Good overview of Honolulu’s rail transit project, which will be the longest driverless transit system in the US. Honolulu is already one of the most transit intensive cities in the US, ranking sixth, just below Boston, in terms of annual per capita ridership (88.4 in 2012).

98 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Honolulu Rapid Transit”

  1. The tone of the video seems like it is very much countering skepticism. What is the basis for it especially given the high transit ridership and density in the Honolulu area? Cost and an unfamiliarity with rail? Or just craziness?

    Look at the size of those freeways they show in the video, and yet not one HOV lane, that is madness.

    What’s the story with that western end of the line going through all that farmland? Is this to get ahead of development?

    Is this part of a larger network? They referenced extensions to UH Manoa and Waikiki and an alternate bypass line via Salt Lake but is that it or is the long term plan for there to be crosscrossing lines?

    1. I’ve never been to Hawaii, but is Honolulu really all that dense? In the video they’re showing super wide highways, and in the satellite overview part of the video there’s a terrific amount of empty asphalt. I’m not really familiar with the area at all, but I would have expected an island of all places to try and make better use of their land.

      1. It’s just like any other city that attempts to grow eith the auto being the dominant form of transportation. It winds up devoting so much space to autos that nothing else is usable, and autos just barely so.

      2. I used to commute to Waipahu every morning and was amazed at how packed the highway was going in the reverse direction into the city. Given the military presence from Pearl City and beyond and how expensive it is for tourist workers to live near Waikiki it gets pretty bad Throw in that Waikiki is walking distance to the end of the line, this line will do quite well.

      3. Honolulu is dense by U.S. standards. I lived there a year using bike and bus, and have returned a couple times to visit. In many ways, it’s like Seattle in that water and mountains limit the city’s ability to add road lanes as in Houston or Denver. Driving culture is also similar — all manner of complex intersections and signage, a fair amount of courtesy,occasional bursts of rage. Congestion levels are also similar to Seattle. Construction costs and planning delays for light rail are also in the same ballpark, very high.

      4. Yes, Honolulu is dense. It is built around two mountain ranges, Waianae (to the west) and Koolau (to the east) and settlements are found on the surrounding coastal plains and lower mountain ridges as well the rising plains between the two mountain ranges. Makiki, just to the east of Downtown is known for highrise apartment buildings and lowrise apartment buildings. Waikiki is full of tall hotels and highrise apartment buildings and condos. Downtown has many condominium buildings and office towers, but also a number of old historic buildings, too. Most of this created in the past fifty years. But as you go farther away the urban core, there are neighborhoods full of single family houses. These are the people who must drive long distances to work downtown. As the population has grown, former flat plantation lands have given way to housing, but this leads to more people needing drive long distances to work.

    2. The opposition is due to craziness. There are fanatical anti-rail nuts in Hawaii just like there are everywhere else. :sigh:

      The project has had a lot of hurdles. Because of the situation in Hawaii, it was clear that demand would be *very* high and that full grade-separation was the way to go. And due to the geology and hydrology, it was clear that it should be elevated rather than underground. As a result it’s expensive and it’s getting complaints about views.

      The western end is going through farmland for two reasons. (1) there is planned development there (there’s a lot of argument about whether this is a good idea), and (2) they need to shoehorn the railyard and maintenance base SOMEWHERE, and the farmland is basically the only option.

      There are planned extensions further east, but as you can imagine, with no current rail, it’s hard to convince people in the richer districts to let the rail go through, so it stops just before it hits the *really* expensive land. Once the line is up and running, the mood in the rich tourist areas will probably switch quite quickly in favor of rail, but it has to be demonstrated (landlords are often hyperconservative people who don’t believe anything unless it’s demonstrated).

  2. Wish they would call this HART project what it is, most of all, a way to avoid the congestion while still getting around the Honolulu region. Cities are incredibly prosperous economic engines because of their high populations combined with them being highly concentrated. That intense concentration with everyone in cars doesn’t work because they take up so much space and carry so few, and with packed buses stuck in cars… its all gridlock for everyone and every trip and no way around it. With everyone in cars the concentration and high populations are then seen as a negative but they are only a negative for motorists. For those not in cars, that high population and concentration is what makes the city. The only way you can get around gridlock in these prosperous places is with much of the population using a grade separated rapid transit network and to not further contribute to the problem by adding another car to the mess. This is the crux of the transit argument. Preaching to the choir here but I rarely hear this larger argument, and its every bit as relevant to Seattle.

