Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is Modern Oahu Like Ancient Greece?

As appeared in the Honolulu Star Bulletin and the Hawaii Reporter

Full of tyrants and myths? At least when it comes to rail, yes!

Only a tyrant would tax people for a rail project years before the proposal has been found to be environmentally acceptable and federally funded.

Only a tyrant would award contracts unlawfully for a project that has neither state nor federal environmental and other approvals.

Only a tyrant would manipulate the process in order to ignore superior and lower cost alternatives such as bus rapid transit and true light rail.

It is a myth that heavy rail is useful, green, can be built with current taxes or will ease congestion.

Fact is that this train will be least useful to families with kids, schoolchildren, the elderly, and the handicapped. It will serve less than 3% of the trips conducted daily on Oahu.

If New York City's rail network is excluded, because it alone carries 60% of all rail passengers in the nation, then the remainder of the U.S. rail systems are worse green house gas generators than cars. Much worse than hybrid cars.

There are fewer than five miles of elevated freeways in urban Oahu. The rail will be a 36 mile continuously elevated superstructure. And it will destroy what’s left of prime agricultural land.

Zeus would be proud of Oahu's tyrants and their myths. Fact is that Zeus never existed. This train should not exist either.

Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD
Professor of Civil Engineering

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TOD Do not Benefit Congestion and Commuting

Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) are advocated as an integrated mass transit and housing solution that lessens the dependency on private vehicles, thus they may also reduce congestion, fuel consumption and pollution.

TODs are a major reason why Oahu's large developers and bankers are behind the heavy rail proposal. It presents a massive opportunity to build and finance real estate.

Unfortunately TOD's practical goals for car dependency reduction fail to materialize. Here is a prime example from Portland, the "poster child" of Light Rail advocacy and TODs.

I quote the abstract of research reported by Bruce Podobnik of the Department of Sociology at the Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon dated July 15, 2009. No further comment is necessary in regard to the traffic congestion potential of TODs:

"This study examines the extent to which specific social and environmental objectives have been achieved in the new urbanist community of Orenco Station (Portland, Oregon). House-level surveys were conducted in Orenco Station, as well as a traditional suburb and two long established urban neighborhoods. Survey data reveal high levels of social interaction in the new urbanist community, as compared to the comparison neighborhoods.

"The analysis also reveals a higher level of walking, and an increase in the occasional use of mass transit, in the new urbanist community. However, the majority of residents in all four neighborhoods (including the new urbanist neighborhood) rely on single occupancy vehicles for their regular commute.

"In sum, this study shows that Orenco Station is very effective in achieving its social objectives, modestly effective in encouraging walking and the occasional use of mass transit–but not very effective in increasing primary reliance on mass transit for commuting."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oahu Needs Change (We Can Believe In), or Congestion is Here to Stay

There is no better proof that traffic congestion will worsen in the future than the regional transportation plan being prepared for OMPO. OMPO is the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization. It's a federally mandated agency that coordinates city and state transportation improvements on Oahu.

OMPO is governed by its decision making Policy Committee consisted by directors of transportation and elected officials. It is a true oddity that elected officials from other counties sit on Oahu's Metropolitan Planning Organization. (Why can't they sit in California MPOs and stop toll roads there instead?) That's a subject for a separate investigation.

OMPO is preparing the 2035 Plan for Oahu. Read their Vision, Goal and Objective excerpted below. For Oahu's people, the number one transportation issue is traffic congestion. It is completely absent from the stated vision, goals and objectives. The conclusion is inescapable: Congestion on Oahu exists and gets increasingly worse due to deliberate planning and decision making. Of course such an overt bias of metropolitan planning should come as no surprise to those informed about the "rail transit" and "smart growth" agendas for political gain and profiteering from developments of the rail project.

To be completed by early 2011 by PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF [A major city consultant for the rail]

In 2035, Oahu will be a place where we will have efficient, well-maintained, safe, secure, convenient, appropriate, and economical choices in getting from place to place. Our transportation system will move us and the goods we use in a manner that supports the island's high quality of life, natural beauty, economic vitality, and land use policies by supporting appropriate density development and avoiding urban sprawl. This system will promote energy conservation and economic sustainability as well as the protection of our ports of entry, preparation for emergency situations and changes in global climate patterns.

Provide an inclusive, multi-modal transport system whose connectedness provides efficient means for users desiring to move about this island by bicycle, freight carrier, pedestrian facility, road, transit service, and intermodal connectors.

