Editor’s Note: Retired civil engineer Ben Ramelb wrote the following piece in response to Civil Beat’s Fact Check — Carlisle: Rail Will Take 40,000 Cars Off The Road.

Mayor Carlisle has stated that: “Rail will ease future traffic congestion – without rail, the congestion will be far worse” and that “Rail will take an estimated 40,000 vehicles off our roads each weekday”.

I provide a traffic analysis below, using traffic numbers from the City’s Traffic Study, to show that the mayor’s statements are incorrect and misleading.

  1. Derivation of Carlisle’s “40,000 vehicles per day” as explained in the Civil Beat’s Fact check is confusing. Further, the 40,000 figure is not used to determined specific traffic impacts to critically congested sections of the West Oahu Highways. The analysis resulted in a misleading and incorrect Fact Check conclusion of “Mostly True”.
  1. The paramount issue is to determine the impact of the proposed Honolulu rail project on future traffic. For the West and Central Oahu commuters, the specific question which needs to be answered is “How will rail impact the major bottlenecks at the H-1/H-2 merge and at the Middle Street merge during peak hour?”.

  2. Carlisle’s statement “- Rail will ease future traffic congestion – without rail, the congestion will be far worse” can be evaluated by using the A.M. Peak-hour Screenline Volumes on Table 3-12 of the city’s Alternative Analysis.

Examination of H-1 Freeway at Kalauao Stream reveals that H-1 has an existing capacity of 9,500 vehicles per hour (vph) with an existing volume of 10,960 vph. Under the year 2030 No-Build alternative, the forecast volume is 18,049 vph. Under year 2030, the 20-mile Alignment East Kapolei to Ala Moana alternative with rail, the forecast volume is 17,209 vph.

These numbers show that (a) H-1 has a current level of service “F” with a vehicle overload of 1,460 vph. (b) H-1 has a year 2030 overload of 8,549 vph under “No Build” alternative and (c) H-1 has a year 2030 overload of 7709 vph under the 20-mile Kapolei to Ala Moana alternative. The information is shown in table form below:

H-1 Existing Capacity = 9,500 vph

H-1 Existing volume = 10,960 vph

(Yr 2030 – No build Alternative)

H-1 Volume = 18,049 vph

H-1 Overload = 8,549 vph

(Year 2030 – 20 mile Kapolei to Ala Moana Alternative)

H-1 volume = 17,209 vph

H-1 Overload = 7,709 vph

Conclusions:

1) Vehicles removed by Rail in year 2030 H-1 traffic = 8,549 vph minus 7,709 vph = 840 vph

2) Carlisle’s “40,0000 vehicles per day” removes 840 vph or 10 percent of the year 2030 H-1 vehicles per hour overload.

3) With Rail, year 2030 H-1 continues to be overloaded with 7,709 vph with a level of service “F”.

4) Carlisle’s statement that ” without rail, the (traffic) congestion will be far worse” is “Mostly False” instead of Civil Beat Fact Check’s conclusion of Mostly True”.

5) With rail, the existing express bus system must be expanded to substantially reduce or eliminate the residual 7,709 vph overload (year 2030) which causes the bottleneck at the H-1/H-2 merge. For example, a fleet of 200 express buses per peak hour using the zipper can carry 10,000 passengers which is equivalent to about 8,000 vehicles per hour (1.2 occupants per vehicle).

Recommendations:

1) Civil Beat’s Fact Check be modified to show the actual negligible impact of the “40,000 vehicles per day” on the bottlenecks at the H-1/H-1 merge and at the Middle St merge, and

2) The “Check” should include a statement that in addition to rail, an expansion of the express bus system, involving 150 to 200 buses per hour, will be needed to eliminate the bottlenecks at the H-1 merges. and

3) Your fact check bottom line grade on this issue should be changed from “Mostly True” to ‘Mostly False”


About the author: Born and raised on the Kahuku Sugar plantation with two sisters and 3 brothers. Attended Kahuku High and Elementary school and graduated in 1956. Graduated from University of Hawaii in 1960 with a Civil Engineering Degree and an Army Officer commission. Served in Virginia and Monterey, CA as a Company Engineering Officer for two years. Worked five years with two local engineering consulting firms and many years with the U.S. Navy, retiring in 1994 as a Director of Facilities Planning at the Navy Pacific Engineering Headquarters. Planning work involved Navy and Marine Corps military installations in the Pacific from the West Coast to Diego Garcia. Married for almost 50 years and have a son and a daughter. Likes playing golf, tennis and swimming. Have traveled twice a year to many countries during my retirement years.

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