  3. What’s with all these loud annoying PA messages this weekend? Makes me want to jump off bus. Drivers say they can’t turn off or lower volume.

    1. It started yesterday. Pretty dang annoying. It’s so loud it pierces through whatever I am listening to. Because I really need to be reminded to hold on. In half a dozen languages. Every time someone gets on the bus.

      1. It’s probably some response to some idiot in some other city who didn’t hold on and is suing his transit agency.

        In the meantime, this is just one more piece of obnoxiousness to drive everybody back into their cars. I can only hope that Sound Transit, which I ride much more frequently than Metro, doesn’t do this.

    2. Pop quiz hotshot. It’s Saturday, June 6th and your on a Southbound 41. Which of the following 3 pieces of information does Metro think you need to hear repeatedly every 1-2 minutes? And which 1 does Metro not bother to tell you, either with a canned announcement, driver announcement, signs on the bus, or signs at bus stops?

      A – Stand behind the yellow line
      B – Hold on while the bus is in motion.
      C – The bus has a video camera
      D – The downtown transit tunnel is closed. Here’s where the bus will stop and how to connect with other buses/trains.

      I genuinely don’t understand why Metro and Sound Transit are so incompetent at communicating with the public. I love transit. I gave up my car and use transit for all my transportation. I want it to do well. But honestly, the agencies around Seattle kind of deserve any antipathy they’re getting from the public.

      1. The last announcement might have been useful for many, but I didn’t hear it on any of the downtown-buses I rode (5 and 16).

    3. It’s on every bus that I can tell. Not the driver’s fault, but some central policy. Best to send complaints into Metro, I certainly will be.

      1. Yesterday waiting to leave Sea-Tac, one of those announcements just about blew me out of my seat.

        Being old enough to remember the time when public transit was many times more heavily-used in this country, lack of automated messages didn’t damage ridership or operations in the least.

        From standpoint of the purpose of the messages, their sheer number assures that people will start tuning them out. Literally. That’s what headphones are for.

        Cure? Start attending Sound Transit board meetings an speaking at public comment. Whichever agency’s policies are to blame, all have representatives on the Board.

        Including the Mayor of Seattle and the King County Executive.

        Tempting to bring a bull-horn along for effect. But message will be louder if you tell them that since a system that handle basic passenger communications can’t get anything else right either.

        “The TRAIN is being held by traffic ahead. The TRAIN will be moving shortly. We apologize for the delay.” Three-for-one cure here: no cause=no need for message=no excuse.

        Mark

    4. I was on five buses yesterday and four today, and they all had them. One bus kept repeating every five minutes, “This bus has surveillance cameras which are reviewed for illegal activity” or such. (1) Is there anybody left who doesn’t know this? The cameras have been there for twenty years. (2) It feels like, “The police state has started. Everyone is under suspicion.” These messages are also louder than the other ones; the camera message distorts the speakers a bit. This could get really annoying day after day.

      The “hold on” message is in English, Spanish, and I think Chinese.

    5. I noticed this as well. A message seems to play every so often after the closing of a door. Very annoying.

    6. Well Metro is admitting the trial of these “safety” public service announcements went badly and is working to remove them from every bus in the fleet by Monday.

      From the way the news release is worded it sounds like the announcements will be coming back in the future, but that they are looking into making them quieter, less frequent and more friendly. They also promise to share the revised announcements with customers ahead of time… something they probably should have done from the start.

      ow.ly/NZUdN

      1. If they are going to do ‘public service’ announcements, how about something really useful such as reminding passengers to observe senior seating priority and not ‘manspread’, ‘bagspread’, and block rear door exits.

    7. And I thought the outdoor “This bus is turning right” announcement was annoying.

      1. I still haven’t heard that one. It’s a pilot project on only a few buses?

        I’m concerned about potential annoyance, like those “Caution, vehicle exiting.” announcements in front some downtown garages. I go through downtown a lot but I don’t spend a lot of time there, so I only hear those occasionally. If I heard them all day every day I might get heavily annoyed. I’m worried about that happening with the “Bus turning right” announcements, but since I haven’t heard them I don’t know how obnoxious they are.

