Monday, July 1, 2013

Brief Insight on the Kakaako Development and Honolulu's Trifecta of Failures

Up to 5,000 new apartment and condominium units are being planned by the HCDA in Kakaako, Honolulu. This section of Honolulu is already the most traveled and congested. What would be the likely impact of such concentrated, high density development?

In the field of transportation planning and engineering we rely on the Trip Generation Manual produced by the Institute of Transportation Engineers headquartered in Washington, D.C. I have the 8th edition issued in 2008. 

It says that High Rise Apartments (land use 222) generate 0.30 trips per unit during the peak hour between 7 and 9 AM. The peak period in Kaka'ako is roughly the same. Of these trips, 75% are outbound (leaving the building) and 25% are inbound. Given that Kakaako is at a location near the center of the city and Waikiki, quite a few of these trips will be on foot, bike or bus. So instead of assuming that 90%-95% of the trips will be by auto, let's assume that 80% of the trips will be by auto.

If 5,000 new units were occupied in Kaka'ako "tomorrow", then there would be: 

5,000 x 0.30 x 0.75 x 0.80 = 900 new vehicle trips during the morning peak hour

If we stack all of them on Kapiolani Blvd., this estimate means that an exclusive new lane would be needed just to maintain similar congestion conditions as now. But there is no room for lane additions so the traffic impact will be immense.

This is similar to the situation prevailing today: Because of sewer work, contraflow on Kapiolani Blvd. was not in effect until past McCully St. (town-bound from Kaimuki) so it took me three cycles to go past the Kapiolani/Date traffic light. Over five minutes to traverse one major intersection! 

As I have frequently mentioned, Honolulu is the most lane deficient city of about one million people in the US (per capita, it is worse than LA, Chicago, etc.) Adding more density will cause the central road network to seize. It already does when there is major rainfall or a couple of typically uncoordinated lane closures on major streets.

The "Establishment" supported and thrived with the quick profiteering from the Second City. Second City profit-making has subsided due to the lack of road capacity and it will collapse with the mess of 10+ years of rail construction due to lane closures. After destroying the Ewa Plains, and causing major infrastructure liabilities, now it is time for the Establishment to come back and densify Kakaako and Kalihi. 

A dense urban ribbon between Waikiki and the airport should have been the original plan instead of the Second City 22 miles away from Waikiki. That plan should have come with high rises, urban underpasses, large underground parking, and possibly a 10-mile underground metro from Waikiki to Airport and perhaps to Aloha Stadium. The plan should have had new utility lines installed in secondary streets such as Waimanu Rd. and Queen St. instead of under major arterial streets such as Ala Moana and Kapiolani Boulevards. 

If you recall, since 1995 Kapiolani Blvd. has been a continuous construction zone. Now Ala Moana Blvd. is another work zone. As long as main utilities are under them, labe closures will never stop and pavement will be a patchwork. 

With the 
  1. Second City/Ewa Development Plan, 
  2. The Rail and,
  3. The HCDA/Kakaako Development 
the Establishment has created the ultimate trifecta of (predictable) failures at a time when Honolulu can least afford to make mistakes and start new massive liabilities while the massive liabilities of
  • Sewer EPA consent decree
  • One water main break a day
  • The worst pavement condition in the last 30 years
  • Public employee pension unfunded liability
  • Public employee health coverage unfunded liability
are here and 100% real.