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Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Panos: Why Rail Projects Don't Get Stopped
By Panos Prevedouros PhD @ 4:20 PM :: 4193 Views :: Rail

2014 American Community Survey: Honolulu Mode Shares

by Panos Prevedouros, FixOahu!, September 28, 2015

Transportation modes are the means by which people move around in a city, particularly for their commute to work. The mode shares for "Urban Honolulu, HI Urbanized Area (2010)" are listed in Table B08301 of the 2014 American Community Survey. They are as follows:

The same data in pie chart form:

There are several important observations:

  • Personal transportation (cars, bikes and motorcycles) is used for 80% of the trips.
  • Bicycling in Honolulu is only 1.1% of the trips.
  • Work at home is a welcome 3% of the trips, similar to the US average.
  • Walk is over 5%, which is better than the US average.
  • Public transit (bus and taxi) is almost 10%, which is much better than the US average.

Almost 90% of the trips shown require roads and another 8.4% of the trips shown do not require substantial infrastructure (just sidewalks and the Internet.)

So how does the state, city and OMPO address the people's preferred use of transportation?  They provide an obscenely expensive elevated rail alternative that saps transportation funds for much needed road and sidewalk repair and expansion.

  *   *   *   *   *

Rail Projects: Excerpts from a National Discussion

Last week one of my students asked why rail projects don't get stopped. The following quotes are from recent discussions with national leaders in transportation, regarding the  proposed $2 billion Purple Line for the Washington Metro.  Notice that their quotes are as if they are talking about Honolulu rail... [My comments]

1   One thing that always has to be remembered is that no FTA staffer, or FTA as an institution, is EVER going to take credit for killing a project – and, when it comes down to a GS-12 vs. a Congressperson on a project going forward, who do you think is going to win in the end?"

[In Honolulu' s case, Senator Inouye had 40 years of congressional seniority,  i.e., he was unstoppable.]

2  This is what has become of urban transit planning: US Senators playing the role of God in disbursing --or threatening the loss of-- oodles of tax money.  Every FFGA now must come with the Good Housekeeping seal of approval of the state's senior Senator. Alternatives analysis, schmalternatives analysis.*  Its just good old-fashioned pork.  The Senate doesn't work. (* the AA in Seattle for light rail was a sham.)

[So was Honolulu's AA that eliminated the PH tunnel with a couple lines of discussion.]

3  It's all about getting elected and staying elected until they die. When they get money for a local goodie, they tell their constituents that its free money just for them.  The other thing they say to the folks back home is that they create jobs but those jobs are mostly for workers from somewhere else.

[No comment is necessary.]

4  One thing that you have to understand about building rail lines, most particularly those in urban areas, is that speed is not really a high criterion, particularly compared to the need to keep costs down.  Now, when I say, “keep costs down” in a discussion of urban rail lines, the first reaction of many people is to say, you have got to be kidding, this is not a priority at all – and you cite the $200 million/mile for the Portland Orange MAX line. Urban rail costs have become unbelievably high. When I was working on the Long Beach-Los Angeles light rail Blue Line in the 1980’s, it was coming in at about $877 million (actual cost was over $1 billion, but this wasn’t really known at the time, and it certainly wasn’t publicized)

[This is why Honolulu will be "lucky" if the cost per mile stops at $500M, that is, the $4.6 billion Honolulu rail will have an actual cost of $10 billion.]

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