    8. Yeah. I did hear a “tunnel closed:” announcement once, on one bus, but by the time it played I suspect many folks had tuned out the PA (or started wearing earplugs, designed or improvised), so it had little effect.

      The one general announcement I was hoping to hear, “Use the read door to exit, unless you are mobility impaired or the bus is jam-packed”, seemed to have been forgotten.

      Did Metro hire whoever at Sound Transit is responsible for the platitudes the tunnel PA and electronic signs seem to endlessly spout?

  4. Hawaii has been a leader in the conversion to Hydrogen fuel.

    Fast-Fill hydrogen fueling station enabling zero emission transportation

    The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) has commissioned a “Fast-Fill” high-pressure hydrogen fueling station at the Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i (MCBH), Kaneohe Bay. This state-of-the-art station was developed to support a fleet of General Motors Equinox Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) leased by the Office of Naval Research for use by Marine Corps and Navy personnel on O‘ahu.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/news/article.php?aId=7251

    1. Toyota Hawaii to sell ‘Mirai’ hydrogen fuel cell car here in 2016: Slideshow

      Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which are projected to grow to 10,000 by 2022 in Hawaii and surpass electric cars by 2025, is getting a major boost from Toyota with the expected arrival of the Mirai in the Island late next year.

      But this weekend at the First Hawaiian International Auto Show held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, the Toyota Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese, will be on display for the public to see.

      http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2015/03/10/toyota-hawaii-to-sell-mirai-hydrogen-fuel-cell-car.html

      1. All of which is a propos of nothing that anyone on this blog gives a rat’s ass about. You need to go an do your war dance on the Greenpeace blog. We don’t want more cars — which is what you want — even if they’re powered by prayer.

      2. Actually, hydrogen fuel cells could be really great when it comes to transit. Imagine having a nice, quiet backup power storage system at each Link substation, or being able to operate the trolley bus system on power generated at the cheapest period of the night.

      3. India’s First Renewable Hydrogen Fueling Station

        India’s first solar-powered renewable fuelling station, supplied by Air Products (NYSE: APD), was inaugurated recently at an event with chief guest Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy, in conjunction with Shri Upendra Tripathy, Secretary, Minister of New and Renewable Energy.

        Part of a mass public transport bus fueling and vehicle demonstration program, the SmartFuel® station generates 100 percent renewable hydrogen from solar energy via an electrolyzer. It is located at the Solar Energy Center near Delhi and part of a project managed by the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE). The project was also implemented by India’s University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) and funded by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) of the Government of India.

        http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/prnewswire/PH29594.htm

      4. Hawaii’s going to be generating all its electricity from solar and wind soon (maybe a little geothermal or a little hydro).

        Is there any possible reason to waste that electricity on a hugely inefficient process of generating hydrogen and then burning it?

        Look, an electric car with a small battery can *cross the entire island*. With *no range concerns*, there is absolutely no reason not to use battery vehicles on Oahu, so battery vehicles are what will get used.

    2. Good. When I saw the part in the video about saving fuel, I thought, “Wait a minute. Hawaii get its electricity diesel generators.” Someone tried to put wind turbines up on speculation in Maui and the big island, but the power companies had already signed long-term leases with the diesel suppliers, so they sit rusting and unused.

  5. Driverless system, 12 minutes from CBD to Airport, single fare for both bus/rail w/transfers, stops < mile apart, 1/3 the cost of running buses, 1/2 cent tax, No debt after startup, Feds paying for a huge chunk? What's not to like about it?

    1. Believe it or not, there is a segment of Honolulu society that believes that urban sprawl is natural and cars are the perfect form of transportation. They have been fighting the rail system tooth and nail until they lost their case if federal court recently. They still claim that the rail system will bankrupt local government and make congestion worse. But many others believe an alternative like rail will preserve the balance between urban and rural living.

  6. Since this is an open thread, on an unrelated topic… I am so grateful for 15 minute Sunday service on the 10 Line to Cap Hill. However, why can’t they do the same for the 8 line? The 8 line travels through some of the densest parts of Seattle with the greatest growth. This line needs some significant improvement. I know that the latest round of service enhancements afforded the route with some additional trips, but in all reality – we should have ten minute service on weekdays, fifteen minute service on nights and weekends. 30 minute service on Sundays is ridiculous, given the ridership. I mean – couldn’t we at least do 20 minute service?!?!

