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Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Panos Schools Caldwell on Rail, BRT
By Panos Prevedouros PhD @ 5:28 PM :: 4135 Views :: Maui County, Education K-12, Energy, Environment

Panos to Kirk: Hello! Is anyone there?

From www.HonoluluTraffic.com

Dr. Prevedouros addresses questions posed by Candidate Caldwell

K: How does the Cayetano plan to squeeze an additional 100 BRT buses per hour (the amount needed to match the carrying capacity of rail transit during peak hours) onto Honolulu's already crowded freeways?

P: You mean we should pay 5.1 billion dollars to match the work of 100 buses when TheBus already has 550 buses? Do you say that 100 more buses is a problem when each traffic lane carries more than 2,000 vehicles per hour?

K: If his plan does not call for or allow that many buses how will he fill the gap needed to match rail's capacity. How many buses will there be? How much will it help?

P: You start with a false IF question. I don’t have to provide a THEN answer.

K: How much better- or worse- will traffic congestion be after the Cayetano plan is implemented than if rail was operating?

P: Read FTA’s lips: Rail is no solution to congestion. In addition to BRT, Ben has a plan for traffic congestion mitigation. What’s yours?

K: How will all of the additional buses fit on the streets and roads once they enter Chinatown and the downtown business district? How will Hotel Street handle the bumper-to-bumper parade of additional buses?

P: Take a drive in downtown areas of cities with properly working traffic signals. I suggest Tampa for similar size and configuration. Then come back and ask your question again. Most traffic and other problems on Oahu are self-inflicted by the likes of you.

K: How can buses in roadway traffic, facing the same congestion as cars, ever match the speed and reliability of trains on designated guideways?

P: You mean 23 mph average speed is something I need to match? OK then, let’s finish HOT lanes with dirt road style pavement. Again, for your education, the rail studies suggest that for destinations between Aiea and the UH, car travel will be same or faster than rail in 2030.

K: How can buses drive on freeway shoulders when the shoulder lane crosses exit/entrance ramps and highway merges?

P: Are you calling Minnesota and dozen other jurisdictions stupid? All this has been figured out already.

K: If buses drive on freeway shoulders, what happens when there is an accident or stalled car? If the buses all have to merge with car lanes in these situations, won't that create a traffic nightmare?

P: H-1 town-bound has a shoulder used as regular lane for a long length, by Aiea. How many times this year was this blocked by a stalled car and became a nightmare? The Europeans years ago realized that shoulders are the most expensive and most unused piece of public infrastructure and many states have opened their shoulders to general use under a smart traffic management system. Shoulders return to emergency use off-peak or when speeds are above 50 mph. Since you brought it up, I have a related question for you: Describe in your own words the chaos that will ensue after a HECO-style power outage (e.g., 1 hr to 24 hrs) or a suicide on the third rail or another accident, which will paralyze one station and the whole rail corridor will freeze. Yes, rail is 99.9% reliable when new, but its power supplier and patrons are not.

K: How can cars enter and leave parking lots for stores, banks and other businesses on King and Beretania streets when the curb lane is used exclusively for buses? If cars are allowed in to create semi-exclusive bus lanes, won't that defeat the purpose of exclusive lanes?

P: This shows your lack in math and effectiveness. In the peak hour you schedule a train every 3 minutes. If a BRT is scheduled every 2 minutes and makes stops of 10 seconds, this leaves 110 seconds of empty lane every 2 minutes. This is useless traffic management. Thus, controlled shared use, as in many US, EU and Asian cities is the proper way.

K: What happens on overpasses or bridges when the shoulders are too narrow for buses to safely navigate them?

P: Would it kill us to employ a few local engineers and carpenters to widen the handful of such cross sections if necessary?

K: How can a bus safely travel at high speed on a shoulder lane past cars stacked up bumper-to-bumper?

P: Go to the University Ave. off-ramp of Koko Head bound H-1 on a typical morning and observe stalled traffic on the right lane and 50 to 60 mph traffic on the next two lanes. It happens every day and nobody has been injured. However, for safety purposes bus speed will be limited based on best practices from actual Bus on Shoulder systems in the US. Even with reduced speeds on shoulders, a Bus on Shoulder will be much faster than rail.

