Hawaii 8th Worst in Survey on Cost of Driving

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Photo: Emily Metcalf (Honolulu freeway traffic)

A new survey of conditions and costs of driving in America’s 50 most populated cities documents what drivers in Honolulu already know: Gas prices and congestion are high.

Honolulu is ranked 8th worst out of a list of 10 cities with the most frustrating driving conditions.


The report, published in Nerd Wallet, said about Honolulu:Gas is very pricey on the island—with the high shipping costs, Hawaii has a higher cost of living than most cities.  The added traffic from Honolulu’s booming tourism industry makes it hard to get around the city.”

The report considered traffic congestion, including how many hours commuters spend in their cars in traffic in addition to regular commute time; the cost of gasoline and how it varies from the national average, as well as population density.

Cities ranking even worse than Honolulu were New York City, NY; Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Boston, MA; Washington, DC and Oakland, CA.

New York City took the number one slot with the authors notingNew York drivers are delayed by 59 hours each year, and gas costs 7.67% more than the national urban average.”

Rounding out the top 10 worst cities for driving after Honolulu were Portland, OR, and Philadelphia, PA.

Cities faring much better were Raleigh, NC, ranked as the best big city to drive in, with Bakersfield, CA; Wichita, KS; Kansas City, MO; Albuquerque, NM; Omaha, NE; El Paso, TX; Colorado Springs, CO and Fresno, CA, following in the top 10 best slots.

Honolulu has been ranked low in a number of surveys and studies on traffic congestion and road conditions.

In February 2013, the Annual Urban Mobility Report produced by the Texas Transportation Institute claimed that in 2011, Oahu residents used an extra 11,298,000 gallons of fuel while stuck in traffic or about 24 gallons per driver stuck in rush hour traffic.

In January 2013, TomTom reported Honolulu ranked as the fourth most traffic-congested city in North America, with just Los Angeles, CA; and Vancouver, Canada, San Francisco, CA., coming in ahead of Honolulu.

In May 2012, Inrix Inc. reported Honolulu had even more traffic congestion than major California cities. The report called the fifth Annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard reviewed 100 of the largest metropolitan areas and found Honolulu drivers waste 58 hours in traffic per year.

In February 2013, Reason issued a report “Examining 20 Years of U.S. Highway and Bridge Performance Trends” in all 50 states. Hawaii’s evaluation said: “Between 1989 and 2008, Hawaii improved in only three categories, and deteriorated in three others. The state posted a slight improvement in urban congestion, an average improvement in its highway fatality rate, and a vast improvement in the reduction of narrow lanes on rural primary roads. On the other hand, Hawaii saw more roads in poor condition among urban interstates and rural arterials, and more deficient bridges.”

The report called Hawaiian highway infrastructure’s history between 1989 and 2008 “a story of extremes.”

“Its urban interstate roads deteriorated more than any other state’s, with the percentage of such roads in poor condition rising by 25 percentage points. On average, the U.S. improved in this category by 1.2 percentage points. On the other hand, Hawaii went from 80% narrow lanes on its rural primaries in 1993 to just 32.4% in 2008, the biggest improvement in the country at 47.6 percentage points,” the report said.

Panos Prevedouros, PHD, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii who is one of the state’s leading transportation experts, has done a number of studies on traffic congestion with his students, some of which the state used to improve traffic flow in busy corridors. He said excessive congestion is crippling to a local economy and quality of life.

“For various reasons ranging from rapid growth of population to neglect of the infrastructure, traffic congestion and transit crowding can become excessive and last for several hours. This has occurred in Honolulu due to neglect and misguided policies,” Prevedouros said.

In a two part series in Hawaii Reporter, Prevedouros details what can be done to alleviate traffic throughout the island of Oahu and the price for each solution:

“Modest population growth on Oahu and vast population shifts to the Ewa plains combined with no investment for bottleneck relief have created intolerable traffic congestion in Honolulu which experiences congestion levels comparable to very large metro areas worldwide,” Prevedouros said.

Prevedouros believes congestion on Oahu will only get more challenging because the city administration under the newly elected Mayor Kirk Caldwell is putting $5.2 billion into building a 20-mile rail system that will serve a tiny portion of commuters rather than making improvements to Oahu’s roads that will help all commuters.

Reacting to the newly released Nerd Wallet survey, Prevedouros said the web site forgot to mention that all those cities with high traffic congestion and poor conditions for drivers have rail systems and yet they are still very bad.

“Honolulu is so lane deficient that it does not require a rail calamity in order to join this failure club,” Prevedouros said.  “Honolulu rail, if it ever gets here, will make Honolulu float to the top of the least desirable U.S. cities for drivers.”





  1. Believe only the Reason's report as they are non biased. Read it's excerpt below.
    "…Reason Foundation's nonpartisan public policy research promotes choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress. Reason produces rigorous, peer reviewed research and directly engages the policy process, seeking strategies that emphasize cooperation, flexibility, local knowledge, transparency, accountability and results. ..Reason Foundation was founded in 1978 and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization completely supported by voluntary contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations, and the sale of our publications.."

  2. Has anyone heard Governor Abercrombie say he wants to ease the cost of horrific gas prices in the islands by eliminating some tax burden, so you have more money in your pocket?
    Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

  3. Now days it is impossible to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a politician. Just by breaking down the word Politics should give you the answer your looking for! Poli or Poly = many or multiple, or multi-sided, and Ticks=Blood suckers, hence many blood suckers.

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