    1. Good f&$@ing question. The proposal for “alternative 3” would improve 8 headways almost none at all. I frequently see theater in Seattle center and must wait 20-25 minutes for a bus back to Capitol Hill. Metro doesn’t seem interested in changing this.

      1. I usually just skip the bus and walk along Denny when I’m going to Capitol Hill or SLU.

      2. No less pleasant than standing on Denny for 20 minutes, wondering when the bus will show up.

    2. At first I was excited that Prop 1 was finally filling in some major gaps in the frequent schedule. But the 8 shows the money stretches only so far, and to have a complete network we’d have to double it. I noticed this morning the 40 is still half-hourly Sundays. But the 8 was mentioned at the meetup: it’s at the top of Metro’s list for fill-in frequency when hours become available. I assume the 40 is near the top too.

    3. Agreed. Though I’ve wondered if the poorer service on the 8 might be that perhaps its seen by Metro as redundant with transferring downtown, as in expecting that off peak riders could take one of the many Queen Anne-Downtown buses to one of the many Downtown-Capitol Hill buses? Dunno, that’s the only thing I can think of as to why service is so bad nights and weekends despite connecting just about all the nightlife areas outside downtown.

      1. Possibly. Although, by that argument, why bother with the 44, 48, or any other crosstown routes?

      2. Like so much else, it’s basically historical. The 8 is a relatively new route, and was added first on weekdays only. Every service addition has taken place at a time when lots of routes need more service, and the 8, starting from nothing, has taken a while to build up. Inertia is strong.

        It used to be pretty hard to get Metro to consider crosstown routes generally. There was some article posted here not too long ago about the 48’s creation; it was apparently a popular idea that Metro was skeptical of. These days Metro at least grasps the concept. Execution is harder.

      3. It’s not an issue of the 8 being unimportant but that other routes are seen as more critical. Every evening at 4th & Pike you see 30-50 people get on an articulated 49, then ten minutes later another articulated 49 or 43 comes and thirty more people board. In between the 10 and 11 also get 10+ people each, or more if the 49 and 43 are delayed. That’s four or five times the volume as the 8 gets. In the evenings when I’m on a southbound E, 26/28, D, or 40 (in order of how much I ride them), I transfer to the 8 if it’s in a 15-minute period but I go downtown if it’s not. So that’s some potential ridership lost, but it’s one-half dozen to the other. The people who uniquely benefit from the 8 are much fewer. Enough to justify 15-minute service, but not above other routes if funds are limited.

        The popularity of the 48 and 8 greatly surprised Metro when they were introduced, and they repeatedly have gotten frequency/span expansions. The N 40th Street corridor also became extremely popular, approaching the 44’s ridership. Metro consciously positioned N 40th/NE 45th (i.e., University Village) as a growth corridor in 2012, and it succeeded. Metro likewise positioned the 8 as a growth route in 2009 with the Link restructure, where it became weekday/Saturday frequent to Rainier Beach. There’s a pretty clear commitment to make the north part of the 8 full-time frequent when it can; although it’s less clear what should happen to it south of Madison Valley.

  7. Let’s take the “driverless” concept out of the abstract.

    When last I rode SkyTrain in Vancouver, passenger-assistance people rode every train. All of them trained to unlimber the control panel on every train and drive it if necessary.

    Computers don’t like heat, dirt, shock, abuse, or surprises- the absolute essence of transit operating conditions. And the best of them are exactly as smart as the dumbest thing a human last told them. And, like every transit component, with reliability level same as lowest bid.

    Automation is a good servant and a bad master. Meaning a tool best left in the hands of professional transit operator in grabbing distance of the controller lever. All due respect, but this isn’t Event Coordinators’ work.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Even when the Vancouver Expo line opened in 1986 passanger assistance people were rare on any trains. I have seen them moderately frequently at stations where they help people at the ticket area and check fares. Despite the numbers of times I have used the Skytrain I can’t remember being in the a train with any since 1986. And it generally (a couple of recent melt downs aside) does just fine without them. I actually doubt the passanger assistance people I have seen are capable of ‘driving’ the trains. The whole point of automation is lower labour costs (and therefore lower operating costs)….which is why the entire skytrain system has something like 180 ‘passanger assistance’ employees. I assume about 1/4 to 1/3 of those may be on duty at any given time.

