Monday, March 21, 2016

Hawaii Struggles to Keep Rail Project From Becoming a Boondoggle

Major article about Honolulu's rail project in the Sunday New Your Times: Hawaii Struggles to Keep Rail Project From Becoming a Boondoggle.  In it I'm quoted as follows.

“It’s a disaster. In my view, we are worse than how we expected,” said Panos D. Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, who has twice run for mayor opposing the project. “We were saying at the beginning we would be lucky if it could be done for $6.4 billion, and people thought we were close to lunacy. We are sitting here today, and we are now computing about $7.1 billion cost.”

“We have become numb to these numbers,” Mr. Prevedouros said. “But it’s very dear for a small place like us, with only like 400,000 taxpayers.”

I loved this part: As construction jams traffic and upends neighborhoods, a poll conducted in February by Civil Beat, a Hawaii news site, found an overwhelming number of respondents who said they either considered the rail plan a bad idea or were troubled by its progress. Just 15 percent of those polled called it a good idea.

Although the NYT did not take a position, it is imperative that Honolulu cuts its losses, terminates the project at the Middle Street Transit Center and, in the future, consider expansion west to Honokai Hale and the Ko'Olina resorts, including a large park and ride lot for the Waianae coast commuters.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Distracted Drivers? A $20,000 Honda to the Resque

Interesting excerpts from [a] $20,000 Self-Driving Vehicle Hits the Road:

  • There is a growing availability of advanced-driver assistance systems, or ADAS, such as lane-keeping assist, automatic braking or adaptive cruise control in the market. As auto makers offer the components needed to power these functions in option packages as low as $1,800, they are being snapped up at a far higher rate than electrified vehicles.
  • Reckless behavior is standard on America’s highways as people spend more time with their thumbs and eyes on a smartphone rather than on the road. Data indicates drivers are aware of their need for help.
  • NHTSA estimates 10% of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted—the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the accidents.
  • Auto makers are scrambling to accelerate autonomous technology. Tesla Motors Inc. has led the way with self-piloted features; Daimler AG ’s Mercedes-Benz is proliferating ADAS across its lineup; and General Motors, planning to introduce a “Super Cruise” semiautonomous system on pricey Cadillacs next year, is sinking $1.5 billion into two Silicon Valley startups that could help its cause.
  • Honda’s new Civic, much of the drive can be completed with hands off the wheel and foot off the accelerator as long as lane markings remain visible and another vehicle is in front of the car. A camera mounted at the rearview mirror watches the road, and the car’s central nervous system tells components when to slow down, swerve or slam the brakes.
  • People will pay more than the $20,440 that Honda is asking. Executives at Nissan Motor Co. ’s Infiniti brand estimate 15% of buyers for the Q50’s $3,200 “technology package”—a suite of features that lets the $55,000 car drive on its own. That’s three times as many people who pay extra to buy a hybrid-electric version.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Kapolei should have never happened

In her article titled Kapolei Hale turns 15 and the accompanying video Kapolei: Oahu's Second City?, reporter Jayna Omaye and videographer Kimberly Yuen present the story of Kapolei which, starting in 1990, took pure agricultural or unimproved land and began changing it into a "second city."

“Kapolei is a planning disaster,” said Panos Prevedouros, a civil engineer who has taught at UH for 25 years and specializes in transportation engineering and infrastructure sustainability. “It’s a bedroom community. It didn’t develop into a Second City. It developed as pure mainland-style suburbia.”

Prevedouros said traffic congestion and the lack of infrastructure and jobs point to Kapolei continuing on the path to become “Anywhere, USA.”

George Atta, DPP director, said Kapolei should have been developed with higher densities and in clusters, adding that building heights are 150 feet. Kapolei should grow in nodes, with each having its own characteristics and that should eventually connect — similar to downtown Honolulu and its Ala Moana, Kakaako and Waikiki neighborhoods, he said.

Kapolei should have never happened.  Honolulu should have developed into a dense urban strip from Salt Lake to Waikiki, a 10 mile corridor. In it mass transit would have succeeded with a compact high capacity, partially underground rail line.  But the powers that be and the planners who serve them opted for a double disaster. Kapolei's suburban sprawl 20 miles away from the city and an expensive, elevated rail system to permanently tether the second city to the first.  Bad plans lead to bad solutions and high costs.  And that's all we are reaping.