Friday, December 30, 2011

Honolulu Rail 2011 Summary

In 2004 I started keeping tabs on major events of the infamous Honolulu Rail. This link takes you to the 2004 to 2010 highlights. The 2011 highlights are below.

January 18: FTA issues Record of Decision. The ROD allows the city to take these actions if it so chooses (but read the statement after the list):
  • the acquisition of any real property or real property rights identified in the Final EIS or ROD as needed for the Project;
  • the relocation of persons and businesses on that property;
  • the relocation of the Banana Patch community, if it so desires, in accordance with the ROD;
  • the relocation of utilities affected by the Project; and
  • the acquisition of rail vehicles for the Project.
This pre-award authorization is not a real or implied commitment by FTA to provide any funding for the Project or any element of the Project. However, if FTA were to provide grant funding for the Project, the cost of the actions listed above, performed after RAMP approval, would be eligible expenses. No other Project action has pre-award authorization at this time." [Underlined in the original].

January 31: The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon in Honolulu Circuit Court to stop construction of the city's $5.5 billion rail project.
"The complaint filed by Paulette Ka'anohiokalani Kaleikini claims both the city and state failed to perform a complete archeological survey of native Hawaiian remains, or iwi, along the entire 20 mile rail line as required by state law. Kaleikini is being represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the indigenous people."

February 4: The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization released a Brief titled, "Honolulu rail Transit: Do the Benefits Justify the Costs?" Their conclusion was that, "Preliminary considerations suggest a high degree of uncertainty about whether the benefits of rail justify the costs. As the conversation about rail costs advances, we should continue to consider the relative size of the benefits."

February 16: "FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday the City and County of Honolulu’s revised financial plan for rail transit must be more robust and not compromise public bus service. "We need to see a financial plan that shows that they have not only the funding to meet their obligations above the federal commitment (but) they also need to demonstrate to us that they have sufficient resources to keep the existing bus service operating and well maintained,” said Rogoff, during a nationwide conference call with reporters. “In the most recent financial plan submitted to the FTA in September of 2009, the city uses of $300 million in federal bus subsidies to fund construction of the $5.5 billion elevated rail system.”

The city's current financial plan for funding rail construction shows it will use $1.5 billion in federal New Starts funds, $300 million from the federal bus funds, and $3.5 billion from the additional ½ percent GE tax. As of the end of 2011 a "robust" financial plan is unavailable.

February 22: City has a "ceremonial groundbreaking", not a groundbreaking ceremony in the middle of nowhere along the North-South Road.

March 22: Ansaldo Honolulu wins the bid to build the city transit cars for $574 million, and will also operate and maintain the system. See below a quick summary of the bids. Phase 1 is called Design-Build (DB) and phase 2 is called Operation and Maintenance (OM)

------- Ansaldo---------Bombardier------ Phase
----$573,782,793----$697,263,592-------1, DB
----$506,030,806----$262,717,960-------2, OM
--$1,079,813,599----$959,981,552-------Total build and 15 years of operation

For Phase 1 Ansaldo is $125 Million less than Bombardier, but in total Bombardier is $125 Million less than Ansaldo, and Ansaldo won! (Honolulu math....)

May 14: Complaint (LAWSUIT) filed against against the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, various executives of the Federal Transit Administration, and the City Transportation Director:
  • Count 1: defining the purpose and need so narrowly as to preclude consideration of all reasonable alternatives
  • Count 2: failure to consider all reasonable alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 3: failure properly to analyze the environmental consequences of alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 4: improper segmentation (NEPA)
  • Count 5: failure to identify and evaluate use of native Hawaiian burials and traditional cultural properties (section 4(f))
  • Count 6: arbitrary and capricious evaluation of the project’s use of section 4(f) resources
  • Count 7: improper project approval (section 4(f))
  • Count 8: failure to account for effects on historic properties (NEPA)

July 14: Rail contract appeals set for Sumitomo, Bombardier

July 16: Honolulu Magazine publishes critical article on rail

August 15: HART Board set-- Eight of the ten-person “apolitical” and rail-clueless HART board consists of six current and former City employees and two union officials. The minority two are businesspeople. Also, Bombardier appeals to FTA in Honolulu rail dispute. And Sumitomo--Losing bidder on Honolulu rail project goes to HART of the matter.