K: If BRT takes away HOV or other traffic lanes, what happens to the cars that used to drive in them? Wouldn't that make for even more traffic congestion?

P: The current AM zipper can easily carry 100, or more, buses per hour with no reduction in speed. But no such increase is needed. Remember, that YOU made up the 100 bus number to match the pie-in-the-sky rail ridership estimates. You can build all the transit you want. Modern families won’t join you.

K: Which routes will the Cayetano Bus Rapid Transit system follow? How often?

P: Buses are flexible to run anywhere, anytime that there is demand for them. If gas becomes more expensive and Mililani, Hawaii Kai, Kailua/Kaneohe folks ask for more buses, they can get three more buses per hour at very little extra cost. They get nada with rail. (To be more precise, they get permanently higher taxes and less bus service.)

K: How much does the Cayetano Rapid Transit plan actually cost?

P: Way, way, way less than elevated rail to build, operate, and maintain and it will be infinitely more flexible to expand, decrease or modify.

K: If the BRT that is the basis of the Cayetano plan had a $1 billion plus price tag a decade ago, how could it possibly cost significantly less today?

P: I guess the difference between 1,000 and 5,100 million dollars is not significant to you?

K: How does the Cayetano plan propose to pay for Bus Rapid Transit when there is no local funding source, no federal financial support and the money already devoted to rail can't be used?

P: For starters, ask Jeremy Harris. But Toru can tell you, as he explained to me in year 2000 or so. The 2002 BRT plan was not dependent on GET. Ben Cayetano also has a plan for the rail tax.

K: To match the carrying capacity of rail transit, the Cayetano alternative would have to expand the current bus fleet and staff dramatically. How will we pay for the operations and maintenance costs, which will be several times higher than those rail transit on a per-passenger-mile basis?

P: You really don’t know much about buses. Necessary BRT personnel expansion may cost as little as the totally unproductive “transit security” and station custodial service of your rail.

K: If the half-percent excise tax surcharge can only be used for rail under state law, and if it is actually collected and dispersed by the state, how can candidate Cayetano gain control of it for sewer repairs and other City needs?

P: I guess you have never experienced a law modification in your political career. But wait! How many laws and ordinances were amended in the last six months alone?

K: If the half-percent surcharge is not used for rail, as mandated, won't taxpayers demand it be stopped and returned to them since it is not being used for its intended purpose? How then will he pay for BRT?

P: Asked and answered.

K: To shut down rail, the City will first have to pay to settle all the claims and legal fees arising from more than $2 billion in contracts that candidate Cayetano says he will break. He will have to repay millions in received federal funds. There will be nothing to show for it-and little or no money left over to do anything with while traffic will be worse than ever. How can he therefore spend "all that rail money" which won't exist anymore on all the projects he says he is going to use it for?

P: And whose fault is the squandering of $300 million of taxpayer money with nothing to show for it so far not including the dramatically dwindling federal funds? How many Congressional slaps does it take for you, Dan and Peter to wake up to the US fiscal reality?

K: How does synchronizing more traffic lights downtown reduce freeway traffic in Waipahu, Pearl City and Aiea?

P: I guess it is your understanding that the city traffic department has no jurisdiction in Waipahu, Pearl City and Aiea. Read up on it.

K: Isn't making traffic congestion so bad that people will abandon their cars and ride buses the underlying assumption of the 2003 Environmental Impact Statement that is the basis of Ben Cayetano's plan?

P: Feel free to blame Toru and PB for the permanent lane reduction on critical arteries such as Ala Moana and Kapiolani Boulevards. I know better and I published this as far back as 1998 with my King and Beretania BRT now enhanced as The College Express to connect UH-Manoa, HPU and HCC and the main destinations in the between with fast, limited stop service on semi exclusive lanes.

K: If core components of the Cayetano BRT plan were met with major public opposition the last time we tried it in Honolulu, why would it work now?

