Honolulu/Primary Corridor Transportation B-23

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Primary Corridor Transportation Project

Honolulu, Hawaii

(August 2001)


The City and County of Honolulu Department of Transportation Services (DTS) is proposing to implement a 32.2 mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the City and County of Honolulu, connecting Downtown Honolulu with the University of Hawaii, Waikiki Beach, Pearl City, Pearl Harbor, Waipahu, and Kapolei. The proposed system would include 31 stations and will include several BRT routes that serve markets along H-1 from Kapolei to the Honolulu CBD, a circulator service within the Honolulu CBD, and extensions to the University of Hawaii and Waikiki Beach. The proposed project would use exclusive bus lanes along H-1 and use street right-of way within the urban areas of Honolulu and connect a series of park and ride lots located at Kapolei, Kunia, Pearl City/Aiea, Middle Street, Dillingham/Kapalama, Iwilei, and Aloha Stadium. The DTS proposes to use a fleet of 768 vehicles including conventional diesel buses, hybrid diesel/electric buses, articulated buses, and mini-buses in the various operating environments of Honolulu. The project is intended to improve mobility for residents and employees throughout the corridor, where transportation capacity is limited by environmental conditions, and help resolve severe transportation congestion problems. The system is forecast to have 71,000 average weekday boardings on the proposed line in 2025, including 46,300 daily new riders. The project is estimated to cost $648.0 million in escalated dollars, with a Section 5309 New Starts share of $182.1 million.

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Bus Rapid Transit Line
32.2 miles, 31 stations

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):
Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE):

$648.0 million
$182.1 million

Annual Operating Cost ($2025):

$13.8 million

Ridership Forecast (2025):

71,000 avg. weekday boardings
46,300 daily new riders

FY 2002 Financial Rating:


FY 2002 Project Justification Rating:


FY 2002 Overall Project Rating:


The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the existing densities in the corridor and significant mobility improvements estimated to result from the proposed investment. The overall project rating applies to this Supplemental Report on New Starts and reflects conditions as of August 2001. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


Initial planning efforts for the Primary Corridor Transportation Project began in 1998, with a series of public involvement efforts known as Oahu Trans 2K. The input received resulted in the development of an Island-wide Mobility Concept Plan. This plan contained the general framework and concepts for the development of the Major Investment Study/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (MIS/DEIS) undertaken in 1999 and 2000. In June of 1999, the proposed Honolulu Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) project was selected to participate within FTA’s BRT Demonstration program. In the fall of 2000, the MIS/DEIS was issued for public and agency review, and the regional Bus Rapid Transit System was selected as the locally preferred alternative in November of 2000. The Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization adopted the locally preferred alternative into the Oahu Regional Long Range Transportation Plan in April of 2001. FTA approved the initiation of preliminary engineering in July 2001.

Section 3030(b)(73) of TEA-21 authorizes the "Honolulu Bus Rapid Transit Project." Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $2.47 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be reevaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium-High project justification rating reflects the high densities and transit supportive land uses in the corridor and the project’s strong cost-effectiveness.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

The Primary Corridor Project would serve approximately 71,900 average weekday boardings and carry 46,000 daily new riders. The DTS estimates that the project would result in the following annual travel time savings.


Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)

1.1 million

1.1 million

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 8,613 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the MOS corridor, representing 11 percent of all households located within ½ mile of the corridor.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Honolulu region is classified as an attainment area. The DTS estimates that in 2025, the Primary Corridor Transportation Project would result in the following reductions in emissions.


Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)



Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)



Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)



Particulate Matter (PM10)



Carbon Dioxide (CO2)



Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions.

DTS estimates that in 2025, the proposed Primary Corridor Transportation Project would result in the following reduction in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).


Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)



Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

The DTS estimates that systemwide-operating costs per passenger mile would remain relatively constant when comparing the Primary Corridor Transportation Project with the no-build and TSM alternatives.




New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2025)




Values reflect 2025 ridership forecast and 2001 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

The DTS estimates the following cost effectiveness index for the Primary Corridor Transportation Project.



New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Values reflect 2025 ridership forecast and 2001 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: High

The High rating reflects the dense urban character of the corridor and the existing transit- supportive corridor policies and zoning.

