Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Traffic gets a head start

The beginning of the new school year sees commuters clogging freeways a tad earlier

By Gene Park


Honolulu-bound drivers appear to be traveling on freeways earlier in the morning now that about 50,275 university, college and private school students have returned to class.

At the request of the Star-Advertiser, the state Department of Transportation released vehicle counts yesterday from four typically heavily congested freeway areas, comparing Monday, when classes began, and the previous Monday, Aug. 16.

The most traveled area -- the H-1 freeway eastbound lanes near the Kaonohi Street overpass -- saw a 121 percent jump in traffic from 5:45 to 6 a.m., from 1,362 vehicles last week to 3,013 Monday.

From 6 to 6:15 a.m. there were 1,553 vehicles traveling in that area last week Monday. This week there were 3,085 vehicles, a 99 percent jump.

The same area begins seeing double-digit percentage drops in vehicles passing through by 7 a.m. From 7 to 7:15 a.m. there was a 12 percent drop in vehicles.

Freeway traffic just before noon in all four areas saw only small differences in the number of vehicles traveling during both Mondays.

"The data does show that motorists do adjust their schedules," said state transportation spokeswoman Tammy Mori.

Monday, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kapiolani Community College and several private schools had their first day of instruction for the fall.

The three other areas counted were the H-1/H-2 interchange, the H-1 freeway Kalihi interchange near Middle Street, and H-1 freeway westbound traffic near the Waialae Avenue overpass.

Across all four locations, there was an 18 percent increase in 5-to-7 a.m. traffic between the two Mondays. But from 7 to 9 a.m. there was a 10 percent drop in traffic.

It is a misconception that the schools bring more vehicles onto the road, said state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka. Instead, the fall session packs more vehicles into certain time periods of the morning.

The data show that there was an only 1.5 percent increase in traffic between the two Mondays. Across all four locations, there were 149,069 vehicles traveling on state freeways Aug. 16 from 4 a.m. through noon.

Monday, there were 151,356 vehicles traveling during that same time period.

"Most of these locations are already at capacity and therefore cannot accommodate a vast increase in the number of vehicles," Mori said.

About 16,000 of the Manoa campus' 20,435 students commute to class -- whether by driving, walking, biking or taking the bus. There are about 3,000 parking spaces available.

Gregg Takayama, UH director of community and government relations, said traffic and parking problems might be lessened now that the Manoa campus has a record 4,000 students living on campus, 500 more than last semester.

A city bus pass, called U-Pass, is offered to every student in turn for a mandatory $20 fee along with tuition costs. The city's bus system added more routes to accommodate students.

"It makes economic sense, it makes environmental sense," Takayama said. "It's a lot more efficient than having to drive around and hunt for a parking space."

Morioka said he advises commuters to seek other avenues of transportation, through car pools, van pools or TheBus. But for those who insist on driving, motorists are best suited to adjust their schedule when deciding when to leave.

"Typically the morning commute will usually add 15 to 30 minutes," Morioka said.

He also advised commuters to visit the state's new traffic information website,, which is updated throughout the day with congestion maps, traffic snapshots, road closure information and detours made available due to construction.

The popular Freeway Service Patrol also recently expanded its service after starting more than a year ago. The program's tow trucks provide free roadside service to keep traffic moving along H-1, H-2 and Moanalua Freeway from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.


This state data shows the number of vehicles that traveled during these two-hour morning intervals at four different locations.

TIME Aug. 16 Aug. 23 % CHANGE
5 to 7 a.m. 7,874 8,226 4%
7 to 9 a.m. 7,577 7,479 -1%
TIME Aug. 16 Aug. 23 % CHANGE
5 to 7 a.m. 17,649 23,060 31%
7 to 9 a.m. 23,635 20,359 -14%
TIME Aug. 16 Aug. 23 % CHANGE
5 to 7 a.m. 7,588 8,402 11%
7 to 9 a.m. 9,054 8,389 -7%
TIME Aug. 16 Aug. 23 % CHANGE
5 to 7 a.m. 6,450 6,681 4%
7 to 9 a.m. 7,672 7,255 -5%

Source: State Department of Transportation

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