Thursday, November 30, 2017

Could Self-Driving Cars and Buses Replace the Last Leg of Rail?

Quoted by Marcel Honore in his article in Honolulu Civil Beat.

It’s been nearly three months since state leaders approved their latest, $2.4 billion funding package to bail out the largest public works project in Hawaii’s history.

But don’t tell Randall Roth, Cliff Slater or Panos Prevedouros that Honolulu rail transit is finally in the clear to reach Ala Moana Center. For the three longtime outspoken rail critics, who’ve previously predicted budget overruns, it’s not a question of “if” the $8.17 billion project will again run out of cash — it’s “when.”


Despite the latest influx of cash to move rail forward, Roth, Slater and Prevedouros haven’t given up their efforts. They have adjusted their message, however.

Now, the trio advocates stopping rail at Middle Street and exploring whether the growing popularity of ride-hailing services such as Uber and future self-driving technologies could then get Honolulu commuters from that transit hub further into town.

Prevedouros, a UH civil-engineering professor who previously ran for mayor as an ant–rail candidate, suggested the city could run automated buses along Dillingham Boulevard and Nimitz Highway from the Middle Street transit hub.

The city’s existing road grid could potentially handle more vehicles if they’re self-driving because they would travel more closely together, he added.

However, there’s been no local studies to examine whether this might work, and the idea is only preliminary, he acknowledged.

“This is part of the discussion that hasn’t happened here at all and, it is time that we make that discussion and make that connection to the rail,” Prevedouros said Wednesday.

“What’s the choice of investment? Nineteenth century versus 21st century and this discussion is not even happening in this town. No one is talking autonomous,” or self-driving vehicles, he said.

Slater, meanwhile, pointed to Uber’s recently announced plan to buy 24,000 sports-utility vehicles from Volvo to launch its own self-driving car fleet.


And I add this to the discussion presented in the Civil Beat article:

In November 2017 Google's Waymo unit specializing on driverless technology posted a video of autonomous vans providing a prototype "suburban service." Now fast forward to 2020 and it's not hard to imagine:

1. A dozen Waymo vans roaming on routes in Kapolei and taking people to/from the rail station. They'll be smart too. Midday they'll park at key spots until they are called; unlike buses that clock many miles mostly empty. This has a number of positives in terms or resource consumption, pollution, and wear and tear.
2. Six to ten automated buses connecting Middle Street with downtown, each one departing a few minutes after a train arrives.

Driverless transportation is a low cost, high tech way out of perpetuating the rail black hole. What a way to get Honolulu ahead of most cities in transportation innovation!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Rail Expansion to Manoa and Waikiki Is Impossible

Quoted in Jim Medoza's story that Rail expansion to Manoa, Waikiki impossible — at least on current route.

UH traffic engineer Panos Prevedouros said the situation is, simply, "poor planning."

He thinks rail planners should scrap any idea of an alternate route.

“They're talking about expansion of a system that we don't have enough funds to complete as it is. It's premature,” he said.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Recycle or Incinerate? The Battle of the Blue Bins

Quoted in Honolulu Civil Beat article on Recycling and Waste to Energy issues.

  • Panos Prevedouros, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Hawaii Manoa, said burning recyclables would be better for the city’s pocketbook and the environment.
  • The way Prevedouros sees it, more trash burned at H-POWER also means less fossil fuel consumed use to produce electricity.
  • “We are resource-poor when it comes to generating electricity,” Prevedouros said, adding he thinks Honolulu should even consider importing trash from neighbor islands for incineration.
  • Glass could also be crushed and mixed with asphalt to create “glassphalt” for road construction, said Prevedouros.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Duke Professor Henry Petroski on Future of Transportation

Thank you to Hawaii News Now for covering our guest, Duke University civil engineering professor and infrastructure historian Dr. Henry Petroski.