honolulutraffic.com

formerly The Alliance for Traffic Improvement

Seeking cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu

 

 

 

November & December 2006 Archive:

 

December 25, 2006.

Reminder: The coming rail tax burden  vs. other cities:

Do not forget to allow for operating losses, less federal funding than what they are counting on, less GE tax revenues, etc.

Light rail costs in comparison to population size

Cost in 

Metro area

Cost

Metro area

millions

population

per

2006$'s

(thous.)

capita

Dallas

$1,067

5,222

$204

Denver

$358

2,582

$139

Portland

$1,643

2,265

$725

Sacramento

$307

1,797

$171

Salt Lake City

$376

1,334

$282

St. Louis

$464

2,604

$178

Pittsburgh

$1,051

2,571

$409

Honolulu

$6,400

980

$6,531

Sources:  U.S. General Accounting Office http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01984.pdf for cost data for the top six rail cities with population data from FHWA's msacomparison.xls  Pittsburgh data : Pickrell, Don H. Urban Rail Transit Projects: Forecast Versus Actual Ridership and Costs. U.S. Dept. of Transportation. October 1990.   U.S. CPI change 2000-2006 is +17.3 percent see State Data Book 2005.

For Honolulu the City forecasts $4.6 billion while we believe it will more likely be $6.4 billion — see our December 7 entry below.

December 23, 2006.

No "done deal"  three years to go:

       Mayor "Can we afford it?" Mufi is continually trying to convey to the public that this transit process is a done deal. However, it has at least three years to go before a shovel hits the dirt. Scoping has yet to be done, The Draft Environmental Impact Statement has to be drafted, public hearings held, and comments taken and addressed. The FTA has to approve the City's projections in the DEIS, assumedly there will be an SDEIS and hearings, then RFPs will be issued, etc, etc, etc, all leading up to an FTA Record of Decision (ROD). Our altert readers may remember that at the end of the multi-year BRT process, the FTA withdrew their ROD and that was the end of that folly. The 1992 effort ended six months after the Final EIS had been issued.

  

Yesterday's hearing in turmoil:

       There was so much turmoil at City Council yesterday that it appeared that no one knew what was going on — least of all the Councilmembers. However, in the end the resulting Bill 79 CD2 FD2 was better than we had been expecting at the beginning of the month. The word "rail" has been taken out of the bill and that was as much as we could hope for. READ MORE

      

December 21, 2006.

Effective Traffic Relief for Oahu:

Professor Prevedouros spells out traffic relief in this new article: "HOT expressways are primarily express high-occupancy-vehicle and public transit highways with the ability to zip traffic along at 60 miles per hour. As a result, buses can travel 10 miles in about 10 minutes. To put this in context, imagine a city bus which can go from the Waikele Shopping Center to Aloha Tower in about 20 minutes at the height of morning rush hour! No other mass transit facility can provide such as high level of service that will actually persuade some people to leave their private vehicles at home and choose the express bus. On HOT expressways all buses and vanpools travel free of charge at all times." In addition, he spells out how the traffic is dispersed from the HOT lanes in the morning rush hour. READ MORE

 

Watch Dennis Callan's 1977 transit video:

In 1977, Governor Ariyoshi sponsored a two-day Conference on mass transit. Speakers included Dr. Melvin Webber, Chair Emeritus, UC Berkeley School of Urban Planning and Dr. John Kain, Chair Emeritus, Economics Dept., Harvard, and then Senator Ben Cayetano. This is must watching as they discuss the biased HART Alternatives Analysis, the underpriced rail transit, the overpriced Bus Rapid Transit. WATCH VIDEO

 

December 20, 2006.

