Traffic congestion on Oahu is getting worse – but the proposed rail system would not solve the problem. The City and the Federal Transit Administration admit this in their final EIS where they write: “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.”i
Their EIS shows 21 percent more cars on the road if we build rail and 23 percent more if we do not.ii
This is what the Star-Advertiser calls a traffic “solution”?iii
The City estimated rail would cost $5.2 billion, but state and federal studies predict the cost could be over $7 billion.iv Why spend billions on rail when we can expect that traffic congestion in the future would get worse with or without rail? This is why no city remotely comparable to Honolulu in size has built or plans to build elevated, steel on steel heavy rail system.
Honolulu’s bus system is rated the best in the nation. My plan begins by enhancing rather than dismantling it as the city is now doing as part of its plan for rail.v
I would plan and implement an enhanced version of the bus rapid transit plan contained in the 2003 Final Environmental Impact Statement I signed as Governor and that the Federal Transit Administration approved in 2003. Full details of the Regional from the Ewa Plain and Mililani areas to Town are in this Final EIS.vi
The city paid Parsons Brinkerhoff more than $10 million for the 2003 study, which concluded that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was superior to rail as it would generate higher ridershipvii at roughly one-fifth the cost ($1.04 billion).viii
The In-Town phase originally planned to run on dedicated lanes on Kapiolani and Ala Moana but was criticized for taking car lanes on those two heavily congested boulevards. We are mindful of the criticism and will review the In-town phase with a focus on using King and Beretania streets instead.ix
It should be noted that BRT will be able to run to UH Mānoa and also Waikīkī whereas rail could not since the tourist industry is solidly opposed to heavy rail running on an elevated concrete structure through Waikiki.x
Within the first year, I would increase the number of express and direct-route buses, and make better use of the zipper lanesxi and freeway-shoulder-use program that were initiated during my second term as governor. I will significantly increase the number of point-to-point routes from Kapolei, Mililani, Wahiawa, Waianae and Windward Oahu, to downtown, Ala Moana, Waikiki and the UH-Manoa campus.
We would work with the Governor in the removal of major bottlenecks (such as the Middle Street merge), and to expedite them I would urge the Governor to form a state-city joint venture with the city sharing the costs of construction. We would implement measures that would improve island-wide mobility such as state-of-the-art computerized traffic signals that have been promised by the last four administrations but with little result.
Finally, it doesn’t cost much to retrofit buses with Wi-Fi and other amenities. The new buses are sleeker, more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than rail. Moreover, BRT buses will have more seats than rail cars and the presence of a bus driver provides security not available on the driverless rail cars. One can only wonder whether parents will risk putting their children alone on the rail cars or how young women would feel riding the train alone at night.
We can introduce BRT faster than rail because we would not be starting from scratch. Given its higher-than-rail ridership projections, lower-than-rail costs and readiness to deploy, I believe federal assistance would be available to help finance the system.
We can implement BRT solutions relatively quickly with little disruption to the environment or to businesses during construction. Unlike rail, which is fixed in place, BRT routes can be adjusted and new routes implemented. Furthermore, they do not block view planes, nor do they damage historical sites or unearth burial grounds.
And virtually all of the jobs created by my BRT plan and the upgrading of the City’s sewer and water systems and the repaving of the roads will be jobs our local workers can do.
According to HART’S executive director, Daniel Grabauskas, the cost of the rail system as originally planned (with spurs to UH-Manoa and Waikiki) would be $9.03 billion!xii Nonetheless, my opponents mindlessly oblivious to costs, advocate extending rail to Manoa, North Shore, Hawaii Kai and Kailua also.
When I listen to my opponents visions of spending billions on a non-solution to the traffic problem I wonder if they have amnesia about raw sewage flowing down the Ala Wai Canal and onto our beaches, the building moratoriums in major areas of our city, and the third ranked worse roads in the nation.xiii
The upgrading of the city’s basic infrastructure is woefully behind schedule. A significant infusion of funds is needed to get the systems up to speed. I have a plan to do this – my two opponents do not.
i. Final EIS quote on traffic (pages 1251-2 of Appendix A, Final EIS,
The complete quote is, “You are correct in pointing out that traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail, and that is supported by data included in the Final EIS. In fact, projections suggest that traffic conditions will be worse in 2030 under any circumstances [studied in the EIS]. The Alternatives Analysis supports this statement as does the analysis of transportation impacts in the Final EIS. The key comparison to the Project is that rail will improve conditions compared to what they would be if the Project is not built.”
And here is what FTA’s Regional Administrator wrote, “Many commenters [on the Draft EIS] reiterated their concern that the Project will not relieve highway congestion in Honolulu. FTA agrees, but the purpose of the Project is to provide an alternative to the use of congested highways for many travelers. This alternative to the use of highways is especially important for households that cannot afford an automobile for every person in the household who travels for work or for other reasons.”
Even worse is the fact that when you read the rationale for building rail in the Final EIS, you find that they never had any intention of reducing traffic congestion below today’s unbearable levels. Read it here: http://www.honolulutransit.com/media/7512/20110701-final-eis-chapter-01.pdf Page 1-21.
