Brief Insight on the Kakaako Development and Honolulu’s Trifecta of Failures

Panos Prevedouros, PHD
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Panos Prevedouros, PHD

BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – Up to 5,000 new apartment and condominium units are being planned by the Hawaii Community Development Authority in Kakaako, Honolulu. This section of Honolulu is already the most traveled and congested. What would be the likely impact of such concentrated, high density development?

In the field of transportation planning and engineering we rely on the Trip Generation Manual produced by the Institute of Transportation Engineers headquartered in Washington, D.C. I have the 8th edition issued in 2008.

It says that High Rise Apartments (land use 222) generate 0.30 trips per unit during the peak hour between 7 and 9 AM. The peak period in Kaka’ako is roughly the same. Of these trips, 75% are outbound (leaving the building) and 25% are inbound. Given that Kakaako is at a location near the center of the city and Waikiki, quite a few of these trips will be on foot, bike or bus. So instead of assuming that 90%-95% of the trips will be by auto, let’s assume that 80% of the trips will be by auto.

If 5,000 new units were occupied in Kaka’ako “tomorrow”, then there would be:


5,000 x 0.30 x 0.75 x 0.80 = 900 new vehicle trips during the morning peak hour

If we stack all of them on Kapiolani Blvd., this estimate means that an exclusive new lane would be needed just to maintain similar congestion conditions as now. But there is no room for lane additions so the traffic impact will be immense.

This is similar to the situation prevailing today: Because of sewer work, contraflow on Kapiolani Blvd. was not in effect until past McCully St. (town-bound from Kaimuki) so it took me three cycles to go past the Kapiolani/Date traffic light. Over five minutes to traverse one major intersection.

As I have frequently mentioned, Honolulu is the most lane deficient city of about one million people in the US (per capita, it is worse than LA, Chicago, etc.) Adding more density will cause the central road network to seize. It already does when there is major rainfall or a couple of typically uncoordinated lane closures on major streets.

Brief Insight on the Kakaako Development and Honolulu’s Trifecta of Failures

The “Establishment” supported and thrived with the quick profiteering from the Second City. Second City profit-making has subsided due to the lack of road capacity and it will collapse with the mess of 10+ years of rail construction due to lane closures. After destroying the Ewa Plains, and causing major infrastructure liabilities, now it is time for the Establishment to come back and densify Kakaako and Kalihi.

A dense urban ribbon between Waikiki and the airport should have been the original plan instead of the Second City 22 miles away from Waikiki. That plan should have come with high rises, urban underpasses, large underground parking, and possibly a 10-mile underground metro from Waikiki to Airport and perhaps to Aloha Stadium. The plan should have had new utility lines installed in secondary streets such as Waimanu Rd. and Queen St. instead of under major arterial streets such as Ala Moana and Kapiolani Boulevards.

If you recall, since 1995 Kapiolani Blvd. has been a continuous construction zone. Now Ala Moana Blvd. is another work zone. As long as main utilities are under them, labe closures will never stop and pavement will be a patchwork.

With the

  1. Second City/Ewa Development Plan,
  2. The Rail and,
  3. The HCDA/Kakaako Development

the Establishment has created the ultimate trifecta of (predictable) failures at a time when Honolulu can least afford to make mistakes and start new massive liabilities while the massive liabilities of

  • Sewer EPA consent decree
  • One water main break a day
  • The worst pavement condition in the last 30 years
  • Public employee pension unfunded liability
  • Public employee health coverage unfunded liability

are here and 100% real.





  1. Panos, I love ya, and I totally agree with your points about such serious problems as infrastructure failings and traffic gridlock as reasons to reconsider (and revise) the Kakaako development plan, but please don't subscribe to a failed urban model by advising dense high rise development in Kakaako. I don't understand why we're buying into the whole "sister city" bunch of baloney in trying to persuade the public that this sort of development is at all desirable. The hyperdevelopment of Kakaako is all about greed and power and foreign investment, and nothing more. The people who live crowded together in these pigeon coop towers in other cities really are quite miserable and making the best of a bad situation. Who wouldn't be miserable living in a tiny apartment with your fire rated door locked tight and no sense of community with your neighbors, and your once beautiful ocean view is now wholly blocked by the new high rise across the street? Is it truly healthy to be living many floors above the ground, where nature is absent, the sounds (and sirens) on the street below are magnified many times over, where daylight is blocked or shadowed by another building and there is no nighttime because the lights from the other towers are shining in your windows all night long? What about the floods from upstairs neighbors plumbing problems, the most frequent insurance claim for high rise dwellers? Those can mean months of displacement and expensive repairs, perhaps mold issues… and the loss of your own insurance policy if you make too many claims. Let's not even start with the roach or other infestations. No, Panos, there are many health and social issues that make dense high rise development unacceptable for Hawaii. Let's do better than the "other" cities. Let's go for low rises and town houses that the local people can afford to purchase, and lawns and parks and wide sidewalks. Let's have a unique and very human Honolulu!

    • In brief, you agree with his ranting about past infrastructure actions but totally disagree with the basic premise of his plan.

      • Mr. brief, what suggestions do you offer? In my book, Mr.PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD, has earned the academic right to rant about a subject that he as studied. Are you able to offer any evidence that can dismantle what Panos has shared with the public?

  2. In cities people like in SF have had many happy days living in high rises and walking/biking to work and are very healthy for doing so…riding bikes to work living in a high rise i can afford ….next to another high rise would be great ! if i could afford it but with all the luxury units …small affordable housing owner not rental condos are being denied?? If i lived in kakaako area ..i would walk to work, to the beach to the store it is all there..but i will waste gas and 2 plus hours a day and my time that i could use to live a fun beach healthy life having time to go,to the beach not sitting in traffic jobs for me where i live ..but cant afford luxury unit like any that are going up now was hoping wiamanu would go thru I would be there with the rest of the employees working down the street…to better our quality of life..and decrease traffic…

    • Are you a Mufi supporter? Hoping he will run again? Mufi's Kakaako plan is ONLY FOR THE RICH. See the prices these developers post. And they take a % off them to meet "Low Income Housing" Ha! 300K is NOT low income!
      Last, know Hannemann Aide Admits Anonymous Attacks headline. Mufi's mafia has been active for a LONG time.
      Keith Rollman Defends Using Ficticious Names During Rail Debate
      Read more:

    • I agree, some people can live in condos and lead a happy-healthy life style, but that's not the issue here.
      The issue is adding buildings and bringing people into an area that has a questionable living conditions or environment. When you invite people over to your house, don't you try to clean it up so everything looks nice and things are functioning, i.e. toilet, electricity, air conditioner, TV, radio…? I know this is a simplified analogy, but basically that is what is the problem. Buildings are being built and the sewer lines have not been up-graded. Children living in the buildings will not have a school to attend in the area, elderly people will not be able to walk to the grocery store, because there is none in walking distance. Pedestrians have to walk in the street with the traffic because there are no side walks. Hospitals are already full of patients, the Emergency rooms can only take care of so many people at a time, bottlenecking at the ER door causes long wait times for service. Too many building for the Fire department or Police Department to attend to adequately. Start with educating yourself as to what it takes to build a healthy community. It's not as easy as it sounds. Here is a start:

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