Honolulu Needs a Respectable Analysis Report to Make the Right Decision About Mass Transit:

By Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD., who was a member of the Transit Advisory Task Force and was the lone dissenting voice in the final vote of 5-1 approving the Alternatives Analysis as fair and reasonable. Quote: "The city administration is pushing ahead with a $6 billion transit project whose tax will economically affect every consumer on Oahu for years to come. Yet it is apparently skewing the Alternatives Analysis (AA) report to show heavy rail as the preferred alternative when in fact the managed lane alternative might do a much better job of reducing congestion and could be constructed without raising taxes. A faithful public discourse of this immensely important issue cannot be conducted without a fair and accurate analysis of the alternatives. The numerous flaws of the current managed lane alternative make it impossible to choose what’s best for Honolulu unless the administration to amends the AA with a managed lane system that will be respected by authorities in the field."  READ MORE

 

The decline in transit usage here and nationally:

       One of the difficulties we have is convincing some elected officials that transit use is in decline nationally and locally. We found a very useful chart in the National Household Travel Survey that assembles data from several federal surveys and it shows the decline clearly. Local data can be found in the Hawaii State Data Book for 2005 (table 18.25). Ridership is drifting slowly down and has been since 1984 despite a significant population increase. As a percentage of population, bus ridership has declined 20 percent since then.

       One of the problems is that the national boardings data shows an increase from 1997-2001. This increase is an increase in boardings but not linked-trips. It was caused by rerouting buses to feed rail transit and, as New York did in 1997, issuing monthly passes good for bus and rail at no extra charge. This resulted in increased use of one or the other by commuters who formerly walked from the subway station to work and then switched to a bus instead of walking. Two boardings but still only one trip. READ MORE

 

 

December 19, 2006.

Here's our critique of the process so far:

Regardless of anyone's position on the rail issue, they should demand that the process be even-handed, which it has not been so far. As we expected, the advantages of the HOT lanes (aka Managed Lanes) were totally gutted by forecasting absurd costs for its construction and adding in 5,200 parking spaces and bus stations. Of course they have understated the cost of the rail alternative. To get the full story READ MORE

 

A great critique of Smart Growth:

Today's Wall Street Journal carries a wonderful description of Smart Growth from the perspective of the capital of India, Delhi. The story is by Ms. Shikha Dalmia who is a Senior Analyst with Reason Foundation in Los Angeles. We can all learn a great deail from this op/ed. We urge everyone to read it.  READ MORE

 

 

December 16, 2006.

A letter to the Houston Post editor:

      This is an interesting letter to the Houston Post about their light rail line:

        "The editors seem to have been mislead into believing that urban rail would somehow make Ottawa a "World Class" city, it will not.

       That was the same lemming argument fed to Houston voters by the special interests and the editors of our local newspaper.  Three years later many taxpayers have come to realize we were shouldered with an unsafe, unreliable, and underutilized boondoggle. It is too late for Houstonians, but Siemens got their money, and we are now stuck footing the on-going bills for a 3rd-world-class tram.

       I wish to offer the sage opine from our own Mayor Bob [Lanier], long before he became Houston's Mayor:

(Houston Metropolitan Magazine, November 1990, page 49) about

one year after he resigned as Chairman of the METRO Board:
       "First they [rail's supporters] say, `It's cheaper.'  When you show it costs more, they say, ` It's faster.'  When you show it's slower, they say, `It serves more riders.'  When you show there are fewer riders, they say, `It brings economic development.'  When you show no economic development, they say, `It helps the image.'  When you say you don't want to spend that much money on image, they say, `It will solve the pollution problem.'  When you show it won't help pollution, they say, finally, `It will take time for rail to do some good.'

 

December 15, 2006.

A shift in thinking in City Council on rail:

       After a marathon 15-hour Transportation Committee Meeting yesterday ending just before midnight, the Council settled on a "fixed guideway," rail or bus, from UH to Kapolei with the caveat that project must be funded out of existing sources. That would appear to eliminate a full scale rail line since the funding is clearly inadequate. But what does it mean? It may mean that a major rethinking of the issue is in the works. One part of the Council's thinking does seem to have been settled yesterday: We simply cannot affored the cost of the UH to Kapolei rail line. Stay tuned.