      1. Have to admit, Rico, last time I rode SkyTrain may very well have been to see the steam locomotives at Expo. Was that 1986? But above machinery very pertinent here.

        The last forty years have given me the experience to see the results of concentration on low labor costs.

        Will grant you one thing: Would rather trust a well-designed automated system in the hands of fewer well-paid and trained human personnel than more workers of in the opposite situation.

        As someone whose life’s best tool was a sixty-foot trolleybus, and best work the start of the dual-power joint use transit system that started our regional one, here’s my personal take on automation.

        The car plants in Detroit showed me early on that work that kills and cripples humans, however well-paid, belongs with a machine.

        But recent computer drafting and design training shows me that to build and operate that machine, designers and operators still need to know what happens when the cutter hits the steel.

        With that in mind, I think the most time to automate work is when no human being can longer any longer make a full and decent life out of running the machine.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Basically all the driver does on a typical train is to move the throttle and the brake anyway. It is remarkably easy to automate.

        Docklands Light Rail — there are “guards” who have the ability to operate the train, but are mostly there to assist customers and deal with any incidents. I actually watched one of them “operate” the train — it was a matter of pushing the “go” and “stop” buttons!

      1. “Automated” – the L today is not at all automated in the same sense as the SkyTrain.

    2. It’s important to remember that Skytrain opened thirty years ago when automation was indeed new and spooky. Now it is the norm for any new build. And don’t overstate how manual manual systems are. A bunch of the signalling and interconnections are automatic, and they were made automatic to prevent errors. And on the roads, all traffic signals are automatic. Metros will lose their drivers like elevators lost their attendants, and the world will go on.

      1. The main purpose of light rail drivers right now is to watch for obstructions on the track and hit “stop” if they see one.

        Sensors are getting better at detecting obstructions on the track, but the pattern-matching problem is *hard*, and humans are *really good at* that kind of pattern matching. As a result, I don’t know of any automated systems with grade crossings. And when there’s a major storm the automated systems are generally shut down while the tracks are checked for fallen trees etc.

    3. I haven’t seen SkyTrain Attendants on trains that are operating “normally” but, I have seen them ride on the train terminates at different station to help passenger forget how to get to their final destination compared to the normal ending station. They are most at stations to help passenger deal with the ticket machines or there is construction going that effects the station.

  8. Fascinating topic. This is the first I have seen of the Honolulu project. It appears to be better thought out than ours.

    This seems like a good place to ask the very knowledgeable people on this forum this question–Is there any light rail project that has met rider projections that were presented at the time of the initial question to the voters? San Francisco, Vancouver and maybe Portland should have enough years behind them to make the determination.

      1. Tucson is above projections on its brand new streetcar line.
        Phoenix is above projections on its line.
        Minneapolis/St. Paul are above projections on the Central Corridor.

        San Diego ran above projections on its first light rail line (now the Blue Line); I’m not sure about the later ones.

        Los Angeles ran way above projections on its first line (the Blue Line).

        It’s actually hard to find a light rail system which didn’t exceed projections. Almost all of them have more ridership than expected.

      2. Not really:

        Buffalo
        Charlotte
        Trenton-Camden River line.
        Norfolk
        Baltimore
        Sacramento
        Santa Clara VTA

        All have very disappointing ridership. If you go through US cities line by line I’m sure you will find many more projects that missed their initial ridership estimates. Sure some projects are finally starting to show the ridership initially projected but that doesn’t make up for missing them for so many years.

        Whie it wasn’t as much of a miss as some projects, do remember that Central Link ridership was well below Sound Transit’s initial projections for the first couple of years.

        That said I expect U-Link and Northgate Link to meet or exceed their initial projections depending on how well buses are integrated with rail.

    1. For Portland it depends on who you ask and which projections for which proposal.

      The initial projections for Gresham were a bit higher than the results, if you are using the projections from the 1970s, when; there was the Arab oil embargo and the USA had instituted gasoline rationing, and Portland had significant economic growth. Post “October Surprise” estimates were lower than the result.