P: The In-town BRT of Mayor Harris sucked. I understand that the Harris In-town plan is not part of Ben’s BRT plan.

K: In interviews, candidate Cayetano has talked about elevating BRT lanes. Where will those go? Where will the exit ramps go? Where will they deliver the buses? What happens to the traffic on those streets when hundreds of buses are pouring onto them?

P: The Nimitz Viaduct was almost completed in design during the Governor Ben Cayetano administration. In collaboration with the state, this project can be fast-tracked for traffic relief and express bus routing.

K: How will elevated BRT lanes, which are larger and wider than rail guideways and require massive on and off ramps connecting with surface streets - have less of a visual impact than rail? Show us what these will look like.

P: The Nimitz Highway is less than 2 miles long and has fewer than 4 ramps all of which are much smaller than rail stations and blend on top or with existing roadways.

K: What will businesses do when the Cayetano plan's BRT takes away on-street parking on Beretania Street and King Street?

P: The assertion of a net parking loss is of your own making.

K: Why does candidate Cayetano support the Beretania Street and King Street BRT routes now when he opposed them as governor?

P: It is my understanding that the State DOT at the time was opposed to some freeway modifications included in the Regional BRT and had nothing to do with Beretania and King Streets which are not state kuleana to begin with.

K: Candidate Cayetano has stated BRT buses would run "on the mauka side of the street." How does that work if the bus door is on the traffic side of the bus?

P: Like for trains, doors for buses are customizable. I caution you to not try to find faults with buses because their combinations and abilities for the price are far superior to any monolithic, low production train. In case you have not noticed, buses can also be double-decked and include toilets in them. My regularly scheduled Seoul airport bus also had wi-fi.

K: If candidate Cayetano is elected, he will undoubtedly have to conduct a new EIS for BRT with all relevant studies (traffic, air quality, other environmental impacts, social impacts, economic impacts). He cannot use 2003 EIS as he claims - his preferred route, traffic, population and economic conditions have changed and costs for construction have changed. Since the EIS process normally takes four years before construction starts how can he claim his plan will be in operation before his first term ends?

P: There is no requirement for an EIS to run express buses in the AM and PM zipper lanes. (State is about to implement a PM zipper.) There is no EIS requirement to run The College Express. In the same vein, and quite unfortunately, there is no EIS required to assess the impacts of the terrible bus cuts the city is making right now. That’s a hell of an irony, right? City cuts bus routes because it needs to save a couple of million in diesel fuel for buses but City can spend five thousand million on rail! Some people’s math deficiency is staggering.

K: How does candidate Cayetano propose to pay for the cost of conducting a new EIS for his transit plan?

P: You are pretty fixated on the EIS. Be that as it may, if Inouye refuses to help then I think Lingle will.

K: Why does candidate Cayetano keep saying that no one is using steel-on-steel technology anymore when several cities- Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Dallas, to name just a few- have recently completed successful steel-on-steel rail systems? (Every new rail transit system in the U.S. is steel-on-steel.)

P: I am not sure that you know what you are quoting. I am pretty sure that Ben talks about Elevated Steel on Steel. Who’s done it recently?

K: Which specifically are the all the city rail systems that candidate Cayetano keeps referring to as failures?

P: There is scientific proof that all US systems besides NYC and BART are economic and social welfare failures but I do not care to educate you further.

K: Which cities are effectively using Bus Rapid Transit exclusively instead of rail?

P: You cannot use the word “effectively” without using specific effectiveness criteria. This is why the rail’s EIS dances around effectiveness because by strict effectiveness measures such as traffic congestion, that, for example, the Superferry was assessed in its belated EIS, rail clearly fails. Freeway traffic level of service (A is best and F is worst) is F with and without rail. Rail is not effective. So, if you read the EIS, the scope of rail is to “improve mobility.” Define mobility with precise numbers and compare mobility by car, bus and rail. Then I will answer your question. (Or you can read UCLA studies that proves that highway modes are far better than rail in helping people get a job and stand on their feet again.)

K: How are diesel-guzzling buses environmentally smarter than electrically powered trains?