August 21: How the city misled the public. By Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater and Randall Roth.

August 24: Closer look shows why Sumitomo may have decided against Honolulu rail appeal

August 27: Pacific Business News reverses position to now oppose rail.

September 13: Bombardier loses latest appeal of Honolulu rail contract

October 14: Bombardier files new appeal of Honolulu rail contract

October 21: Ansaldo, State Reach Deal on Licensing Violation
Ansaldo Honolulu JV has agreed to pay the state $150,000 to settle two cases alleging that the company didn't have a contractor's license. Submitting a bid without a contractor’s license constitutes unlicensed contracting. The fine for unlicensed contracting activity ranges from $2,500 and can run as high as 40% of the total contract price.

October 26, 2011: Ansaldo penalty 'slap on the wrist,' councilman says
City Councilman Tom Berg, a critic of the selection of rail car contractor Ansaldo Honolulu, said the city should have disqualified the Italian-based company because it was in violation of state law by bidding for the project before obtaining a contractor's license.

November 23: Pro-rail Star Advertiser editorial tells HART "Honolulu's contract with a subsidiary of an Italian conglomerate to design, build and operate the city's rail transit project was scheduled to be signed next Friday, but a delay is needed to reassess what increasingly looks as shaky as the euro." And "In our 100 year history The Outdoor Circle (TOC) has seen no other venture that holds the potential to degrade the landscape of Oahu as the proposed Honolulu Rail Transit project. TOC has been involved in virtually every step of the project from the moment it was first brought to the public for discussion. For more than five years, at every opportunity, we have urged the City to explain how it will mitigate Transit’s horrific visual damage to this island as well as the degradation to neighborhoods and communities along the route of this six billion dollar project."

November 28, 2011: Why Does Carlisle / Hamayasu / Horner Stick with Ansaldo while Under so Much Fire?

November 29, 2011: The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation signed a $1.4 billion contract Monday with Ansaldo Honolulu JV, giving it the go-ahead to start construction on the system’s cars and other key components. There will be no guideway and rails for at least another 5 years. So why did we order trains?

December 12: Senior Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima denied the City/FTA Motion to a) dismiss certain of the plaintiffs for lack of standing, and b) the plaintiffs did not identify certain historical sites during the environmental process. The lawsuit is definitely GO!

December 18: Bidding Irregularity and Delays Imperil Honolulu Rail Insurance Program
"A program that was supposed to reduce insurance costs for the Honolulu rail transit project by $20 million has been indefinitely delayed after irregularities in the city purchasing process forced the city to cancel a key contract award. "

December 29: FTA grants HART permission to enter the Final Design phase but has many difficulties with HART's financial plan. The FTA asks HART to the State legislature and the City Council to get an unspecified extension of the ½ percent General Excise Tax increase or find other monies ... "these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART's ability to control. In addition, "HART made assumptions in three areas that require justification."

The figure below is an exact copy of the City's mid-2008 Draft EIS. The blue dashed line is my addition that shows that the project is late by 3.5 years well before any actual construction has started!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

US: Gas v. Wind -- Hawaii: Geothermal v. Wind

Matt Ridley concludes his article Gas Against Wind as follows:

To persist with a policy of pursuing subsidized renewable energy in the midst of a terrible recession, at a time when vast reserves of cheap low-carbon gas have suddenly become available is so perverse it borders on the insane. Nothing but bureaucratic inertia and vested interest can explain it.

Like the U.S. mainland has abundant gas Hawaii has abundant geothermal energy. Tapping into geothermal power can be more expensive than hydraulic fracturing or fracking for natural gas but geothermal power in Hawaii is less exhaustible than natural gas on the mainland, and once developed its use does not produce greenhouse gasses.

Like in the U.S. natural gas is in shale hundreds of miles away from big metropolitan areas, but a national grid makes electric power transmission feasible, although billions need to be spent to the existing grid if gigawatts are to be transmitted efficiently and reliably.

