Monday, September 14, 2009

Five Hurdles Hannemann Administration Must Jump to Get Proposed Honolulu Rail Project Built

The brief but precise analysis done by on the procedural steps for the proposed rail system of Honolulu to move forward is available at Hawaii Reporter:

2009 Commuter Pain report: Lessons for Oahu

The 2009 Commuter Pain report, an annual study conducted by IBM was released before Labor Day. It is based on surveys of 4,400 commuters in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth, Los Angeles, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Washington, DC. Here are some of the study findings []. As you read along you may agree that we're not much different than those big metro areas in the U.S.

Frustration levels are rising: 45% identify start-stop traffic as the most frustrating part of the commute (up from 37% last year), and 32% identify aggressive/rude drivers (up from 24% last year).

If commuting time could be reduced, 52% would spend it with family/friends – nine points higher than 2008; 37% (6 points higher than 2008) would exercise more.

With gas prices down more than $1.00 from 2008, 23% of respondents have changed their commuting habits in favor of driving versus relying on public transportation or carpooling: 19% carpool less, 19% take public transportation less, and 17% work from home less. The lesson here is that sensitivity to gas prices will be less when most SUVs are replaced with efficient 4-cylinder and hybrid vehicles (let alone full electrics in the near horizon.)

44% of respondents now say they can work from home one or more days a week (up two points from 2008). The lesson here is that telecommuting is an inexpensive alternative that reduces traffic on roads and crowding in mass transit.

For trips other than to work or school, 90% of the potential drivers in this study say that driving is their main mode of transportation (91% last year). To this, The San Francisco Examiner adds that Bay Area commuters are still overwhelmingly likely to drive to work. Some 57 percent of workers in the region drive alone to get to their place of work, a total that far exceeds the next closest mode of transportation — the bus — which is used by a mere 6.7 percent of workers, according to the study. Question: Where is the multibillion dollar BART? The lesson here is that heavy rail provides tiny congestion relief and is a marginal transportation mode.

The typical commute for survey respondents is 16.7 miles or 31 minutes. Surprisingly the average statics for Oahu are similar because of the spread out residences and the concentration of jobs between airport and Waikiki.

The value of time consumed commuting is enormous. Like last year, 75% of respondents say that every 15 minutes stuck in traffic is worth $10-20 or more -- that’s a minimum of $40/hour. The 10 area average is at least $70.80/hour (versus $73.22/hour in 2008). Washington, DC, and Los Angeles are highest with $76.80 and 76.00/hour, respectively. There is a huge lesson here: A $5 toll on a road with reliable travel times that shortens commutes by 20 minutes is a sweet option to many.

The nation’s transportation problems did not occur overnight and it will take time -- along with targeted, state-by-state solutions -- to fix them. Investments in smart transportation solutions, coupled with intelligent fleet management principles such as better route planning, off-peak freight movement, alternative fuel vehicles, and hybrid vehicles, are among the many strategies that can help.

To alleviate the congestion crisis, the answer is a compendium of solutions – a comprehensive portfolio of traditional methods coupled with new innovations and political will. Commuters are eager for change. Now is the time to invest in the future of smart transportation.

I could not agree more. But who, in his or her right mind, would call a five billion steel on steel rail system for an island paradise "smart transportation"?

What are smart solutions you ask? Active traffic management, intelligent signals, urban underpasses, priority bus rapid transit (e.g. on freeway shoulder lanes), high occupancy/toll lanes (HOT lanes for carpools, vanpools and buses), telework centers and telecommuting incentives. And bikeways where they can be safely provided.