      Similar results happened for the other lines: each line generated a few estimates over the course of proposal, design and construction. Generally speaking the results were a bit higher than the most accurate projections (that is, the projections that most closely resembled the line actually built).

      I don’t know how that will be for the Orange line, as there is a key station missing from it, and another that would have been a bit useful. At the same time, southeast Portland could well provide far more ridership than estimated due to the situation on the 4, 14, and 9 and people jumping ship from those.

    2. Vancouver doesn’t have any light rail lines but does have several automatic metros like the Honolulu project. The Expo Line in the 80’s met its projections exactly, the Millennium Line in the 90’s fell short of its projections for the first few years and then caught up, and the Canada Line from the 00’s exceeded its projections right from the off.

  9. Also, I was wrong to insult event coordinators with their profession. Apologies to the many well-trained professionals I meet at transit events.

    So I’ll try to keep this morning’s insults inside public transit itself. Justifiably starting with the mentality of the elected politicians it answers to.

    If chief reason for going driverless is to save money…what does that priority bode for the reliability of either the automation itself or the people-far from drivers’ seats- who’ll run it?

    “Ansaldo” is another word for “Breda”. Anybody reading this old enough to imagine the first DSTT fleet automated at same level of quality as its buses?

    Mark

    1. The chief reason to go automatic might be to save money, but a strong secondary reason is to provide better service. In an automatic system having two-car trains every two minutes costs the same as having four-car trains every four minutes, yet the two minute frequency clearly offers better service. And with the very tight frequencies of two minutes or less, really only an automatic system can make that work because it can handle simultaneous adjustments along the entire network to speed and slow trains to keep things on schedule.

      1. Toronto’s subway is not automated and runs at headways of 2 minutes 40 seconds during peak periods.

    2. Ansaldo Signal is a perfectly respectable company which has a very good record in automating trains

      Breda is a crappy crappy carbuilder which has a very bad record in building trains.

      I’m not sure why Ansaldo and Breda merged; if I were at Ansaldo I wouldn’t have done that merger.

      Expect the Honolulu Metro to have perfectly operating signals and automation, and expect the windows to be falling off the cars. :-P

  10. The most interesting thing about HART is that it is an above ground system and our system is mostly a tunnel system. Tunneling has to cost more and I wonder why Sound Transit has not looked at using elevated trains above the freeway in part of our Light Rail system.

    It is also interesting to hear the way they are promoting the use of HART by saying it will give more family time rather than sitting in traffic jams. Sound Transit and Metro should learn some lessons from them.

    1. Ours isn’t “mostly” a tunnel. The DSTT was already there, and the initial segment had only a short tunnel under Beacon Hill. The downtown to Northgate tunnel is only a quarter of ST2 Link’s length; most of the rest is elevated, “at-grade” along a freeway, and a short section in a trench. At-grade along a freeway is cheaper than elevated. But freeway alignments are bad for rideship. And does Honolulu have hills?

      1. Yes/No. There are hills, but the development pattern is more like Rio de Janeiro than Seattle: 20 miles of Sprawl along the quarter mile wide segment of land between the hills and the beach.

      2. That’s a relatively accurate description of Honolulu — though the sprawl strip is often about 2 miles wide, i.e. a bit beyond easy walking distance from any “spine”.

        It is a wholly inaccurate description of Rio.

      3. In certain places, such as the area once served by the Bonde Santa Terezinha streetcar, where Rio climbs the hills a bit, but many other areas are simply too steep.

        In a few areas the city spreads around the base of hills so that short cut loops are created, and in at least one I know of they have holed through a ridge so there is a tunnel connection from one area along one low spot to another.

      4. Rio most certainly has interior mountains that rise so steeply as to impenetrable both to formal construction and informal favelas. The includes the dramatic protrusions right beyond the super-tourist areas that are all most U.S. visitors ever see of the metropolis.

        But Rio’s actual population lives in, around, and between the hills, in a vast, three-dimensional interior area with no resemblance whatsoever to the thin and perfectly linear Honolulu strip in question. And which I’m guess you saw only in passing, if at all.

        A simple Google Map will set your misimpression straight.

      5. Quito is probably a better comparison, except replace the beach with more mountains. The overall shape of the city is that of a line. And a spine BRT has done quite well there.