In Hawaii a cable to connect Oahu, Maui and the Big island may be too expensive, but there are alternatives: Hydrogen, and Ammonia (as a carrier of Hydrogen.) Hawaii can utilize abundant geothermal energy to transform into a hydrogen/electric economy for long term sustainability, instead of blowing Billions in the wind.

In addition to blowing Billions on unreliable power production, I quote from Ridley's article: The wind farm requires eight tonnes of an element called neodymium, which is produced only in Inner Mongolia, by boiling ores in acid leaving lakes of radioactive tailings so toxic no creature goes near them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

California Rail Boondoggle

Outside Hawaii infrastructure boondoggles are called what they are... boondoggles. Hawaii is too insular and managed by an inner political cast of characters. As a result lies and misrepresentations prevail at all government levels when it comes to billion dollar issues such as Rail, Wind (and other suspicious Renewables), Government Pensions, and Employee Health Coverage.

I quote a brief article from the Wall Street Journal below. Note that:
  1. Congress will ask tough questions about rail projects
  2. Congress will refuse to fund billion dollar shares for rail projects
  3. California's fast rail at over $100 Billion comes to $2,700 per person
  4. Hawaii's elevated rail at over $7 Billion(*) comes to $7,600 per person
(*) You do not believe the Mufi / Carlisle / Toru / Horner / PB co$t e$timates, do you? They are of the same quality as their ridership estimates shown below:

Bullet Train Boondoggle

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee put California's high-speed rail plan on trial last week, asking rail experts and local officials some questions that the project's planners and state lawmakers apparently failed to consider. Like how the state will finance its 500-mile bullet train from Anaheim to San Francisco.

California voters approved a $10 billion bond initiative to fund the project in 2008. At the time, the state's high-speed rail authority, which is responsible for planning the project, estimated that the train would cost only $33 billion and be financed primarily by the federal government and private sector. The authority also promised that the train wouldn't require a subsidy. However, a few months ago the authority released a revised business plan that estimates the rail will cost between $98 billion and $116 billion. The authority expects the federal government to put up $73 billion and the private sector to invest $10 billion. Jerry Brown, the state's Democratic governor, praised the new plan as more "honest."

Investors have refused to finance the bullet train without a subsidy, and Congress isn't appropriating any more money for high-speed rail. Of the $11 billion that Congress has already appropriated, the Obama administration has authorized $3.9 billion for the California project on the condition that the state build the first segment in the Central Valley, presumably because there's less resistance to the train in rural areas than big cities. That may be true, but the train's a losing proposition everywhere. According to a new Field poll, two-thirds of Californians want a referendum on the project. And by a 2-to-1 margin, they'd vote to kill it.

Greg Gatzka, director of the King County Community Development Agency, testified at the hearing that the train would result in "approximately 7,100 acres of severed and/or disrupted" farmland and cost the dairy industry $50 million. It would also interfere with a $67 million broadband infrastructure project. Kings County has sued the rail authority because of the numerous disturbances, as have the cities of Palo Alto and Palmdale.

Even if the rail authority were to settle these legal challenges, a high-speed train wouldn't be operable until the state comes up with an additional $25 billion to complete the segment and electrify the tracks. In the meantime, the authority plans to run Amtrak trains on the tracks, though there may be problems with that plan, too. Elizabeth Alexis, cofounder of the group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, testified that it's uncertain whether diesel trains could safely run on tracks built for electric trains.

In any event, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo insisted that $100 billion is a small price to pay for a modern transportation system and that "adding and maintaining transportation capacity in California, while vital, is expensive." For instance, repairing the Bay Bridge will cost roughly $6 billion; a 10-mile expansion of the 405 freeway will run around $1 billion; and the ongoing modernization of Los Angeles's biggest airport is pegged at $4.1 billion.

So why is a state that is already struggling to finance basic infrastructure initiating an exorbitant project that most taxpayers don't want? None of the witnesses had a good answer.

-- Allysia Finley

Friday, December 16, 2011

HOT Lane Transponders, Congestion as an Advantage, Congestion Pricing, Roadbuilding Costs

A potpourri of interrelated recent articles ...

