State, city join on policies for transportation
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer
State and city officials, working under a federal mandate, say they are joining together in an unprecedented effort to coordinate transportation policies and projects in Hawai'i.
A task force with representatives from more than a dozen state and city departments and agencies, as well as private businesses, last week discussed ways to cooperate on more than 20 "intelligent transportation" initiatives.
The projects include the ways state and city officials can share information and resources to respond to traffic accidents, dispatch emergency vehicles, ease congestion and better plan for the future, said Shevaun Low, a planning program coordinator for the O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees the effort.
"The idea is to keep the city and state from developing their own programs and implementing them separately," she said.
The task force is the result of a 2001 federal law requiring regional action on what's known as Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, the application of expensive high-technology solutions to everyday traffic problems.
On O'ahu, both the state Transportation Department and the city Department of Transportation Services have responsibility for transportation policies and programs. More than a dozen agencies, including city police and fire departments and state planning agencies, also have control over some aspects of technology and transportation.
"Historically, there's always been something of a little turf battle going on," said state Rep. Charles Djou, R-47th (Kahalu'u, Kane'ohe) a candidate for the Honolulu City Council. "Sometimes they have different approaches or are competing for the same federal money to run their programs."
The task force is designed to avoid duplications and conflicts caused by such battles in the ITS realm, Low said. The O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization is one of dozens of regional groups set up by federal law to ensure that competing government agencies adopt a unified, regional approach to spending federal transportation money.
OMPO officials, using a $210,000 contract with the planning firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas, have identified ways state and city officials can share information and coordinate their responses to transportation problems.
Among the ideas being discussed:
- A central source allowing for public information about traffic problems. The initiative would establish a well-publicized, single, comprehensive Web site that the media and the public could view before setting out on a trip. The state, city and University of Hawai'i all have Web sites with varying traffic flow information.
- Integrating police communications with high-tech centers already run by the state and city. This would allow, for instance, transportation planners to immediately learn of a 911 traffic call and respond with appropriate tow trucks or other aid.
- Data storage. City and state offices both spend millions of dollars collecting data about highway use and other transportation patterns. A central transportation data bank archive would be established that would be accessible by both sides, reducing future costs.
"It would be great to have everybody on the same page when it comes down to something as basic as communication," said Garreth Sakakida, a task force member and head of the Hawai'i Transportation Association, which represents trucking and bus firms in the state.
"It would be a big boon to our members to have that kind of information," he said. "It could be as simple as having the state and city coordinate construction schedules or provide short-range radio advisories that could alert our members to problems in different areas of the island."
OMPO officials hope to have a final list of ITS task force projects and policies ready for its policy committee to review by February. State and local officials have until 2004 to adopt a regional approach to the high-technology projects or risk losing federal money.
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.