       The passed Bill 79 CD2, the amended version that says the Administration may go ahead with the planning of a section of the LPA,

    “that may be constructed within financial constraints (capital cost and any interest to finance that capital cost shall be paid entirely from general excise and use tax surcharge revenues, interest earned on the revenues, and any federal, state, or private revenues)”

       This may be in conflict with the subsequent section which says the revenues are “to be used for purposes of funding the operating and capital costs of public transportation” (emphasis added).READ BILL

       The way we calculate it is capital costs of $3.3 billion costs could be undertaken if the funds are to be used for capital costs alone, or $2.45 billion if operating costs have to be paid for out of the tax revenues. Assumptions are that federal funding would not exceed $500 million.

       Either way, the tax revenues are nowhere near the amount needed to fund the full alignment and are unlikely to fund anything like the shorter lengths that have been discussed. We will await the next act in this drama. 

 

December 14, 2006.

AAA survey shows support for highway pricing: 

       "More than 70 percent of drivers said in AAA's Pockets of Pain survey that the U.S. transportation system is not keeping pace with the demands in their communities and that the country has to examine alternative financing methods to accommodate growth.

       'In previous surveys and focus groups, we've seen more reluctance to increasing funding for transportation,' AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said in a speech given at the National Conference of State Legislatures Transportation Leaders meeting in San Antonio.

       Motorists in previous surveys said that they already are paying enough, or existing funds aren't invested efficiently, or they don't trust their state Department of Transportation to do the right thing, according to Darbelnet.        However, drivers nationwide increasingly are looking to a toll-road option to help raise money to fund the transportation system, based on the AAA survey. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents in the recent poll chose toll roads as a viable option. Of those in favor of more toll roads, most said they would support tolls only on new roads and highway lanes, not existing lanes." READ MORE

 

December 13, 2006.

Our Council comments now on You Tube:

Our members now appear on You Tube giving their Council testimony. SEE MORE   

 

December 11, 2006.

Our website is groHonolulutraffic.comwing rapidly:

This has been the growth of our website over the past year. We naturally want to get more people to find out about it and it would be really valuable if you can turn your friends onto www.honolulutraffic.com.

It is difficult to know who has found us but we do know that we are used as a resource by, for example, talk show hosts, the Federal Transit Administration and our local media. That is not to ignore the thousands of local people who have come to us for informaton about Gargantua — our local money-eating dragon to be.

Wendell Cox has it right on Smart Growth:

Few people understand the numbers and logic fueling high housing costs as does Wendell Cox. Today's San Francisco Chronicle op/ed is right on the money — especially as it concerns Hawaii. READ MORE

The Brizdle table, Rail vs. Managed lanes:

Long-time transportation executive in Honolulu, John Brizdle, co-founder and former operator of Enoa Tours and the Waikiki Trolley, weighs in on the rail vs. managed lanes debate with a simple table showing the differences. READ MORE

 

December 10, 2006.

The Council's Christmas celebrations have changed:

Check the Events! tab to the left to get the latest updates. We need you there.

 

Tax revenues uncertain:

       The hike in the GE tax, which takes effect on January 1, is going to have a very uncertain outcome we learn in today's Advertiser. Lowell Kalapa, head of the Hawaii Tax Foundation, is quoted as saying, "The truth is that nobody knows what's going to happen. Anyone who tells you they can predict the results within $100 million is just not being honest."

       A major reason for the uncertainty is that the tax increase is levied only on Honolulu County transactions and a great deal of what is currently reported from Honolulu companies are taxes collected on sales made by their Neighbor Island subsidiaries. No one has ever even surveyed that situation to even make an intelligent estimate of what will be collected. This is therefore another uncertainty for rail transit financing.  READ MORE

  

Rail succeeds with 'truthiness':

       In today's Advertiser we learn that Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central satirist, has become famous by coining what Merriam-Webster Dictionary calls, the word that "best defined 2006 in its core and essence." The word means truth arrived at by gut feeling; truth that feels "goodly or truthily, without any regard to evidence, logic or something as stupid as actual facts. In short, it is the language of American politics."

       We at Honolulutraffic.com know better, 'truthiness' is the language of rail proponents. It is the language of political 'visionaries.' It is the language of all those who discard inconvenient truths in favor of 'truthiness,' which has the overwhelming advantage that it feels good.