HOT Lanes are supposed to be free for large carpools, discounted for small carpools and full price for solo drivers. Recall that the purpose of HOT Lanes is twofold: (1) Incentivize Transit and Carpooling and, (2) Have low occupancy vehicles pay congestion insurance (toll). The correct term is not toll but Congestion Insurance because HOT Lanes guarantee over 45 mph speed, whereas common tollways charge a toll and may serve abundant bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The problem is this: HOT Lanes use electronic non-stop no-toll-booth tolling at freeway speeds. So how do large carpools go free, low carpools pay a discounted toll and solo drivers pay the full toll? This article from Orange County shows the electronic solution.

Yogi Berra once said, "nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded." In the article The Case for Congestion, John Norquist who served as mayor of Milwaukee from 1988-2004 proposes that congestion is a positive attribute for a city. It shows that a city is vibrant, dynamic and bustling, as opposed to decaying and lethargic.

However, too much congestion puts a lid on the economic growth and long term sustainability of a city, so congestion reduction techniques are always in demand, particularly when they tend to be popular and relatively inexpensive. In A Blueprint for Beating Traffic, Eric Jaffe summarizes the success of Road Pricing in Stockholm, Sweden. Interestingly, some of the road pricing collections are being used by the Swedeish government to build one of the modern under-city roadway tunnels, Södra Länken, to relieve bottlenecks and to facilitate traffic and the economy of the city.

And when it comes to costs, new U.S. roadways cost much much less that new U.S. rail lines, as Randal O'Toole explains in Highway Cost Overruns.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jitney Advantages for Transit Service

A seriously thought out plan for JITNEY service can have many advantages, in addition to those identified in this article focused on poor and disadvantaged populations. They include:
  • Low government cost, mostly for safety and health inspections
  • Scalable, from trunk arterial routes to ridges and valleys
  • Flexible to reroute as needed by time of day, day of the week, special events
  • Congestion reduction by offering fast and competitive service,
  • Cost savings to the poorest especially,
  • Cost savings to government to target bus routes on high demand routes only
  • Creation of a new industry with very low entry costs for self employed.
Google Atlantic City Jitney to read more about one successful deployment of jitneys in the US:

Jitneys are Atlantic City's most convenient and chief mode of affordable transportation around town. The Jitney Association is comprised of 190 individual owner-operated vehicles.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

17 Miles in just 78 Minutes!

Humor has an advantage in exposing reality. Here is a story by Reason Foundation on LA's "light" rail.

Pay attention to the factual pop-ups and note that all this inconvenience cost him $5 and another $22 to the taxpayer (for just one 17 mile trip!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Honolulu Rail is a White Elephant in the Jungle of Transportation Infrastructure

This slideshow explains why the proposed rail is a white elephant in the jungle of transportation infrastructure. Here is a short list of reasons:
  1. Honolulu has a severe traffic congestion problem, not a transit problem
  2. Honolulu is the most lane deficient medium/large metro area in the U.S.
  3. Honolulu's bus is good but is becoming increasingly unproductive due to added low density routes
  4. Voters with a tiny 50.6% "yes" margin approved light rail costing well under $5 Billion, not heavy rail costing well above $5 Billion
  5. Successful rail systems are networks in multimillion population cities not 20 miles of single line on a corridor of less than 600,000 people
  6. Proposed rail has an exorbitant cost per mile, per resident and per passenger... 2 to 3 times more than the hugely expensive Washington D.C. metro
  7. Ridership forecasts are outright ridiculous and of course the majority of the projected riders are current bus riders; also about one fifth of the riders projected for year 2030 have not been born yet
  8. Due to its huge construction costs, the proposed rail will absorb transportation funds for decades causing accumulated deterioration to the already mediocre roads and bus operations
  9. For the price of rail and its foreign and environmentally intrusive technology Honolulu can build enough congestion relieving infrastructure to achieve 20-minute commutes for 75% of its population
  10. 95% of Honolulu electric power comes from fossil fuel and thanks to utopian sun and wind policies dependence on oil for power will stay there for a long time
  11. Reversible express HOT Lanes is clearly the best solution for Honolulu given the prevailing high Bus and Carpool use rates, and huge AM and PM commuting demand peaks; small trains with a capacity of 300 will do very little to demand peaks and even less off peak
  12. The path to sustainability for Oahu requires HOT Lanes, Bus Rapid Transit, institutionalized TeleCommuting and expanded Bikeways but none of these are active projects
  13. Independent macroeconomic analysis has confirmed that the proposed rail has a huge negative surplus (benefits minus costs) over a 40+ year horizon
  14. Rail is unsustainable as a tax and energy black hole; Oahu has a $40 Billion funding liability and rail is the only discretionary project
  15. Adding insult to injury, it is so ugly ... (see slide 21)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jones Act Hurts Alaska and Hawaii