Bear in mind that “rapid transit” is officially classified by FTA as “heavy rail.” And when they used the word “mobility” they mean “mobility by public transportation.”
ii. From Table 3-12 (http://www.honolulutransit.com/media/7518/20110701-final-eis-chapter-03.pdf) below we can make the comparisons between the increases in “Automobile – private” from “2007 existing conditions ” to the “No Build Alternative” (that is, doing nothing much) and the “2030 Project (rail).” That is 1,291,800 to 2,815,800 (do nothing) or 2,767,600 (rail). That works out to 22.8 percent and 20.8 percent respectively, or round up the numbers, 23 and 21 percent.
The IMG Report was commissioned by Governor Lingle because of her concerns that fallout from potential shortcomings of the rail project might impact state finances. The Washington DC firm is highly respected in analyzing public finances.
The Report calculated a cost overrun in rail construction (and other areas) using the Downside Case of $1.7 billion plus the base of $5.2 billion = $6.9 billion. They said, “The Downside Case is a downside scenario where assumptions are toward the pessimistic end of the likely range, but still are very reasonable. The C&C should be prepared to provide the levels of support to the Project required in the Downside Case.” P.38. http://www.voteben2012.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Final_IMG_Report.pdf
The FTA’s Project Management Oversight Contractor estimated a 10 percent risk of the rail project construction exceeding $7.4 billion. http://www.voteben2012.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/PMOC_OCT2011.pdf. Table 69 and associated text.
v. The 2010 Final EIS for rail states, “Some existing bus routes, including peak period express buses, will be altered or eliminated to reduce duplication of services provided by the fixed guideway system.” http://www.honolulutransit.com/media/7515/20110701-final-eis-chapter-02.pdf page 2-43.
vi. Details of the Regional Plan start on page 2-26 of Chapter 2 (25 megabytes) of the 2003 BRT plan available here: http://www.voteben2012.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Pages_101-174_2003_FEIS_BRT_Vol_1.pdf
For the full 205 megabyte Final EIS Vol. 1 for the BRT download from here: http://www.voteben2012.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2003_FEIS_BRT_Vol_1.pdf . These are large files so a little patience is needed.
vii. Higher daily ridership for BRT for 2025 for BRT Table 4.2-1 FEIS 312,570 (see link above), for Rail in 2030 riders are 282,500 in Table 3-12 of the 2010 Final EIS (http://www.honolulutransit.com/media/7518/20110701-final-eis-chapter-03.pdf, page 3-29). BRT is forecast to be 10.6 percent higher than rail.
ix. The original In-Town BRT plan was using two dedicated two lanes in the centers of Ala Moana and Kapi‘olani Boulevards. Not surprisingly, this segment of BRT was heavily criticized and opposed. I agree with the critics and we will review the feasibility of using dedicated lanes on King and Beretania streets instead.
This engineering drawing above is from the HART website (http://www.honolulutransit.com/media/11457/20090414-historic-effects-report-appendix-b.pdf, page 29/31) and is described as a typical cross section showing the rail lines along Kona Street between Pensacola and Piikoi Streets.
The elevated rail line on the right of the drawing depicts the provision of a secondary rail line, which is one of the “planned extensions” to UH and Waikiki to go over the structures along Kona Street that are part of Ala Moana Center. Note that it is a single line which raises questions about the frequency of service to UH and Waikiki when there is only a single line to service both of them. Also note the approximately 3½-foot high sound barriers on the outer edges of the rail line. These are to reduce the sound level of the train.
Imagine going over H-1 to UH Mānoa and the station in the Quarry.
Imagine the train going down Kalākaua and Kuhio Avenues.
And even worse imagine having to raise the additional $4 billion dollars to pay for the extensions.
The 11-mile H-1 zipper lane currently only runs into town in the morning rush hour but at this time enables express buses to travel unimpeded for its full length. The PM zipper lane is planned to run in the opposite direction during the afternoon rush hour.
xii. The new CEO of HART gave the City Council a figure slightly in excess of $9 billion to complete the “planned extensions.” These would connect East Kapolei to Kapolei Town and connect Ala Moana Center to UH Mānoa and Waikīkī. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/honolulu-city-council-approves-450-million-in-commercial-paper-to-strengthen-rails-financial-plan/123
xiii. The quote below from the 2003 Final EIS for the Bus/Rapid Transit program clearly show that the thousands of O’ahu residents that Parsons Brinckerhoff and the City interviewed did not want a heavy rail (rapid transit) line because it was unacceptably expensive, too intrusive on the visual environment, and divisive of communities. This Final EIS for BRT was signed off by the City and the FTA.
“The concerns that led to the rejection of the most recently proposed elevated rapid transit system were primarily two: (1) its high cost and (2) its physical and visual impacts … Public input received in hundreds of Vision Team and O’ahu Trans 2K meetings and workshops attended by thousands of O’ahu residents revealed widespread agreement that while an elevated transit system might serve goals of improving in-town mobility and strengthening connections between communities, such a system would not foster livable communities. The predominant sentiment among thousands of participants was that a grade-separated transit system would be unacceptably: (1) intrusive on the visual environment; (2) divisive of communities; and (3) too expensive. These shortcomings were judged by public participants to outweigh the recognized benefits of a grade-separated system, i.e. high speed and capacity, increased reliability and reduced negative impact on the surface road system.”
Source: Final EIS for the BRT Project, FTA and City, July 2003. p. 2-57.
In short, our citizens wanted no part of elevated rail.