1. Develop, operate, and maintain alternative transportation facilities, including bikeways, walkways, and other accessible pedestrian, bicycle, and environmentally-friendly elements

2. Enhance the integration and connectivity of the regional transportation system.

3. Provide efficient, convenient, and cost-effective transit service to Oahu’s citizens.

4. Promote the intermodal efficiency of harbor terminal facilities, airport terminal facilities, and land transportation systems.

5. Provide rehabilitation, renewal, and modernization of facilities in sufficient magnitude to ensure system preservation and continued, effective operation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The warmest year recorded globally was ... 1998!

Although I am mindful of the climate change issue I have not purchased any stock in the Global Warming company which is a mother lode of "environmentalist" scare tactics and problematic scientific scenarios of future earth disasters.


"This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might the fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?"

Read on here:

I suggest that you draw no conclusions either way now, and make no hasty decisions now. Carbon taxation and sequestration can wait. If Congress wants to help, they should start with corn ethanol, the king of fake green fuels and one of many scores of counter-productive environmentalism.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Gary Okino" versus "Cliff Slater" -- Vancouver SkyTrain Edition


This is just garbage. Sure when, and it is very rare when SkyTrain has a problem, they need to go back to manual operations which compared to the automated operation is very slow. But the reality is that SkyTrain operates more efficiently than any other system. There has never been an accident with SkyTrain on automatic control. Never a loss of life accident like in Washington. The trains are so close you can see the one in front some times. Try 5 – 10 minutes apart in other systems. Even Canada Line will be 7 min. apart.

I have read this blog for a while and it is clear the author has a beef about SkyTrain, but it is unfounded. His facts are many times not correct, like one post states TransLink subsidizes SkyTrain to the tune of $200,000,000 well the total cost to run SkyTrain is more like under $100,000,000 and passenger fares cover 105% of the operation of SkyTrain. It is the bus company not SkyTrain getting a huge subsidy.

Who can trust anything from a source so lacking in reality.


It is you sir, that lacks reality.

FACT: The 1991 GVRD study, “The cost of Transporting People in the Lower Mainland”, put the annual SkyTrain subsidy at $157.6 million; by 2001, with the opening of the Millennium Line, the annual subsidy paid to SkyTrain was over $200 million.

FACT: TransLink does not apportion fares between buses and SkyTrain, thus can’t claim any statistic that shows that SkyTrain recovers passenger fares. 80% of SkyTrain’s passengers first take a bus to the metro.

FACT: According to Gerald Fox’s “A Comparison Between Light Rail and Automated Transit Systems”, found SkyTrain (and all automatic transit systems) less reliable than light rail.

FACT: SkyTrain has an annual death rate of 5 to 10 people annually. True SkyTrain has never had a collision in revenue service, but the Washington Metro also operates under Automatic Train Control and it appears that one train was in automatic operation and the second train was being driven manually. SkyTrain are also driven manually if need be.

FACT: SkyTrain is having ongoing signaling problems and delays are so bad that they are being reported on the radio on a weekly basis.

FACT: Light Rail can operate safely at 30 second headways and does in daily service in cities around the world.

FACT: The provincial government has never divulged the real cost to date of SkyTrain, yet in the USA, the public are told of the total cost, including debt servicing, of a transit project.

FACT: Just the Expo Line cost 60% more to operate than the entire Calgary C-Train (LRT) and Calgary’s LRT carries more passengers.


Conclusion: Facts always trump railigion.

Monday, October 5, 2009

3 Success Stories of HOT Lanes -- Oahu Is Missing out on Real Congestion Relief

1. FLORIDA: (Miami Herald) The Florida Department of Transportation has claimed victory against chronic traffic congestion on Interstate 95 northbound thanks to the new toll express lanes.

Motorists who use the two variable-toll express lanes now travel at an average speed of 56 mph during rush hour -- 36 mph faster than before the lanes opened. Even drivers who use the four free lanes are traveling faster at peak times, the report said -- 42 mph instead of 20 mph.

Congestion reducing results like this are typical for HOT lane deployments in the nation. However, client-focused Parsons Brinkerhoff managed to model HOT lanes in the Honolulu Alternatives Analysis in a way that HOT lanes performed far worse than existing conditions. A first in the nation. I strongly objected to their methods and findings but the Alternatives Analysis panel voted 6-1 in approving PB's analysis that killed HOT lanes for Honolulu in November 2006.

