Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rail Is Not a Path to Prosperity for Honolulu

ENERGY.  Rail may be electric but 85% of electricity production on Oahu comes from oil and coal. This won't change much with the current intermittent renewable energy schemes. So rail does not reduce our economic dependency to imported fuels but it increases our dependency to imported sole source equipment and parts for which knowledge base is absent throughout Hawaii.

DEVELOPMENT.  Rail is not needed for TODs and other development. To be done successfully, these need a solid business foundation and strong demand. Neither is present for major development. US Census statistics clearly show that Oahu and Hawaii are in prolonged and perhaps permanent "sideways" trends.  See here [link].  How can a place prosper when prime agricultural land is turned into cookie cutter sprawled homes and fake gentleman farms?

JOBS.  It is bad policy to develop transportation solutions in order to provide jobs, particularly by selecting a type of transportation that will take the transit subsidy share of the city budget from 11% to 19%. This is the path to bankruptcy, not the path to prosperity.

TRANSIT SHARE.  It is counterproductive to develop a form of transportation that will take the current mass transit share from 6% to 7.4% at a cost of over $4 billion for the local economy. Unsurprisingly if one looks at the Final EIS, all freeway and main arterial screen-lines are shown to have similar or worse congestion with rail. Congestion chokes our economy. Fake relief will provide fake results.

CONGESTION.  Honolulu has a modest tax base and it clearly cannot support mega-projects such as the proposed rail. Honolulu has relatively severe congestion because it is among the most lane deficient cities in the union.

ECONOMY.  Despite having the best bus system in the nation and very expensive fuel pricing, the demand for independent travel is very strong, partly due to tourism, military and people having multiple jobs. A single rail line does very little for tourists, too little for people with multiple jobs and nothing for the military.

MOBILITY.  A lot of our traffic is school and college based and rail does really nothing for these trips. Over half of the traffic on the roads is pickup trucks and SUVs of plumbers, electricians, distributors, repairmen and soccer moms. Rail does nothing for them too.

PRODUCTIVITY.  Adding a lot of nothing gets us nothing. In fact the FEIS clearly shows that 70,000 daily riders will switch from bus to rail.  Add a few carpoolers and the 1% who may abandon their car and that's how the rail ridership comes about. Where is the productivity in this?  Even of rail had no construction cost, one would be hard pressed to come up with positive productivity for it.

GUT TheBus.  Last but not least, the rail will dismantle the No.1 system in the nation. All TheBus routes listed below (copied from the rail FEIS) will be terminated at the nearest train station or eliminated altogether: B, C, E, 3, 9, 11, 20, 43, 53, 73, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98A, 101, 102, 103, 201, 202.

An abbreviated TV editorial of this article appeared on Hawaii News Now on October 29 and 30.  Mahalo to Rick Blangiardi, General Manager of KGMB and KHNL for this opportunity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nimitz Flyover Cost Estimate Suggests that Rail Will Cost $7 Billion

In comparison, the structural and construction cost of the rail viaduct per mile will be similar or higher than $270 million per mile. So 20 miles of rail at $270 million per mile will cost $5.4 Billion. The rail's budget is $5.16 Billion. This means that the rail project will have no money left for trains, stations, a rail yard, etc. after 20 miles of viaduct has been built. Or that the rail will cost well more than $7 billion to complete.

Read full article in Honolulu Civil Beat.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bus vs. Rail – 2007 Comparison and 2012 Opinion from Los Angeles


The Gold Line BRT opened in 2003, the Orange Line Rail in 2005. Each is about 14 miles long, and each has 13 stations, about a mile apart. How do they compare?
  • The BRT line was expected to start out at 5,000 to 7,500 average weekday boardings, growing to 22,000 by 2020. It actually achieved the 2020 goal by its seventh month.
  • The LRT, by contrast, was supposed to start off with 30,000 weekday boardings and double that by 2023. But its actual ridership has been lower than that of the BRT line—well below projections.
  • The capital cost of the BRT line was $349 million. The Light Rail cost was $859 million.
  • The operating costs also favor BRT, with the Orange Line costing $0.54 per passenger mile compared with $1.08 for the Rail. On a cost per boarding basis, it’s $3.79 for BRT versus $7.54 for Rail.
  • Lesson: A high-end BRT is far more cost-effective (bang for the buck) than a typical LRT, meaning you get a lot more transit per dollar spent.
  • If a city is short on transit dollars, then a simple express bus service on a major arterial can provide tremendous value per dollar spent.