 

Council poll does not tell the whole story:

        The problem with this rail poll, like most of the others, is that they assume that participants have reasonable knowledge of the costs and benefits of the project. For example, few of Honolulu's residents are aware that the City Alternatives Analysis forecasts that traffic congestion will be far worse with the rail line in place than it is today. That fact is a) counter-intuitive to the general public, and b) has not made it above the fold in our newspapers. Thus, most of the respondents to the City Council poll are assuming that rail will relieve traffic congestion and so results that are favorable to rail should not be surprising. Here's the first question:

       "1. The city’s 10 million dollar study on an alternative to solve the traffic problem on Oahu has resulted in a recommendation that the City and County of Honolulu build a rail system. To build a system from Kapolei to the University of Hawaii is estimated to cost $4.6 billion and transit projects often have cost overruns. We’d like to know how you feel about a rail system. Which of the following statements most closely matches your feelings:

    I. We should build the rail transit system we need at whatever cost it takes. 30%

    2. We should limit the cost to $3.6 billion initially even if we can only build a

    shorter segment. 14%

    3. We should not build rail transit at all. 32%

    4. We should only build rail transit if we also add highway lanes and/or a toll road. 18%

    Don’t Know 7% "  READ MORE

 

We were wrong on energy use:

       But not by much. And we weren't really wrong, we just were not using the latest data. So here is the absolutely latest up-to-the-minute word on passenger energy use.

       You will notice that automobile occupants use much less energy than bus passengers. Light rail riders uses only 9 percent less energy than the auto passenger. That is certainly not what most folks think.

Mode

Btu's per passenger mile

Automobile

3,549

Light or Heavy rail

3,228

Transit bus

4,160

Source: Table 2.10 U.S. Energy Data Book #25

Editorial writer denounces congestion:

       This exciting event happened a few weeks ago in the Milwaukee Sentinel; maybe it's catching. Here is an excerpt:

       "Mary Peters, picked to be the new federal secretary of transportation, did something exciting: First thing, she said highway congestion's a problem.

       This is refreshing. It was like hearing theologians denounce sin. They're supposed to, sure, but if you remember the 1970s, they all seemed to give up the fight as hopelessly square and talked politics instead.

       Ditto road planners and congestion. As long as I can remember, any talk of how Milwaukee's rush minute grew into a rush hour has been, "We can't build our way out of congestion," which meant we'd better get used to brake lights and buy a bus pass.

       We could turn every third street into an expressway, goes the line, and cars would still fill them. Eventually, we'd have 17 SUVs each and use amphetamines to stay up all night driving to keep ahead of the pavers.

       We didn't have to. The pavers gave up, or the planners got tired of being tackled by NIMBYs on the way into public hearings. We've had some new lanes and a few new roads, but since the population's been increasing faster, and since it insists on buying cars and moving, congestion's been worsening.

       It doesn't have to, suggests a new study ..."  READ MORE 

 

What you do not hear from Parsons Brinckerhoff

"The following is an excerpt from a survey that PB did for the Colorado DOT:

Key conclusions from the telephone survey are highlighted below:

  • Most drivers in the Denver area are adversely affected by traffic congestion.
  • Approximately one-half of the drivers support the idea of an opportunity to pay to bypass congestion.
  • Most drivers see the value of avoiding irritation and annoyance from traffic congestion. They also place value on avoiding congestion when they experience being late for an appointment or meeting.
  • Drivers who are late for appointments or meetings or work place a higher value on avoiding congestion than drivers in other situations.
  • Solo drivers that travel at least 30 minutes one-way to work and face heavy congestion and are willing to pay in order to save 15 minutes of travel time was the smallest segment of drivers. However, a nearly equal number of drivers in these same circumstances would commute by carpool an average of 3.89 days per week if the same travel time savings could be achieved."

[Urban & Transportation Consulting and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas. Colorado Value Express Lanes Feasibility Study Round One Focus Groups, Public Involvement and Outreach Summary Report No. 1, Rev. 1.1. Prepared for the Colorado Department of Transportation Region 6 Planning and Environmental Section. January 2000.]

 

December 9, 2006.