Existing Conditions: The corridor study area is the most urban region in Oahu and within the State of Hawaii. Over 50 percent of the Oahu’s population and over 80 percent of employment is concentrated within the corridor, which comprises the City and County of Honolulu. The proposed build alternative would provide access to the major activity centers and trip generators in the area including Pearl Harbor, Pearlridge Center, Honolulu International Airport, Pearl City, Halawa Valley, Mapunapuna, Kalihi, Iwelei and Kakaako Industrial districts, downtown Honolulu, the Capital district, Ala Moana Center, Waikiki, and the University of Hawaii. Honolulu is a linear city which is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and a mountain range on the other, thus, much of the development is concentrated to this study area corridor, which bisects the urbanized area. Thus, existing land use densities are among the highest in the United States.

Future Plans and Policies: The City and County of Honolulu exercises jurisdiction over regional land use and development patterns in most of the island of Oahu. The City and County of Honolulu is committed to directing development activity to areas including the Primary Urban Core (PUC), the Ewa planning region, and certain communities in Central Oahu, while containing urban and suburban development to existing planning regions. Thus, new development is focused towards the PUC area and Ewa planning regions, while limiting growth within the remaining areas. The City and County of Honolulu uses urban growth boundaries, zoning, and the Hawaii State Land use code to control development activity and to support higher density, mixed use development. Additionally, the City of Honolulu has enacted parking policies to limit the construction of work-based parking and not require high levels of parking as a condition for residential development approval. Thus, parking costs average over $200 per month in downtown Honolulu.

Other Factors

The City and County of Honolulu have geographic barriers to expanding existing transportation capacity and the land area available for development. Generally, the development potential extends along narrow valley corridors that are bordered by steep slopes on one-side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The existing land use patterns are serviced by a transportation system that is also constrained by topography and operates at capacity. Thus, the project proposed is one of a few remaining measures that can be undertaken to increase transportation capacity in the proposed corridor.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs: 72%

The current financial plan for the Primary Corridor Transportation Project proposes $182.1 million in Section 5309 New Starts funding (28%); $41.24 million (6.4 %) in Section 5309 Rail Modernization, $161.5 million (25%) in FHWA flexible funds; $40 million (6 %) in State Highway funds, $215.5 million (33%) in City bond funds, and $7.3 million (1%) in City Highway funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the high level of local capital funding committed to the proposed project, offset by the uncertainties in the capital costs at this stage of project development.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The capital financial condition of the Honolulu Department of Transportation is good. The agency currently has a strong general obligation bond rating (Aa3 from Moody’s and AA- from Standard and Poors). The average age of the bus fleet is 8 years old, which indicates that the bus fleet is receiving capital funding commensurate with needs.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The capital-cost estimate is adequate for this stage of project development. However, there are outstanding issues regarding the impact of the proposed busway on emergency lane shoulder width for a portion of the alignment on the I-5 freeway, where the proposed busway may require a narrow emergency lane. If the I-5 emergency lane has to be widened to meet standard interstate highway emergency land width, there may be a significant change to the capital-cost estimates of the project resulting from the increased cost of additional right-of-way, environmental mitigation and freeway reconstruction. This will be resolved during the preliminary engineering phase of project development.

Existing and Committed Funding: The Primary Corridor Transportation Project is included in the Regions Financially constrained long-range plan. The Honolulu City Council passed a resolution in November of 2000 that selected the BRT alternative as the locally preferred alternative and adopted the financial plan for the project. This allows the city to commit general obligation bonds and other city funds as part of the annual budget appropriation process. Thus, approximately $222.9 million, (48 percent), of the proposed non-Section 5309 funds are budgeted for the project and $41.2 million (9 percent) are committed to the project.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources of funding are proposed.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan.

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the good operating condition of the DTS and the strength of the twenty-year operating plan.

Agency Operating Condition: The DTS is in good operating condition. The DTS relies on farebox revenues, annual funding appropriations from the City, and Section 5307 funding. Recently, the DTS raised fares for transit services, with little opposition, that will increase the operating revenues for the agency.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The DTS provided an operating plan that identified likely sources of funding and historical cost assumptions. The proposed BRT system would use new vehicle technologies including an embedded plate electric power contact system and hybrid electric/diesel propulsion systems, which do not have historical operating costs estimates. The operating costs for these systems will be refined during preliminary engineering.

Existed and Committed Funding: Approximately 30 percent of the project’s operating funds have been committed and 70 percent are planned, which is good for a project in this early stage of project development.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources of operating funding are being proposed by DTS.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan
(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date

  Section 5309 New Starts
Section 5307
FHWA Flexible funds


($2.47 million appropriated for the Primary Corridor Transportation Project through FY 2001)
  State Highway Fund


  City Highway Fund
City General Obligation Bond





NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.