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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2002

Island Voices
Traffic woes can be eased

Panos D. Prevedouros is an associate professor in the transportation engineering department of the University of Hawai'i, Manoa.

Several ideas have been floated recently for O'ahu's traffic problems, but few can be afforded by taxpayers — even with the use of federal funds. Fewer still can be implemented within a few years. However, the coordinated implementation of affordable projects have the potential to reduce commuting times by 25 to 50 percent within a few years. Here are a few:

• Bottleneck removal is a key strategy for improving traffic flow. The Middle Street freeway merge and the traffic signals along Dillingham Boulevard and Nimitz Highway create a major bottleneck for the morning commute. Adding a lane on the H-1 Freeway from Middle Street to Vineyard Boulevard and a three-mile, two-lane elevated highway over Nimitz Highway would offer considerable relief.

• The rush-hour closure of a couple of freeway on-ramps would remove commuters who slow traffic by entering the freeway only to exit a couple of exits later. On locations where an on-ramp is located before an off-ramp, our research has shown that, during peak traffic, every 100 on-ramp vehicles "wedging" themselves into the freeway displace 160 freeway vehicles.

• A major upgrade of the city's traffic signal system could be made so that traffic can flow efficiently on city streets once it arrives there. A system like the well-known Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS) could be considered for downtown Honolulu. The use of SCATS on 300 intersections in Troy, Mich., reduced morning commute delay by 20 percent in 2000.

• Major benefits would be realized if traffic accidents were cleared faster. Police officers and emergency crews need to be provided with laws, procedures and training to accomplish this.

• Finally, I do not believe that the Bus/Rapid Transit is a bankrupt concept. I did criticize the proposed deployment as part of my environmental impact statement review for UH's Environmental Center. This review has been used widely to oppose the BRT.

However, I think that, with substantial tinkering, an affordable first-stage BRT system can be tried between downtown, Waikiki and UH with minimal impact to traffic.

My BRT alternative is available on the Internet at: http://www.eng.hawaii.edu/~panos/pdp_brt.pdf. Comments received will be summarized and delivered to the new City Council and transportation officials in January 2003.