Here's what is wrong with the financial plan for rail:

       The City/Parsons Brinckerhoff's financial outlook for rail, called The Financial Feasibility Report is not a plan, it is a wish list.

       First, what it shows is that if they use the prudent "trend forecast" option for projecting tax revenues they will be $1.2 billion short. To use any higher projection is wishful thinking.

        Second, the City/PB use $1.2 billion as the federal contribution; they are dreaming. The feds told Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OMPO) what the likely funding was going to be READ MORE  and OMPO included it in their draft Regional Transportation Plan. It was $456 million. The feds told Charles Djou the same thing.  READ MORE The prudent financial plan would use $500 million or less; to plan on more is wishful thinking, even if that does leave the plan another $700 million short.

       Third, the City/PB use a projected cost of a 28-mile option as $4.6 billion. At that price, simply allowing for inflation, shows that the new rail plan's cost per mile is much less than the 1992 rail plan. That is not logical, especially considering that land condemnation will cost the City far more now than it would have in 1992 allowing for inflation However, if we allowed a little reality into the program, we would at least use the same cost per mile. See our December 7 post below to see why a realistic cost projection should be $6.4 billion. That makes the financial plan another $1.8 billion short.

       Those three items alone show that the City is a total of $3.7 billion short for a $6.4 billion program. At some point in the future, reality has to intrude in this process.

 

Welcome aboard to our newest members:

 

Bill Morris

Bobbye Blume

Carol Hopkins

Colin Harris 

D. Blume

David Nickle

Geal Talbert 

Georgiana Yap

Jane Morris

JanellIsrael 

Jim Maynard

Katherine Martin

Ken Schoolland

Li Schoolland  

Marc Halualani

Miles Kahaloa

Myrle Fujii

Roland E. Maurer

Roy Pyles

Sandi Halualani

Suzanne Ching

Suzanne L. Maurer

William Harris, M.D

 

 

December 7, 2006.

Why our $6.4 billion rail cost is right:

       Here’s why we believe that our estimate of $6.4 billion is a better estimate than the City’s $4.62 billion for the full corridor alignment (both include 33 percent allowances for cost overruns and contingencies).

       First, we looked at the Miami Metrorail, which is the only otherU.S. modern elevated rail line. We took the cost, increased it for inflation using the same Construction Cost Index that the city uses, and from that arrived at a cost per mile. We then adjusted the cost up 36 percent forHawaii vs.Florida costs and multiplied the result by the 28 miles of the proposedHonolulu line. That amounts to $6.18 billion. Since this calculation was based on actual cost, we did not need to add an allowance for cost overruns.

       Second, we tookHonolulu’s 1992 rail cost in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which appears to be almost identical to the city administration’s proposed route, but with the addition of Waikele to Kapolei. We then adjusted the cost for inflation using the same Construction Cost Index as the city, divided it by the route miles to arrive at a cost per mile m current dollars. We then multiplied it the length of the “full corridor alignment.” We then added the same 33 percent allowance for contingencies and cost overruns that the city uses to arrive at $6.4 billion.

       We could average these two but with public works projects better you pick the one that is slightly higher. READ MORE

 

December 4, 2006.

Advertiser publishes Stone's rebuttal:

Today's Advertiser carries a 300-word rebuttal to the November 17 op/ed by Toru Hamayasu from Dr. Martin Stone, AICP, and refers readers to honolulutraffic.com for the full story. See our November 30 post below for the original Hamayasu op/ed and rebuttals from Stone and Dr. Prevedouros.

 

December 1, 2006.

"Commuting in America III" hits the news stands:

     Every ten years appears Commuting in America III sponsored by the Transportation Research Board and the National Academies of Science and Engineering, and managed by Mr. Alan Pisarski. The latest one does not disappoint and for those deeply into the subject it is well worth buying from TRB. Dr. Prevedouros has provided us with a seven-page summary of what he believes are the most interesting parts particularly as they relate to us in Hawaii. READ MORE

 

November 30, 2006.

Stone and Prevedouros respond to Hamayasu:

     On November 17,  Mr. Toru Hamayasu, Chief Planner for the City Dept. of Transportation Services, published "The truth about rail, traffic and HOT lanes," in the Honolulu Advertiser. In our view, it could only be described as scurrilous.

