two to four peak hours per day are very light. But the escalators, lights, ticket machines, etc. are all on, and station attendants and security are on-duty making it a very low productivity, low efficiency and high energy impact system.

Another startling observation is that in midday one can look at a stretch of a five billion dollar guideway. A train with 20 to 30 people passes by and then nothing happens for about 10 minutes. Now compare this to the hassle and bustle of a 6-lane freeway which in 10 minutes moves over 6,000 cars, over 10,000 people, several hundred tons of freight, and perhaps a couple of emergency vehicles. One can visualize the utter uselessness of a metro rail line as a transportation investment and the huge environmental impact of building it in the first place.

New York City's rail system carries about two thirds of all urban rail trips done in a typical work day in the entire United States. Based on national statistics, if New York City is excluded, for all other cities with rail combined, rail is far less green that today’s relatively inefficient vehicle fleet.

Myth 5: Rail can move the equivalent of 6 lanes of freeway traffic

Fact: According to city’s website honolulutransit.com [Note: Between the time this post was drafted and the time it was posted, the city changed the information presented on honolulutransit.com. The text of what was there originally can be found at http://www.gorailgo.org/benefits-of-mass-transit.html], each train can carry 300 people, and during the peak times, there is expected to be one train every 3 minutes, for a total of 6,000 people per hour on the peak direction. It is important to note that 4,000 of these 6,000 passengers will be standees.

Managed freeway lanes, such as HOT lanes, are designed to carry 2000 vehicles per hour per lane at free flow speeds, and since they carry express busses and high occupancy vehicles, the average occupancy would be well over 3 people per vehicle, for a total of 6,000 people per hour per lane. (All of them seated.)

So rail has the capacity of about one HOT lane. If Honolulu builds three reversible managed lanes (as can be seen here: http://www.eng.hawaii.edu/~panos/UHCS_ES5.pdf) the capacity advantage of the managed lanes is obvious.

Recall that in the 2006 Alternatives Analysis the city's consultant built a 2-lane managed lanes system and simultaneously removed the morning zipper lane for a net gain of one lane. This one 10 mile HOT lane performed only a little worse than 20 miles of rail line.

Myth 6: Rail is more convenient than driving or catching the bus.

Fact: For most prospective rail passengers, this is not the case. Under Hanneman’s plan, once the rail system is implemented, express bus routes will disappear, and existing bus routes will be reconfigured into feeder systems, where buses will pick people up from the neighborhoods, drop them off at the rail station, where they would then take a train to their destination station, then catch another bus to their final destination. That's two transfers per direction.

Transfers and the inconvenience of exiting and re-entering vehicles, waiting for them, going up and down escalators and through turn styles etc., and then repeating this for the trip home are an impractical routine at this day and age; a routine that was tried and progressively rejected through the times. This routine is practical only for 19th century breadwinners that only made a routine home-work-home trip. For this reason, the 2000 Census shows that only 2.09% of all urban trips in the U.S. are made in rail systems.

The Federal Transit Administration is strongly in favor of Bus Rapid Transit systems, particularly for cities under two million in population. The most recent publication cited below makes a strong case for BRT and the concept presented ties beautifully with my idea of an integrated HOT + BRT system presented in the UH Congestion Study linked above.

Advanced Network Planning for Bus Rapid Transit: The “Quickway” Model as a Modal Alternative to “Light Rail Lite”, Federal Transit Administration, February 2008,