BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS, PHD. – Statements from the City administration proclaim that the planned Honolulu rail will remove 40,000 cars from the traffic.  This sounds good.  Did you fall for it?

Let’s look at the FEIS.  (That’s the Final Environmental Impact Statement.)  Is this number correct?  Sort of. It’s not 40,000 cars, but 40,000 car trips. The FEIS says that rail will reduce 40,000 car trips from the total number of trips made in a typical weekday on Oahu in 2030.

The FEIS also says that the total number of daily trips on Oahu in 2030 will be 3,989,300.  That’s four million trips and rail will reduce those by 1%.  You pay $5.5 Billion for a 1% reduction!

Various other statements by pro-rail politicians and city administration representatives proclaim a substantial reduction in traffic congestion.  The answer is in the traffic analysis, and their own FEIS Tables 3-9 and 3-10 show that rails produces no traffic relief.  Let me back track a bit to explain this.

The U.S. standard description for quality of traffic flow (accounts for speed, wasted time, etc.) is called Level of Service or LOS. It is a simple rating from A to F.  A is great, B is good, C is acceptable, D is bad but tolerable in large urban areas, E is very bad and F is unacceptable.

To give you an idea of what congestion relief means, in the early to mid-1990s, the town-side of Likelike Hwy. operated in LOS E.  Once the H-3 Freeway opened up in 1998, the LOS for Likelike Hwy. improved to C. There was a clear and substantial improvement in traffic conditions. H-3 Freeway after 12 years in operation still operates in LOS A or B. That is a win-win outcome for two major roads.

Something similar was realized when Kal. Hwy. from Kahala to Hawaii Kai was widened from 4 to 6 lanes. I remember nightmarish Saturday visits to Hanauma Bay taking about an hour. Now under 20 minutes is the norm. From level of service F to B. That’s what adding 50% capacity in lanes does!

So what’s in the future of Leeward Oahu’s residents in Kapolei, Makakilo and Ewa who commute to and from Honolulu?  Will the rail change their E and F level traffic into a C or D?  What change in traffic quality does the FEIS predict without and with the rail? The answer is summarized in my table or it can be worded as follows:  Zip, none, nothing, nada, niente, no good!

Dear Leeward Oahu resident and voter, I regret that many of you do not yet realize this, but I am stopping the rail for you.  You need congestion relief.  You need LOS C.  You aren’t getting any! Not now, and not ever if this rail is built.

Instead of rail, a city, state and private partnership can deliver express lanes and real congestion relief: Level of service B on the express lanes and LOS D or better on the existing roads.

No modern rail has ever succeeded in congestion relief. In contrast, no modern express lanes have failed to provide major congestion relief. There are many more express lane projects planned in the nation’s congested cities as there are rail systems.

Here is the path to congestion relief for Leeward Oahu: Vote Panos for Mayor, Stop the Rail, Plan and Install Express Lanes and Express Buses.

I can be reached at 63-PANOS (637-2667) or at Panos.Prevedouros@Gmail.com. Mahalo!


Postscript:

The City misleads you that the feds have accepted the FEIS. The FTA allowed the city to release the FEIS. It’s a step, but not a major milestone in the environmental process.

The FEIS is not an FEIS until the Governor signs it. Only then the FTA signs it and publishes that fact in the Federal Register.

At that point, the public comment period begins, and if there are significant remaining concerns then a Supplementary EIS may be required. An SDEIS had to be done for Mayor Harris’ Bus Rapid Transit system in 2002.

The Programmatic Agreement (or section 106 compliance) needs to be completed. Only then, the FTA can issue a Record on Decision that completes the environmental (NEPA) process.

After that the city can complete Final Design. After Final Design is complete, the city can sit down with the feds and “talk money.” That leads to the FFGA, or Full Funding Grant Agreement, that defines how much federal dollars the city will actually get.

A long way to go, right? You may safely ignore the pro-rail politician claims that rail is a done deal and that construction is about to start.

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