       Fortunately, Dr. Martin Stone AICP, Director of Planning for the Tampa Expressway Authority, has written a rebuttal to it, as has Dr. Panos Prevedouros, Professor of Traffic Engineering at the UH Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Read these and make up your own mind as to who is telling the truth. You will have no difficulty.

HAMAYASU   STONE   PREVEDOUROS

  

November 29, 2006.

Gov. Cayetano opposes tax collection now:

       In this morning's Advertiser, David Shapiro quotes former Governor Ben Cayetano as saying, "Somehow, the mayor has conned everyone into thinking that the GET should be collected in advance of federal approval of the proposed rail system. The feds do not require collecting the taxes in advance. I spent half my 12 years in the Legislature chairing the transportation committees in the House and Senate. I know there is no requirement to collect monies in advance." READ MORE

 

November 27, 2006.

Our comments this morning to the Task Force:

       We presented our comments to the Council's Transit Advisory Task Force this morning and faulted the Alternatives Analysis on various grounds as follows:

  • Purpose and needs — this is the fundamental statement that everyone is supposedly involved in defining — including the public. Choosing one of the various alternatives is weighed against what everyone agrees is the purpose of taking the action. We contend that the City violates the environmental process with ambiguous, if not deceitful, language. READ MORE
  • Rail costs —  they are understated and underfunded and we show a great deal of detail on this issue. The City is still drafting the financial plan at this late stage. Within the next month the Council will make a $15 billion commitment. And we still don't have a financial plan? READ MORE
  • HOT lanes — aka Managed Lanes — are grossly overpriced by building in all kinds of extras that are not needed e.g. 5,700 parking stalls and bus stops. We point out that Tampa is larger than the City's version and costs only 15 percent of what the City forecasts. Something is wrong here even with the costly add-ins. READ MORE  Also read the comments of Dr Martin Stone, Planning Director of the Tampa Expressway and Dr. Prevedouros of UH Civil Engineering. STONE PREVEDOUROS 

Autos now using less energy than buses:

  

    This chart from the federal Transportation Energy Data Book shows that autos now use less energy per passenger mile than buses contrary to conventional wisdom. Most interesting is that the U.S. Dept. of Energy has been tracking these data annually since 1975 when buses used less energy than autos. The shift has been gradual as autos used less and buses used more until in 1990 the paths crossed. READ MORE

 

November 18, 2006.

Recent slide shows now here on line:

     The series of powerpoint presentations that John Charles, CEO of the Cascaded Policy Institute and Ted Balaker, of the Reason Foundation, made during the last few days are now available below. They are meant for those who want to refresh their memories of what they saw and heard and not designed to be taken cold turkey:

CHARLES ON TOD TAX ABATEMENTS

BALAKER ON THE MOBILITY CRISIS

CHARLES GUIDE TO SMART GROWTH 

 

November 17, 2006.

City ridership projections are nonsense:

      At this morning's meeting of the City Transit Task Force, Cliff Slater presented charts together with a detailed written explanation of what is wrong with the City/PB ridership projections. Fundamentally they are making some assumptions that are just not true such as, saying the ridership increases with population. It never does. READ MORE

 

November 14, 2006.

Charles Djou's reports on FTA & Tampa:

      Along with other Councilmembers Djou visited with FTA officials in Washington DC and then went on to examine the Tampa Expressway — the model for the Managed [HOT] Lanes alternative.

       His conclusions are that we are highly unlikely to see much more than $500 million in federal funds, rail will take forever to build, and the Managed Lane alternative could be built for less than $1 billion and be done in five years.READ REPORT

Opposition at last night's Council hearing:

The opposition to rail at the Council Transportation Committee hearings last night was loud and clear. Those opposed outnumbered the proponents 4-1, or more. The proponents were few and mostly UH students, which is to say, those not yet paying taxes. VIEW CH9 NEWS

November 13, 2006.