Here is an example of how the Jones Act endangered a community in Alaska. Even in a critical situation like this, the Russian ice breaker could not load oil from an Alaska port and take it to Nome, Alaska, but it had to backtrack to Korea to get the oil and back to Nome, Alaska.

Russian Icebreaker to Make History in Alaska

While Jones Act in general protects the shipping interests of the United States, it has huge implications for states that are dependent heavily on marine transportation, Alaska and Hawaii, and particularly the later. Special shipping interests must be protected even when the health and safety of populations are in jeopardy.

Hawaii's Congressional delegation has been fully unwilling to entertain any modifications to the Jones Act for Hawaii.

Infrastructure projects to fix the economy? Don’t bank on it.

Many good points in this Washington Post guest opinion:

  • Even if federal agencies calculate the numbers properly, members of Congress often push ahead with "trash" projects anyway.
  • As Morgan noted in his 1971 book, these big projects have often damaged both taxpayers and ecology.
  • Taxpayers are double losers from all this infrastructure. They paid to build it, and now they are paying to clean up the environmental damage.
  • When the federal government "thinks big," it often makes big mistakes.
  • When the federal government is paying for infrastructure, state officials and members of Congress fight for their shares of the funding, without worrying too much about efficiency, environmental issues or other longer-term factors.
  • The recent infrastructure debate has focused on job creation, and whether projects are "shovel ready." The more important question is who is holding the shovel.
  • The federal government subsidizes the construction of urban light-rail systems, for example, which has caused these systems to spring up across the country. But urban rail systems are generally less efficient and flexible than bus systems, and they saddle cities with higher operating and maintenance costs down the road.

Monday, December 5, 2011

If You Let Them, PB Will Recommend the Right Solution...

... For both transportation and the local economy.

Quote from Washington Post article titled Busway — not light rail — would bring more jobs, money to upper Montgomery, analysis finds: A $772 million light-rail line would generate a total “economic impact” of $1.3 billion between 2014 and 2050, while a $491 million bus rapid transit line would spur $2.2 billion, according to the study by consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Notice that PB is the current consultant for Honolulu. In 2005 Parsons Brinckerhoff were asked by Mayor Hannemann to prove rail is right. Six years earlier the same consultant under much less pressure from Mayor Harris had recommenced Bus Rapid Transit for Honolulu!

Recall that all along I have been saying that HOT Lanes for express buses would solve Honolulu's traffic congestion and construction jobs issues for 1/4 the cost of rail and less than 1/4 the permanent cost later on for operation and maintenance.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Traffic Congestion, APEC, Hurricanes, Tourism, Energy. How Will Rail and HOT Lanes Do for Honolulu?

Here is the LINK to a 2-page handout to inform yourself and your friends about the relative advantages of Rail and HOT Lanes for Honolulu.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Uncertain Funding and Injuctions Are Guaranteed

Meanwhile Senator Inouye expressed doubts to Civil Beat.

At best by 2016 when the senator's term expires rail will be about a quarter done assuming that all efforts to stop it fail. He will be 92 years old.

I doubt that the good senator will be able to provide more than $100 Million per year between now and 2016. This would cover less than 10% of the project's cost. I am surprised that he is copying so much from President Obama who he did not support in 2008. Senator Inouye's audacity of expecting over $1,800 Million of federal support for Honolulu Rail and hope that he will be a senator past age 100 to see them through is quite surprising.

At $100 Million per year starting in 2012 it will take until 2030 for Honolulu to receive a total of $1,800 year-of-expenditure federal funds. At that time Senator Inouye will be 106.