1-person cars create congestion

LIHU‘E — The answer to traffic congestion lies in bolstering alternatives to single-person vehicle transportation, according to a recent report out of the advocacy organization Transportation for America.

The congestion report, released this month, considers traffic congestion in 100 of the largest cities in the U.S., and suggests a greater focus on facilitating public transit, pedestrian and other modes of travel could clear up traffic on the roads.

It looks at factors like changing population and commute times between 1993 and the most recent data set in 2017.

Kathleen Rooney, transportation and policy director for the Hawai‘i investment company Ulupono Initiative, explained that the report ultimately prescribes a change in philosophy — building roads that not only cater to vehicles, but include space for other modes of transportation.

“In some places we start to see an emphasis on keeping shoulders and extra space exclusively for buses so they can zip through traffic,” Rooney said, “looking at transportation systems that move more people over vehicles.”

On Kaua‘i, Rooney said the Ke Ala Hele Makalae multiuse path on the Eastside is an example of the study’s suggestions in action — a pathway that connects to shops and restaurants and allows for multiple modes of transit.

“When you start talking about building in that other network instead of road-building, it releases that pressure on the demand associated with bike and pedestrian (in the roadways),” Rooney said.

Other places on the island are restructuring to include both vehicles and other modes of transit, like the Rice Street construction project, funded in part by a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

“Those are the kinds of projects you want to see, projects that have multiple benefits — multimodal, economical, environment and connectivity,” Rooney said. “People are interested in it.”

The Kaua‘i General Plan includes future focus on multimodal and walkable-bikable towns and cities as well.

About 30% of the state’s population commutes by other modes than single-person vehicles, according to Rooney. That includes people who carpool, use public transit, walk or bike.

Public transit has its snags. Rooney points out it’s not always the first option for the general public, but she promotes a “build-it-and-they-will-come” strategy.

The same theory is illustrated in the congestion study, which reports that providing more supply for roads doesn’t necessarily solve the long-term congestion problem.

“After 60 years of trying to build ourselves out of congestion, it hasn’t happened,” Rooney said. “It’s allowing for the oversupply and the overconsumption of that space.”

In the end, it’s about balance and a potential answer to congestion on the highways — providing other ways to travel around the island.

“Sometimes the answer is construction, but I think it’s (more about) looking at operating the system more effectively across the board,” Rooney said. “The network isn’t as sophisticated (as some), but it is there, and if more people use it, then we can fund it more.”

Transportation for America has a webinar scheduled to discuss their report in detail on March 17.

Info: t4america.org/maps-tools/congestion-con


Jessica Else, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

  1. David Mecham March 9, 2020 3:31 am Reply

    I have an idea, why don’t we take a four lane street and make it a two lane road with wider sidewalk. That should speed up traffic.

  2. rk669 March 9, 2020 6:08 am Reply

    The Horrors of Rice Street! Thank you Kauai County Councilmembers!

  3. Uncleaina March 9, 2020 6:20 am Reply

    Hey look, it’s Ulupono – the guys who wanted to destroy the ecosystem of mahaulepu with their dairy! Just who we need telling us about the environment. These Honolulu and west coast thinkers literally have no idea how to handle public transportation on a small island like Kauai. All the “initiatives” listed here like the bike path haven’t done anything to help alleviate traffic problems. The bus isn’t popular despite us subsidizing EVERY RIDER to the tune of $8 each way! For San Francisco, sure, these ideas might help, but here they simply distract from actual positive change. Why not ask what we need rather than come to Kauai with some preconceived notion?

  4. nobody March 9, 2020 9:08 am Reply

    Wait……….I thought we were blaming tourists for all the traffic. Well, we might not be having that problem if the virus scares them away. That may fix our traffic.

  5. CommonSenseish March 9, 2020 10:26 am Reply

    Unless Kauai does a complete overhaul of the bus system there is absolutely NO WAY you will eliminate this issue. The bus system on Kauai is for derelicts and homeless and it’s not efficient. Give us reliable buses, with 15 minute route pick ups, every 1/2 mile – 3/4 mile including residential areas and maybe we can talk. What a joke!

  6. Citizen Cane March 9, 2020 11:58 am Reply

    Typical of Ulupono to push an akamai-sounding, pie-in-the-sky sell on alternative transport as tho the obvious first solution has been tried and found wanting. When you have a single lane system designed for the horse-and-buggy era still trying to serve the needs of a much larger population what you have is (deadly) inefficiency. How many have to lose their lives (& miss flights and appointments) before we graduate to a two-lane, divided highway around our island? We need only look to the safety and efficiency of the improvements to Kaumuali’i Highway between the old sugar mill and Puhi, with its dividers and turn lanes to see what safety and efficiency look like.

  7. JKS March 10, 2020 9:00 am Reply

    Ulupono’s arguments completely debunked here:

  8. KehekaJoe March 10, 2020 9:00 am Reply

    Unless Kauai wants to end up like Oahu, we need to think beyond just adding more and more roads. This just adds more and more cars. The report points out that this is pointless and just leads to more traffic. Kudos, Jessica, for covering this story.

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