      6. Definitely.

        I’d bet that there are far more linear urban agglomerations in tight valleys in the world than between beaches and volcanoes.

        Germany’s Wuppertal is a famous example, a literal agglomeration comprised of three formerly independent municipalities that came to form a single river-flanking strip. The built-up urban area is rarely over a mile wide, allowing the whole thing to be easily served by a linear “hanging monorail”, and by a single line of the Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn, running in parallel along the valley’s axis.

    2. The reason why HART is mostly above ground is because of the high water table on Oahu (you don’t have to dig far to find water underground). A previous rapid transit system plan foundered because of the high cost of tunneling. In fact, the opposition wanted to force HART to tunnel under downtown Honolulu to make the project go bankrupt. That was the crux of their court case that the city had not considered this option in their project. The court found that the city had good reason not to follow this option and the opposition then lost their case.

  11. I just watched 2 97 shuttle buses stopped at 3rd and pine. This after the metro employee outside the tunnel told me they were running every 15 to 20 minutes. I just came down pine and it is not at all congested.

    How can this be?????

    1. And now 5 minutes later a third one went by. I’d really love to hear an explanation for why they were bunched like that.

    2. Try unbunching your panties – this is Seattle and we do things differently here. OK
      Confusing transit systems and HCT lanes.
      HCT that cost more than the buses it replaced.
      Going underground at high cost when a pleasant view from above would do nicely.
      Agencies that don’t play well together.
      Unprecedented taxation and debt levels to share with our great grand children.

      1. Ok boss, whatever. I don’t know if you actually live here, but most of us try to stay away from stupid sexist phrases and put downs. And most commenters here do an awesome job of posting thoughtful, reasoned material that actually relates to what they are commenting on. You should try getting with the program!

      2. Sorry, I apologize.
        Most bunching occurs for several reasons.
        Routes with tighter headways ~15 or less and longer duration bunch because everything is timed for the slowest driver and conditions of the hour, so avg/best drivers can speed along. The further the route gets, the more work the leader is doing and followers are doing less.
        Short routes like the 97 are most likely from local traffic anomalies, wheelchair deployments, or again, poky drivers getting hung up on directions, fare conversations, etc.
        I’ll try to play nicer in the future.

    3. I saw four 97s a minute apart northbound at Union Street. I haven’t seen that frequent buses since the St Petersburg metro had a breakdown between two stations and used shuttle buses. A bus would fill in a minute and then the next bus was waiting.

    4. By the way, the first two 97s were reasonably full (not SRO though). The third was probably similar, while the fourth was too far to see. So it wasn’t the “bus bunching” phenomenon of one bus full, the others empty.

      1. I wonder if the metro guy saying they are running every 15-20 minutes was just say off base. If they were running every 5 minutes or so it would make a lot more sense. Or, I suppose they could have intentionally run several buses at once in order to more costly approximate the capacity of a train. Anyone know what headways they were scheduled for?

      2. I don’t know what the formal headways were, but the one time I crossed 3rd (on foot) this weekend, I saw as many 97s as other routes combined. The plural of anecdote here seems to suggest there were lots of 97s running.

        I have long since learned to presume that the baseline Metro driver has no knowledge or understanding of any facet of Metro operations beyond where he or she is supposed to drive that particular vehicle at that particular moment. Seems to be something in the institutional culture that discourages any greater understanding of “how”s, “where”s, and “why”s.

  12. As long as I’m ranting, am I the only one who thinks that oba data has become worse and less reliable? Latest example, waiting for the sb 120 at 3rd and Pike. Scheduled 12:56, oba reports on time from approx 12:30 on. At 12:57 no bus, check oba, says it’s 15 min away, 16 Min delayed. At 1259 bus shows up, and oba reports NOW. Really hard to plan based on info like this.

    Regarding the announcements, this 120 did announce the tunnel closure. Of course, sb from downtown that’s not very useful…

    1. I’ve been burned lots of times by OBA data. Since it’s based on check points to a centralized system and not real time data reported from the bus itself, it can never tell you if a bus has broken down or routed between point check point A and check point B. It will just merrily tell you its estimate based on what it knows, resulting in the presentation of “Ghost Buses” that appear to arrive, and leave, on time while never visible to the human eye.