P: About 95% of Oahu electricity is made from oil and coal! Clean diesel is FAR superior in terms of emissions and it is used directly in the bus instead of heating water, making steam which makes a turbine spin, to make power, to “store” it in transformers and capacitors, and then transmit power for miles and then consume it at the rail. Leave this misinformation for HART publications to elementary schools. Have you heard about electric buses? After HECO or its replacement cleans up power production, then electric buses may be in Oahu’s future.

K: Candidate Cayetano recently has added "at-grade" light rail systems as part of his plan for Honolulu. Where does he plan to use light rail? How does he plan to fund it? How will trains intersect and interfere with street traffic?

P: In both my 2008 and 2010 candidacies I frequently mentioned that the botched rail EIS missed the opportunity to examine in detail light rail service from Nanakuli to the Airport via the ORL right of way, most of which is available for use or reinstatement to its original purpose: rail service. You as Managing Director are clearly co-responsible for this glaring DEIS and FEIS deficiency.

K: How can candidate Cayetano be "confident" of federal funding for BRT, when the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) clearly prefers the steel-on-steel option and when there is no support for BRT from Hawaii's Congressional team in Washington, DC? (The FTA revoked the record of decision on the old BRT project he is using as his model and it is no longer eligible for federal funding.)

P: It is quite possible that Hawaii’s Congressional representation six months from now will be only 25% of what it is today, so I’d say that for all practical purposes all bets are off till November.

K: Why is candidate Cayetano supporting Bus Rapid Transit when his own transit advisors - including Cliff Slater- are against it?

P: Cliff and I are strong proponents of real traffic congestion relief. No form of transit qualifies as an effective mitigation for traffic congestion. And people like you make the problem so much worse because over 60% of all of Oahu’s transportation expenditures in the future will be spent on transit. This is your math deficiency: Spend 60% to serve 6%. The remainder 94% will suffer in congestion, potholes and random traffic lights. At least Ben has a plan to do something about traffic congestion. You only got “rail.”

K: Why does candidate Cayetano offer up a plan that does not address many of the same issues that he criticizes about rail? (In fact, traffic congestion will not only be worse after the Cayetano BRT system is in place, but it will much worse than it would be with rail.)

P: It’s easy to make things up, isn’t it?

K: In the past, candidate Cayetano was against building the Hawaii Convention Center; he wanted to turn over the Ala Wai Golf Course to private developers, and started the process of under-funding the state employees retirement fund (leading to a statewide financial disaster today.) Why is he right on rail?

P: I am one of the signators of a main beam of the Hawaii Convention Center steel structure. I worked with Senator Carol Fukunaga at the time to coordinate criticism of the HCC for its location and traffic impact. All I know about the governor vis-à-vis the HCC is that his administration completed it on time, under budget and adorned it with terrific art. Funny you should mention the HCC. For about $300 M Ben delivered a massive, multipurpose building. As of today, and for much more than $300M over nearly eight (8) years the Honolulu rail gang has delivered one pylon in the middle of agricultural land.

K: How is it that Ben Cayetano is right, and everyone else- Dan Inouye, Dan Akaka, Mazie Hirano (sic), Colleen Hanabusa, Neil Abercrombie, the Federal Transportation Administration and the Obama Administration- is wrong in their support of rail transit?

P: Who is Hirano? YES THEY ALL WRONG. They clearly share the same math deficiency you have. Would you like for me to repeat my comment about the US deficit and future liabilities? They have the same “proclivity” as Carlisle: Spendthrift and pound foolish. (Bus cuts to save a couple million, then waste billions on rail.) They must think that the Chinese and other bond holders are daft. Guess who’s daft…

K: With all of these unanswered questions, is candidate Cayetano really serious about implementing BRT, or is his half-baked plan only a window dressing to provide a temporary distraction as he pursues his crusade to kill rail transit? If he kills rail with no viable alternative, how will Honolulu ever solve its traffic challenges?

P: After the brief education I provided you above, the real question is how will you ever be able to do something positive about Honolulu’s traffic, sewer, road and budget challenges? Been there, not done it. …Aloha!

Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD, Athens, Greece, 6.15.2012

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