Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The EZWay Transportation Plan for Oahu

The basic goals of this plan are to provide (a) substantial congestion relief largely caused at the H-1/H-2 and H-1/Moanalua freeway merges by adding critical high occupancy capacity, and (b) express bus mass transit primarily in the west Oahu to downtown corridor. In addition, the plan addresses other major congestion spots in Honolulu and provides express transit connections to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The basic ingredients of the plan are:
  • the EZWay which consists of three elevated reversible zipper lanes from the H-1/H-2 merge to Iwilei,
  • express buses having exclusive use of freeway shoulders in order to travel at near free flow speeds from/to the EZWay,
  • a downtown underpass for efficient in-town traffic distribution, and
  • a priority BRT from downtown to the UH and a new transit center for west Oahu bus passenger distribution in downtown, Kakaako, Ala Moana and Waikiki.
The elements of the EZWay transportation plan are briefly described below.

(1) Kapolei and Ewa Beach Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) connectors to Waipahu: Hybrid or fuel cell buses will be allowed to use shoulders on on-ramps and a number of elevated passages or priority lanes at intersections (queue jumpers) which allow them to get by chronically congested spots. Includes a Waipahu (Farrington Hwy.) on-ramp to/from the EZWay.

(2) Express buses from Waianae and Makakilo may use upgraded H-1 freeway shoulders to get to the EZWay quicker. The same priority treatment applies to express buses from Mililani and Waihiawa.

(3) The EZWay structure is a fully managed expressway facility that can be described as three reversible elevated zipper lanes starting at the H-1/H-2 merge and terminating at Pier 16 with off-ramps at Aloha Stadium/Pearl Harbor, Lagoon Drive and Waiakamilo Street. The right lane is an exclusive bus lane throughout the length of the facility. At Iwilei, one elevated lane goes to Hotel St. to connect with King/Beretania BRT (University spur BRT).

EZWay will open with a minimum occupancy requirement of three people per vehicle. This requirement may be increased in the future to avoid congestion. No tolls will be collected. Automated steep fines applied to low occupancy violators. No trucks allowed at any time. Open to all emergency vehicles at all times. Open to green vehicles with greater than 35 mpg EPA highway fuel consumption. This threshold is also subject to change in order to maintain at least 50 mph speeds in peak periods.

(4) Ala Moana Blvd. Downtown Underpass (mini-tunnel) starting east of River Street and ending both at Alakea Street and Halekauwila Street. Same tunnel reverses in the PM period from Halekauwila Street and Bishop Street to Nimitz Hwy. contraflow lane onto the elevated zipper lanes. The underpass may continue to large new parking lot(s) east of Punchbowl Street. As a result, a large portion of vehicular traffic may actually "disappear" from downtown by going from the EZWay, through the mini-tunnel directly into a parking structure.

(5) New Ward Centers bus terminal on Auahi Street. Express buses that arrive from the EZWay stop at this terminal and either return to origin, or continue as regular bus to Ala Moana Center. Contracted tour buses may be deployed at this terminal for direct worker distribution to Waikiki hotels.

(6) University BRT runs on priority lanes and with priority signaling along King Street and Beretania Street.

(7) Other elements include traffic signal optimization, other underpasses, several freeway bottleneck fixes, upgrades to TheBus and TheHandiVan scheduling and routing with advanced technologies, contracted express bus and special passenger service, deployment and incentives for 4x10 work hours, and encouragement to UH-Manoa to change start time for students, faculty and administration staff to 9 AM.

Features and Advantages
  • Elevated zipper lanes with no tolls -- Bus lane running at 50+ mph: Waipahu to downtown in 12 minutes -- Express point-to-point buses every 5 to 10 minutes
  • Same or better travel time than rail – Much fewer transfers. No transfers for major origins and destinations, e.g., Waipahu-Pearl Harbor and Airport, Waipahu-Kalihi, Waipahu-Downtown, Waipahu-Waikiki
  • Congestion relief on H-1 freeway (remove high occupancy and green vehicles) -- Congestion relief downtown
  • The plan works with buses which are adaptable to non-fossil fuel propulsion technology such as fuel cells and electric drives
  • Twice the service reach (length) compared with the 20 mile rail at about one half the cost
  • Reliable travel times between Ewa and Kapolei in Leeward, and Kakakao and UH in town
  • Flexible, expandable, adaptable with familiar technology; no specialized labor to install or maintain vehicles or structures of the plan
  • FTA New Starts fundable exclusive bus lanes and BRT
  • Nimitz Hwy. flyover has approved EIS.
  • Key parts of the plan can begin construction or operation in late 2009
  • Removes all buses and vanpools from zipper lane and allows HDOT to convert it to a HOT lane