The Star-Bulletin poll now closed; we liked it:

The poll asking preferences for the short version, the long version or none of them finished up with 406 for the rail versions and 526 for none. As the Mayor said, "It's now or never." And never is the right answer it seems. SEE POLL

Another chart confirms congestion growth with rail:

The chart below, from the City's Alternatives Analysis, shows the hours of delay we may expect from the various alternatives in 2030. Leaving aside for the time being the totally distorted figures for the Managed Lane alternative, note that the two rail options both show greater levels of highway delay (congestion) than what exists today. (Source: page 3-21, Alternatives Analysis)

November 10, 2006.

No traffic relief in sight with rail:

      The charts below are taken from the City's new Alternatives Analysis (AA), Table 3-12, showing the existing traffic congestion in the Leeward Corridor on the left and the City's best rail alternative on the right.

      The important numbers are the Volume/Capacity ratios highlighted in red. The one for existing traffic, 1.06, tells us that the traffic is currently 6 percent greater than the highway capacity; hence the bad traffic congestion. The one on the right tells us that in 2030 traffic will be 31 percent greater than capacity — with rail. There you have it; they want us to spend billions of dollars (as yet we really don't know how much) and finish up with far worse traffic congestion.

       

City's Alternatives Analysis financing does not add up:

      We have had accountants trying to make sense of the financial data in the Alternatives Analysis (AA) and they cannot make sense of it.

      Here's what the City says: The full rail alternative will cost $5.5 billion including their allowance of 33 percent for contingencies and cost overruns. That  we understand. However, their contention that the ½ % GE tax will be enough to fund it does not make sense.

      Here's one way to look at it:.

  • First we have to pay off the whole bond debt within 30 years because that is when the replacement and refurbishing costs become a very serious matter — more $billions.
  • Second, we will only have $300 million on hand collected from the new tax increase when the first construction bills come due in 2009.
  • Third, the City forecasting federal funding of $1.0 billion is wishful thinking; it is more realistic and certainly more prudent to use the OMPO plan estimate of $456 million.
  • Fourth, allow that we will have to pay 5.5 percent in interest costs on the bonds.

      Plug in those four conditions into the computer (it's just like a mortgage calculation) and out pops annual payments of $327 million in principal and interest.

      Add to that $75 million in operating losses annually and you have over $400 million in annual expense dues. On the other hand, the ½ percent tax collection will be about $150 million annually.

      We are going to be a little  short when we have $400 million going out and $150 coming in. What is going to make it up? You are.

 

November 8, 2006.

New DOT Secretary Peters' first speech:

There was no mention of rail transit. It was all about reducing traffic congestion because the nation is coming to an economic standstill. Using pricing and Public Private Partnerships (PPP) were in focus. The speech is a good indicator of her thinking. READ  MORE

Hawaii Public Radio's Town Square now online:

Last Thursday Dr. Panos Prevedouros and Cliff Slater were the guests on Beth-Ann Kozlovich's Town Square, a regular weekly radio show on Thursdays from 5-6 pm. The City and Parsons Brinckerhoff were both invited but declined to appear. You can now hear this directly, or download it.
Listen to MP3 (58:59)  Have patience, it takes a while to download.   

 

November 6, 2006.

Houston to convert its HOV lanes to HOT lanes:

Houston Chronicle: "Those HOV lanes long forbidden to the motorist driving home alone could become a legal route for the price of a few bucks, based on a plan the Metropolitan Transit Authority is considering.

Metro officials are weighing the option of opening the 105 miles of high occupancy vehicle lanes to single motorists who are willing to pay a toll — while keeping the service free for bus riders, commuters who carpool and motorcyclists."

      The FTA is authorizing the use of federal funds for converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes. It will allow Houston to fine tune the traffic and carry far more vehicles than they can today with the usual HOV rules limiting occupants to 2 or 3 minimum. That does not allow you to fine tune; as Bob Poole says, "You can hardly limit the occupants to 2.7 or more." READ  MORE

Finally the Mayor gives us a choice, "Now or never!":

Since the Mayor is finally giving the public a choice, we'll take the second option — NEVER. But thank you, Mr. Mayor, for at last giving us a choice in the matter. READ  MORE  

     

Rail transit and the equity issue:

      The folks who usually advocate for poverty rights are remarkably absent from the rail transit issue. Yet the lower income folks are those who are usually hurt by expensive rail projects. First, a hike in the GE tax is a hike in the most regressive tax we have; it harms lower income folks disproportionally more than those with higher incomes. Basic rent and food and other necessities are all subject to the GE tax.

