Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Take the Rail to Watch a Rainbow Warriors Game?

It's 2023. The rail hui won and got rail running.

The Rainbow Warriors of the University of Hawaii are having their homecoming game. Two families of four, one from Makiki and another from Kapolei are getting ready to attend the game. Both of them will go by rail.

How much will each family pay in fares? Thirty four dollars for eight adult tickets at $4.25 each. Not a bargain. (The $4.25 is based on city estimates. Actual fare will likely be higher. For example today’s adult fare on the BART from the Fruitvale TOD to Embarcadero is $3.55.)

The rail does not go to Makiki or Kapolei as it does not go to over 90% of places and neighborhoods on Oahu.

Walking to the nearest station is too far and they are thinking that by the time they’re back it'll be too late to wait for a bus. Both decide to drive to the nearest station. So both families spend 10 to 15 minutes and gas to get to the station by car.

The Makiki family cheated and parked at Ala Moana Center, but the lots were quite full so it took them a while to find a spot. The shopping center is working on a plan to curb rail freeloaders. The Kapolei family drove to the park-and-ride facility but the lot was full so, like many others, they parked on the grass and hoped to avoid a ticket.

It's Saturday and instead of the weekend schedule the City is paying heavy overtime to run trains at a fast schedule to accommodate the Aloha Stadium ridership. The Rainbow Express and other bus routes to the stadium have been cut. All transit users have to take a feeder bus to a rail station. The glory days of TheBus are over. It’s been “restructured.”

Trains run every 5 minutes. Trains run full with 300 passengers and half of them are standings all the way. In two hours, full trains manage to get 12,000 people to Aloha Stadium. But this fills only 24% of Aloha Stadium’s seats. The other three quarters must arrive by car, taxi, limo or bus.

So far the two families spent about 45 minutes to reach the crowded Aloha Stadium rail station. After a long walk and a couple road crossings they are at their seats.

UH wins. Go Warriors!

Now 12,000 people start walking to the station. They are tired and would like to go home. Many have an early church service or other early to dos on Sunday. (They'll need a car for those activities.)

The trains are running like mad. People pack in like sardines. Each train picks up 300 people at a time…. 300 eastbound and 300 westbound. But there are 12,000 people who need to go home.

How long do they have to wait? The very first 600 people got lucky and had no wait. The very last 600 had to wait for 76 minutes!

The average waiting time to board a train for all the folks who went to Aloha Stadium by rail was 38 minutes.

Tempers flare, BO and beer smells. Pushes, shoves. Some groping and pickpocketing too. The Kapolei and Makiki families are tired, frustrated and very late.

Thirty four bucks for this? Never again!

Rail wins? We lose!

It's a lose-lose. Here is why:

If rail is a success and people use it in large numbers, then it'll be overcrowded, smelly, and expensive. Most people will travel as standees and a lot of time will be wasted in waiting and transferring. Why is this better than using a bus or being in bumper to bumper traffic? Why did the average family of four have to pay $20,000 to build this rail?

If rail is a failure and only ex-bus riders, carpool passengers and a few others use it (these are the usual riders of modern rail systems) then why did we spend six billion dollars for an underutilized system that did nothing to relieve traffic congestion?

If we install a 19th century "solution" for our 21st century problem of traffic congestion, then there’s no win.

Today’s population has a complex and diverse demand for mobility that stems from our independent, multi-purpose life-style. Only unscrupulous transit professionals and misinformed politicians would claim that a single line of rail with 20 stations is a mobility and congestion solution for our island.