Honolulu Advertiser Second Opinion column by Cliff Slater

July 8, 2002










(1) Parking places use about 150 sq.ft. and need a like amount for ingress and egress. Thus, a space that costs $75 a month and uses 300 sq.ft. is renting for 25¢ a foot per month, a $150 space is 50¢ and so on.





(2) See notes on value of time below.

(3) "... it has become a standard axiom among urban transportation professionals that auto disincentives, such as parking bans, will relieve traffic congestion far more effectively than any assortment of public transit incentives. Furthermore, parking regulations may shift new development away form the built-up areas where public transit is competitive and toward the lower-density areas where land for parking lots can be bought more cheaply." Cervero, Robert Revitalizing Urban Transit in Weicher, John C., ed. Private Innovations in Public Transit. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1988.


(4) The city's transportation consultants recently wrote that congestion pricing will "produce a measurable reduction in congestion levels." Technical Memo: I-35W/ Crosstown Concept Study: Value Pricing
Parsons/Brinckerhoff. January 28, 2002

Drive-alones won't change

This is the fifth in a series on curing traffic congestion. The earlier columns showed that:

  • Hawaii has less urban highway miles per resident than any other state (4/23).
  • Private operators are not allowed to compete with TheBus despite its annual $100 million losses (5/20).
  • The idea of fixed rail/bus curing traffic congestion is a fallacy of which “true believers” must disabuse themselves (6/3).
  • Congestion pricing is a success in Singapore and California. (6/24)

This final one discusses the impact of parking regulations on traffic and then sums up the opportunities to reduce congestion.

The City requires building owners in most of Honolulu to provide at least one parking space for every 400 square feet of office or retail space. This is about twice as much as owners would build if they had the choice. One indicator is that prices for parking are way below what it has cost to provide it. For example, a parking space costing $75 a month is renting for the equivalent of 25¢ a foot. Rented as mini-storage or warehouse space—were it legal—it would fetch four times that.

Thus, the City encourages automobile commuting by requiring far more parking than is economically justified. It is absurd for elected officials to whine about too many motorists driving alone to work when at the same time they maintain a policy that encourages them to do just that.

And no projection of drive alone commuters switching to the City’s Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal has any meaning unless it takes into account the value that commuters place on their time. Many studies show that people value their commuting time at half what they earn if they are sitting and twice that when walking, waiting, or standing. These are real costs and for commuters they are, together with parking cost, the ones that most affect their commuting decision.

Drive alone commuters will not change their habits unless the time and money savings offered by any alternative is sufficient to justify it. Using door-to-door HOV vehicles operating on uncongested HOV tollways/busways will do that; BRT will not.(3)

Ask yourself, which of the following is going to get commuters out of their cars and cut traffic congestion?

  • The Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal wherein commuters walk to their local bus, wait, take TheBus to a Transit Center, transfer to the BRT, then at the stop nearest their destination typically face, either a long walk or have to transfer to a local bus to get to their workplace; or,
  • Have a vanpool/shuttle/jitney bus pick them up at their home, take the congestion free HOV busway/tollway to downtown, then be dropped off at their workplace.

The only unpleasant aspect of daily life in Honolulu—government aside—is traffic congestion, but we don't have to live with it. There are undeniable opportunities to significantly curb it through the HOV tollway proposal or to even end it completely with the addition of congestion pricing.(4)

Unbelievably, the City’s current proposals actually promise to increase traffic congestion. This is why BRT is such an astonishingly dumb idea; only a political mind could conceive it.

Unlike the City’s BRT proposal, the ideas put forward here have all been shown to work elsewhere. And they are ideas that deal with Honolulu’s traffic comprehensively. The BRT plan merely improves life for the 10% who use TheBus while making life worse for the 90% who drive.

Cliff Slater is a regular columnist whose footnoted columns are at www.lava.net/cslater

Notes on the value of our time

When government official try to project ridership for their planned urban transit "visions" they usually neglect to include any calculation for the value that commuters place on their time. There are many studies from the U.S. and Europe that have calculated this and an internet search on +"value of time" +commuting +decision will result in many of them. Some of the pre-internet studies are listed below.

Methods that have been used are, for example, comparing the income levels of drivers who avoid toll charges by taking longer routes with those who do not and comparing the time-savings offered versus toll charges.

For example, in Honolulu we could compare commuters' income levels with the parking places they choose together with parking costs and time needed to get from the parking space to workplace. Obviously, a $250 a month reserved parking place will be taken by the more affluent while the $50 a month space on the edge of town will be taken by the least affluent drivers. However, with a sufficiently large sample, we could determine quite precisely the value that average Honolulu commuters place on their time.

Arnott, Richard and Kenneth Small. The Economics of Traffic Congestion. American Scientist 82 No. 5. September-October 1994. pp. 446-455.

Moses, Leon N. and Harold F. Williamson, Jr. Value of Time, Choice of Mode, and the Subsidy Issue in Urban Transportation. Journal of Political Economy Vol. LXXI, No. 3. June 1963. pp. 247-64.

Beesley, M. E. The Value of Time Spent in Traveling: Some New Evidence. Economica Vol. XXXII No. 126. May 1965. pp. 174-85.

Haney, Dan G. Use of Two Concepts of the Value of Time. Highway Research Record 137. Highway Research Board. 1963.

Hensher, D.A. & W.E. Hotchkiss. Choice of Mode and the Value of Travel Time Savings for the Journey to Work. Economic Record Vol. 50. March 1974. pp. 94-112.

Bruzius, Nils. The Value of Travel Time: Theory and Measurement. Croom Helm, London. 1979. p. 21.