      Second, in order to boost rail ridership numbers, transit officials routinely change routes so that they dead end at rail stations. So people who may have a straight shot to work on TheBus may find themselve with a bus/rail/bus journey.

      Third, rail transit chews up so much money that transit officials tend to cut bus service rather than rail service. A lawsuit was won on these grounds by the NAACP a  few years ago. They found that Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority was spending 70 percent of its budget on the 6 percent of riders who used rail while only spending 30 percent of its budget on the 94 percent who used buses. And, of course, the rail riders were the more affluent ones.

      The lawsuit called Labor/Community Strategy Center v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) resulted in a court-ordered Consent Decree, commiting MTA to agree to invest over $1 billion in the bus system. It was the largest settlement in civil rights history .

      From the story: "The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., served as lead counsel in the case. Environmental Defense advised the plaintiffs and the class on transportation, economics and equity issues. Institutional plaintiffs included the Labor/Community Strategy Center, the Bus Riders Union, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates. The settlement was supported by Republican Mayor Richard Riordan, the libertarian Reason Foundation, transportation experts from UCLA, and free-market economists and efficiency advocates from the University of Southern California. It was settled through mediation before Donald Bliss, a Republican and former Acting General Counsel to the Department of Transportation. Clearly, it would be hard to accuse such diverse interests of sharing an ideological or ethnic bias in the transportation dispute. Their historic victory highlights the need for broad-based coalitions to build healthy communities and to advance race relations." READ  MORE

November 6, 2006.

Council selects Bus Rapid Transit:

     Calm down — that's a headline from November 2000. We thought to mention it because after last week's headline about the City Council selecting rail transit, some people got the idea that it was all over. Far from it; there were many more votes on the BRT and then the FTA turned it down by withdrawing their support.

     We can also remember positive votes in 1989 for rail transit with officials gloating that it was a 'done deal.' It was really done three years later when, many more votes later, the City Council finally voted it down 5-4. There is a long process, over many years, still to go and we believe that in the long run the rail transit proposal is too ridiculous to succeed.

November 5, 2006.

Advertiser: Read the new StoryChat:

Robbie Dingeman wrote an interesting story about the increasing costs of the proposed rail system this morning. The online version has a new StoryChat that allows readers to post their thoughts online. If you are feeling frustrated jump in. READ  MORE

     

 November 4, 2006.

Star-Bulletin: "Keep an open mind about transit"

     Today's Star-Bulletin editorial rightfully questions the difference between the Managed Lanes Alternative (aka HOT lanes) cost estimated by the City at $2.6 billion and that of Dr. Martin Stone, AICP, Director of Planning for the Tampa Expressway Authority, at $900 million. As the Star-Bulletin says, "That disparity of estimated cost is difficult to understand."

      They also worry about the escalating cost of the rail alternative from Kapolei to UH..

     Our readers may remember that a year ago when the city was forecasting $2.6 billion, we were saying that it was more likely $4.1 billion plus cost overruns. As of Monday the City is saying that it will cost $5.5 billion including an allowance for 33 percent in cost overruns. Oddly, that works out exactly to our earlier projection of $4.1 billion plus cost overruns. Finally, the city appear to agree with us.

     The Star-Bulletin says, "Explanations are needed about what appear to  be estimated costs spiraling into the atmosphere."  The conclude that the Council should keep an open mind since, "The consequences of the upcoming decision are too important for it to be railroaded." READ  MORE

 

November 2, 2006.

"Who we are" — the list grows daily:

Welcome aboard to our latest members:

 

Walter Helmke

Steve Maurer

Shyrah Maurer

Linda Wong

Jim Quimby

William Gleason

Cherylyn Gleason

Gil Larson

Gayle Stover