Back to Florida, the average weekday toll is 90 cents, with an average rush-hour toll of $1.85 and an average off-peak toll of 47 cents. (Remember that during the 2008 elections Hannemann said that tolls are 10 dollars?)

Southbound express lanes, now under construction, are expected to open later this year or in early 2010.


2. MINNESOTA: U.S. DOT Secretary LaHood inaugurated the second HOT lane project in the twin cities. The HOT Lanes on Interstate 35W project is one of the first nationwide to make use of all lanes, including the shoulder, during peak travel periods to provide drivers the option of taking a less-congested path, according to FHWA.

While the interstate previously had High Occupancy Vehicle lanes open to carpools and buses, this project converted them into High Occupancy Toll lanes with pricing based on demand. The Minnesota DOT also converted shoulders into Priced Dynamic Shoulder Lanes, which allow buses and carpools to use them at no charge while also permitting access during peak times to low-occupancy vehicles willing to pay a toll.

The U.S. DOT provided $133 million for this project with Federal Highway Administration funding lane conversions and tolling technology, the Federal Transit Administration paying for Bus Rapid Transit facilities and Park & Ride lots, and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration offering grants for the operational test period of the new tolling equipment.

This is Minnesota's second highway with HOT lanes. The I-394 express lanes opened in 2005. Prices range from 25 cents per trip when traffic is light to as much as $8 during heavy peak-period traffic. MnDOT's goal is to keep traffic in the express lanes moving at a minimum of 50 mph.

Note that few motorists pay the maximum toll. When maximum toll is displayed, it actually has the purpose of discouraging more vehicles from entering the HOT lanes so that free flow conditions can be maintained.


3. NATIONAL: Quantified Advantages of HOT Lanes

In the September 2009 issue of the Journal of the Institute of Transportation Engineers senior planner Decorla-Souza and senior engineer Halkias of the U.S. DOT quantify the advantage of turning shoulders of 6 lane freeways (3 lanes per direction) into HOT lanes. Their example fits the H-1 freeway like a glove because their case is for a chronically congested 6-lane freeway.

In the base case (or existing conditions) the peak direction carries 6,930 vehicles per hour. With the managed shoulder open, the freeway would carry 7,200 vehicles per hour, or a 4% gain.

The huge difference is in the average speeds which improve from 29 mph in the base case (much lower for H-1 fwy.) to 33 mph for the general lanes and 55 mph for the HOT lane for a grand average of 38 mph or 31% improvement in speed.

In comparison, the proposed rail for Honolulu won't provide any such congestion relief.

Using a cost of gasoline at (only) $2.50 per gallon and a value of time at $14.60 the combined savings in time and fuel due to the addition of a single HOT lane comes to $16 million per year. In addition, the modified freeway with one HOT lane (for an assumed length of 10 miles) will decrease greenhouse gases by 7%.

In comparison, the proposed rail for Honolulu won't provide any such pollution reduction.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Olympic Airways RIP (1957-2009)

Developed into an international airline by shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, bought by the Greek government and operated by pro-socialist unions; successfully run into the ground.

Olympic Airlines declared bankruptcy on 29 September and ceased all operations. Olympic Airlines last flight from Vienna. Flight 160, Boeing 737-400. Low pass over runway 03R and landing at runway 03R in Athens, Greece, September 28th, 2009:

"The company has faced serious financial trouble since the 1980s, mostly because of management problems." ( Although articles conveniently point the finger to past governments (some of their leaders are deceased), a big share of the problems of Olympic Airways was its leftist unions. Inflexible, greedy and providing a poor level of service. To get a feel of operational disruptions by its unions Google: Olympic Airways + labor strikes.

Olympic Airways was a sizable airline: Traffic for Olympic in 2007 reached a total of 5,977,104 passengers (3,115,521 in domestic and 2,681,583 in international flights) compared to approximately 5,500,000 passengers in 2006. It is estimated that Olympic Airways earned approximately 780 million euro in 2007 (about 1.1 billion US dollars.)

Olympic was Greece's airline. My heart would skip a beat when I would see an Olympic Airways airplane in the air or at a gate in any of the many airports were I have passed over the years. It's like seeing a piece of Greece right there, in the middle of Asia or Australia.

However the last two decades Greeks themselves renamed it from "Olympiaki Aeroporia" to "Olympiaki Taleporia" (it rhymes in Greek) or roughly translated, from Olympic Airways to Olympic Troubleways. Might as well RIP.