      1. I get there are some limitations with their system, but they don’t seem to account for the 120 experience I just described. I should also add that 3rd avenue was free flowing, not like some of these gridlocked weekends we’ve had. So how does a bus go from on time to 15 minutes away to here in just a few minutes?

    2. OBA has a big problem handling layovers, so the numbers it shows for any route before the bus actually starts running are usually ridiculously wrong. For whatever reason, when a bus parks at its layover OBA decides that it hasn’t actually reached the layover yet. Since the bus isn’t moving (or is not reporting new data) OBA seems to assume that it is stuck and getting increasingly late. That’s why it will show up as being later and later in the app. Once the bus starts the next trip the data updates correctly and shows an accurate arrival time.

      For people waiting at the first few stops this means that in only a minute or two the bus goes from 15-20 minutes late to NOW. It happens on almost every route, not just the 120. I’m fairly sure that this problem is known to the OBA team, but it’s still frustrating that it hasn’t been fixed.

  13. Is it just me, or does the rural end of the rail line look like it has three stations and two new park and rides that it has to split between what looks like maybe 10 farmland owners, while the Pearl Highlands and Pearl Ridge adjacent stations seem quite far from each other, over miles of suburban city that arguably warrants an intermediate stop?

    1. Pearl Highlands station serves Pearl City and Pearlridge serves Aiea, while a smaller community Waimalu sit in between. But according to the official map stations are usually two minutes traveling time apart with the exception of Pearl Highlands and Pearlridge which are four minutes apart. Urban stations are one minute apart.

    2. There’s been some dispute over the western end of the line. But they had to go out to the farmland in order to find a place to put the railyard.

  14. I just finished a day in San Francisco, and coming back, had the transit equivalent of winning the lottery – the BART train I was on was due into Millbrae Station just a couple minutes before the CalTrain I needed to connect to, in spite of CalTrain running just once an hour on Saturdays and my having not checked the schedule beforehand.

    However, had the BART train arrived just 30 seconds later, it would have raised an interesting dilemma, as I would have had to choose between riding the CalTrain without paying, and hoping to not get caught, or watch the train go by while fiddling with the ticket machine.

    At 10-minute headway, like Link has, I’d probably wait. But with hour-long headways, I would seriously consider not paying. Even if it means a 10% chance of a $150 fine, an expected cost of $15 still beats sitting around a full hour at a deserted station, and is still considerably cheaper than calling a cab.

    Fortunately, in this case, I was lucky enough to just barely have time to purchase a real fare ticket before the train came.

    1. Having a Clipper card speeds up Caltrain payment… but I don’t have one because I don’t live in the Bay Area and getting one has never been right on the way for me. All the NFC cards I’ve seen share this problem. The agencies keep the old payment systems around as a crutch to avoid the cost of distributing the cards everywhere, but the old payment systems are lousy (that’s why they were replaced) and lots of people are stuck using them.

      1. Yeah. I think NFC card implementations mostly stink because of this. A payment system needs to be easy and universal, and very few agencies doing this because of the upfront cost of the NFC cards.

        San Diego at least makes their card readily available at every single Trolley station, plus a bunch of stores.

  15. This is an old HART video from back 2+ years ago when construction was just restarting after the settlement of a legal dispute (yes, HART has had more than its share of political turmoil, not unlike Sound Transit 15 years ago). Oran, please go to the HART youtube channel and find something current.

    1. RDPence, according HART’s YouYube page the video was posted Mar 3, 2014. I think it summarizes the project well in a single video. I’m in Honolulu right now and it seems about right. If you find a more comprehensive and recent video, be my guest and pass it on. Mahalo.

  16. Interesting article. Although I have a “cross” bike I like to think of my style as Cy-Slow-Cross. I feel no shame chugging along a trail, or getting off my bike to walk uphill. I don’t ride in the street unless forced to — only sidewalks and bike paths. And of course, my “gear” is relaxed, and from Wal*Mart or Target.

    As such I feel I represent the vast under-served population of those who want to ride a bike but are put off by high costs, snooty velodrome types and having to ride next to cars.

    Easy Bikes, No Spandex Required
    To get more people riding, bike-makers peddle relaxed models without all the gears and carbon fiber

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/easy-bikes-no-spandex-required-1433777624

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