"When you look at the size of Honolulu (and) you look at the transportation problem they're seeking to solve, BRT is almost certainly a better investment,"
UCLA Prof. Brian Taylor said.

Taylor's research shows one of the greatest factors in determining a transit system's appeal is the ease with which riders can get to a transit line, whether it's BRT or rail. If a rider needs to go through various steps like walking, driving or transferring to get to a final destination, the less likely he or she is to use public transportation. "So, making the vehicle a little bit faster is not nearly as important as having a cutting down of the wait time," he said.

While the overall number of projected riders appears impressive, Taylor says it's not nearly enough to offset the tremendous capital cost needed to build the system, as well as the additional expenditures required to operate and maintain it. Heavy rail is much better suited for large, metropolitan cities like Tokyo, New York and London, which generate extremely large numbers of riders.

Source: UCLA expert weighs in on transit debate, Andrew Pereira, KITV

Monday, October 15, 2012

Honolulu Transit Megaprojects Compared

The same consultant conducting transit system estimations 6 years apart for the City and County of Honolulu has produced the figures tabulated below.

The conclusion is clear: BRT would provide the same transit ridership for about one tenth the cost.

All these figures are from official Final EIS documents.


 The final word is that the Rail Emperor truly has no clothes.

A Train Has the Capacity of Five Buses. So What?

Published on page 3 of Honolulu's Filipino Chronicle.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

B, C, E, 3, 9, 11, 20, 43, 53, 73, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98A, 101, 102, 103, 201, 202

The title of this article is not the code for a very nerdy version of the Hawaii-based LOST television series.

These are all the bus routes that will be eliminated or terminated to the nearest rail station. See Final EIS appendix D.

We all know how the public reacted to the relatively manini changes to TheBus last summer. Wait until two dozen routes are drastically changed.

Several of these routes are express providing a competitive service. Many of them are heavily used.

In addition several new and confusing "feeder" routes will be added. So basically the No.1 transit bus in the nation will be dismantled and reconfigured to provide life support for the rail.

Rail's ridership would be much closer to zero than the projected 90,000-some riders per day in the opening year, without dismantling and rearranging the majority of TheBus as we know it today, given that (1) nobody lives at the stations and (2) the whole rail line will have only four park-and-ride lots.

The total bus ridership that will be forced to transfer each day is found on page 46: 69,480 rail riders daily will come from the bus.  That's round trip.

So, over 30,000 bus riders daily will be forced to get out of their bus and transfer to rail going to their destination. They may also need to catch a bus at the other end to get to their final destination (i.e., from Ala Moana Center to UH, Waikiki, and from other stations to all the ridges and valleys that the rail does not serve.)  Coming home they will have the reverse transfers from bus to rail to bus. There will be chaos.

What is the logic of providing such a disservice to the loyal transit riders of TheBus?

In conclusion then, B, C, E, 3, 9, 11, 20, 43, 53, 73, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98A, 101, 102, 103, 201, 202 is the code for transit failure by design in Honolulu.

Fixing the Basics on Rail for Hawaii's Pro-rail Politicians

Full article in Hawaii Reporter. It closes as follows:

If Hawaii's pro-rail politicians are really interested in improving transit in the county of Honolulu, they may begin their education on the history of elevated rail in sunshine cities by simply reading about Miami's Metrorail, and San Juan’s Tren Urbano. Here are a few highlights for Metrorail and Tren Urbano.

Miami’s Elevated Heavy Rail: They got 80% Federal funds but still they run out of money due to cost overruns. (Honolulu gets only 30%).  Ridership forecast was about 200,000 riders (Honolulu's is about 120,000 riders).  When the first segment of the single line opened ridership was only 10,000.  In 1990, six years after opening, it reached only 25% of its forecast ridership or about 50,000! They too ordered trains from Ansaldo and there were allegations of conflicts in the procurement.

San Juan, Elevated Heavy Rail: They got 50% Federal funds but still there was a 74% escalation of construction costs (+74% over budget!)  There was a huge escalation of combined bus and rail operation and maintenance cost after the line was opened. Combined costs shot up by +250%!  There was a downgrade of Puerto Rico’s bond ratings and new taxes were enacted to pay the debt. There was a dramatic decline of total transit ridership (bus and rail) because the train dismantled their bus. It is now more than six years since its opening in 2006 and the train has not reached 50% of its opening year forecast ridership!

Bottom line is that trains are like wind mills. Their theoretical capacity is high and the promises for power and ridership are full of hype.  Once installed reality kicks in and they prove to be only ~25% productive...