Traffic in Honolulu: How to Make Transitory Pandemic Gains Permanent


By Justin Tyndall and Sumner La Croix

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Honolulu traffic became much less congested.  Local and state governments could help residents keep the social benefits from traffic control by providing incentives to private firms to stagger hours and/or keep more employees working at home. A congestion zone fee to drive within the downtown-to-Waikiki corridor would provide a longer-run solution to traffic control.

This article was published in Civil Beat on April 25, 2021.


4 thoughts on “Traffic in Honolulu: How to Make Transitory Pandemic Gains Permanent”

  1. Furthermore, the train would have only a very small effect on congestion, less than enough to offset the increased demand for car travel during the rail construction period (according to the rail EIS, even with its exaggerated ridership projections). Also, the Fundamental Law of Traffic Congestion does not apply to congestion fees. In fact, one of the reasons that increasing capacity has not decreased congestion is that many of the capacity increases have been inefficient. Congestion pricing improves the extent to which congestion accurately signals where additional capacity is needed. Those pesky traffic paradoxes disappear!

  2. Stephanie Whalen

    It seems we have had an indication of how to reduce traffic every vacation period but there was resistance from the University to work on changing its hours. this was brought up years ago at a Mililani public meeting and the DOT response was that the university said it couldn’t be done. One reason given was students work off site and those hours were inflexible.

    Students are in the age period that they tend to do better sleeping in and staying up late. so changing their hours would seem to be an advantage to their biological rhythms. Professors would need to adjust as they should if their purpose is to educated students. If a student is a good worker businesses will be flexible and adjust the hours to suit them. It is pretty obvious that businesses are in need of reliable, dependable workers and will adjust. Look at the adjustment that has been made in this past year.

    things to consider.

  3. As someone who has sat in rush hour traffic for most of my working life in Hawaii (both in my car and on Uncle Rick), I get that we desperately need traffic solutions. However, is it just me or does the concept of a rush hour toll fee unfairly discriminate against newer and lower income families who live outside of the Honolulu city core, where homes are typically way more expensive and out of the reach of most? Not all of us can afford to live in town. I will do my best to take the train once it’s built, but only if it goes to UH Manoa and it’s priced affordably. I live in Wahiawa, so it would already mean me driving earlier to LCC, parking (hopefully that remains free!) and then getting on the train. However, the UHM leg of the train is, time-wise, so far down the line that I’ll probably be retired before it’s built. Also, the bus ain’t cheap. A monthly pass is now $80. Are my points valid or am I missing something? Educate me, O wise UHERO academics!

  4. These suggestions are “inside-the-box” thinking. A toll and staggered schedules are nothing new, and as previous commenters point out, the devil is in the details. Two big picture things. 1) We need to double down on supporting good neighborhood schools to separate work from school commutes. 2) We need to reenvision communities so people can do meaningful work closer to home.
    A bit less radical combined suggestion. If we embrace Complete Streets more fully for bikeways and dedicated bus lanes, we can encourage more people to get out of personal automobiles for shorter trips and complement mass transit to get people from “drop off to destination”. The light rail was envisioned to do that, but it’s not flexible enough. Express buses on dedicated lanes can be lined up at key road junctures that typically jam up. These could get commuters close to their final destination in much less time than driving.
    The school issue perhaps can be dealt with similarly. You cannot stagger work and school schedules separately; people will object they need to drop off kids before work. If we dedicated some of the express buses for school kids with on-bus monitors and guides, they could make sure kids get to the appropriate schools. It only takes a few trips for kids to get the routine down. I’ll bet we could build this for about the same amount as we are in deficit to build the light rail to Ala Moana and operate it for about the same amount we would have to subsidize the light rail.

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