Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Engineering Professor Should Know Better

The Hawaii Reporter will print anything. I mean ANYTHING. Case in point, the intellectual dishonesty of Panos Prevadoros, who is a civil engineer and transportation professor running for Mayor of Honolulu. I can't believe someone who has a PhD in this stuff would even make comments like this.

First, he parrots the anti-transit talking point of the week about energy efficiency. We covered this earlier but Mr. Setty covers it again. My first thought was some poor sap fell for a line, but then I've been seeing it over and over again. People are actually falling for it, pushing numbers out of context. He also makes the claim that trains aren't that efficient compared to electric cars. Well how about trains that can be improved as well? Lighter, more energy efficient. Technological advances aren't just reserved for cars people.

Second he takes a number about one train and expands it purposefully, hoping his readers won't question him on it. Again I expect better from a professor of transportation.
... each train can carry 300 people, and during the peak times, there is expected to be one train every 3 minutes, for a total of 6,000 people per hour on the peak direction... Managed freeway lanes, such as HOT lanes, are designed to carry 2000 vehicles per hour per lane at free flow speeds, and since they carry express busses and high occupancy vehicles, the average occupancy would be well over 3 people per vehicle, for a total of 6,000 people per hour per lane.
This is intellectually dishonest because trains are well...trains. They are three to four of those vehicles coupled together. That blows his numbers all out of wack doesn't it? So instead of 6,000 people, it's more like 24,000 with four car trains.

Finally he states that BRT is more convenient than the rail line and states that people would have to make two transfers. One from their house to the line, then another when they get off the line. I find it hard to believe that if the feeder bus to rail line doesn't go to where their express bus goes now, then their express bus doesn't go to where they want to go now. If the rail line comes every 3 minutes, hits major destinations, and is much faster than crawling traffic I don't really see what the problem is. Especially in a very dense place like Honolulu.

He then talks up how the FTA loves BRT. Of course they like BRT! The Bushies hate spending money on transit. He also points to a BRT study that further muddies the definition of BRT. Who knows what BRT means anymore. All I know is that you can run cars on that lane of concrete, which is what he wants to do anyways with his HOT Lane BRT idea.

This doesn't fly, and I'm really annoyed at the capacity lie. The opposition is getting scared, and starting to grasp at straws. And to top it off, Panos recommended light rail for the subway corridor in Los Angeles.
A less expensive option would be light rail at $100 million a mile - an option Prevedouros supports...James Moore, director of the transportation engineering program at USC, is pushing for a busway because they are cheaper to build. Plus, buses can hold more passengers than rail cars.
What?! What is wrong with these engineers? Where is Vukan Vuchic when you need him?


arcady said...

"Panos Prevedouros, professor of transportation engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the national subcommittee chairman on freeway simulation at the National Academy of Engineering." says the Daily News. He's one of those old-fashioned asphalt-pushing engineers we hear so much about.

Btw, in that articles, someone mentions the bitter opposition Caltrans encountered to land takings to widen the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass, and say that this makes him skeptical about mass transit solution, yet this is exactly where a subway would be the best thing: no takings necessary, since it's all underground. And it'd be 6 minutes to cross the pass, instead of the current 40 minutes by bus.

njh said...

I'm rather skeptical of his 3 people per car figure too. I had heard it was more like 1.5 in practice.

Anyway, in general these sorts of memes (such as the energy efficiency one) tend to get pushed by networks of 'think tanks'. It is now at the level that if you see a strange claim twice, you can be pretty certain that they are all funded by the same source (usually the oil cartel it seems).

Dave Reid said...

And he should be called on for using the term BRT if it doesn't have truly dedicated lanes it isn't BRT. It is an express bus.

Chris said...

I love Vuchic's books. They're so easy to read and yet so enlightening.

And 3 people per car? I've never seen anything like that anywhere. If there were three people per car in the Puget Sound, our current road infrastructure could provide sufficient capacity because the whole highways system would be HOV.

Not gonna happen.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think the 3 person per vehicle number is his hope for HOV lane with buses and cars. If the buses have 100 people, that number gets spread out among all vehicles. I still don't think they can put 24,000 people per hour through though.

With a bus every 3 minutes, they would fit 2000 people in the corridor at 100 people per bus in an hour. If you want to get to 24,000, you would have to have 240 buses per hour. Not going to happen. Thats a bus every 15 seconds and you have to pay 240 drivers!