Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Traffic Accident Investigation on Oahu: Stuck in the 1980s.

Civil Beat's Alia Wong has aired the festering problem of Honolulu Shutting Freeways Longer Than Other Cities which is indicative of Oahu's multilayered traffic mismanagement.

As far back as 1998 I wrote this opinion in the Star Bulletin: It takes too long on Oahu to investigate accidents.

Although the HPD is usually confronted with traffic crashes that are "manini" compared to those on the mainland, where jack-knifed trucks get mangled with several other vehicles, it takes hours instead of minutes to deal with incidents.

An incident on Kalanianaole Highway on Dec. 12 prompted me to write this letter. It was reported that at about 1:30 p.m. a car veered into a moped about half a mile east of Aina Koa Street.

At 2:30 p.m. I joined the queue, which had extended for more than a mile on H-1 freeway. It took 28 minutes to drive 1.5 miles. At the crash site, I saw a smashed moped, a car on the shoulder and at least six police vehicles.

Most streets around Kahala Mall were jammed. Waialae Avenue was gridlocked and the off-ramp was overflowing onto the freeway, creating a hazardous situation. At 4:30 p.m., police were still investigating and the queue on H-1 had reached Kokohead Avenue.

I estimate that this three-hour traffic "management" incident trapped more than 9,000 vehicles and more than 12,000 motorists. It caused more than 6,000 people hours of delay, increased the risk for secondary accidents, and resulted in more than 1,500 gallons of additional fuel consumption.

The mayor and the chief of police must remove the archaic and inefficient procedures for incident management and give our officers the education and training needed to get in step with contemporary national practice.

I am subcommittee chair of the Freeway Operations committee of the U.S. Transportation Research Board and I have assisted Attica Tollway in several operational issues. Some of my work on Freeway Incident Management has been published in professional, refereed venues, as follows:
  • Incident Management Simulation on a Two Freeway Corridor in Honolulu. Proceedings of the 6th ITS World Congress, Toronto, November 1999.
  • Video Incident Detection Tests in Freeway Tunnels. Transportation Research Record, No. 1959: 130-139, 2006.
  • Automated Incident Detection and Automated O-D Generation for Freeways, Panel Session 539 on NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR FREEWAY OPERATIONS, Annual Meeting of TRB, Washington, D.C., 2006.
  • Freeway Incidents – US, UK and Attica Tollway: Characteristics, Available Capacity and Models, Transportation Research Record, No. 2047: 57-65, 2008.
In all these years I have never been consulted by the city or state departments of transportation, or the traffic division of HPD. Apparently, all of them know all there is to know. And the results are obvious.