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 fixoahu.blogspot.com and stoprailnow.com. 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 (fixoahu.blogspot.com) 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.