Honolulu ranks in top 5 for traffic congestion, new management center could help

Honolulu is one of the worst cities in the country when it comes to traffic congestion.

That’s according to an annual study by GPS maker TomTom, which looked at morning and evening commutes in 200 cities around the globe.

Here in the U.S., the worst five cities for traffic congestion are:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. San Francisco
  3. Honolulu
  4. New York
  5. Seattle

In Honolulu, congestion is up three percent from last year. For those who commute at least 30 minutes, they spend an average of 88 hours — almost four full days — in traffic every year.

According to the study, the best commute times are Friday mornings and Monday afternoons. The worst commutes occur on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and Friday afternoons.

The worst traffic day last year, according to the study, was Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Friday.

Ford Fuchigami, director of the state Department of Transportation, wasn’t happy with the news. “We’re always disappointed, especially when you reach the top five for worst traffic in the nation,” he said.

KHON2 counted at least 80 construction projects involving road work, and those lead to lane closures and congestion. Those are projects connected to the state, the city’s repaving and sewer projects, the rail project, and work being done by the Board of Water Supply and Hawaiian Electric.

Fuchigami revealed to KHON2 that the state is actually taking a look at adding capacity by including the shoulder lane on the H-1 Freeway east-bound, near the H-1, H-2 merge.

“We’re taking a look at that to see whether or not to add that sixth lane going eastbound,” said Fuchigami. “That is something we just spoke about when we came aboard in December.”

Rendering: Dept. of Transportation Services
Rendering: Dept. of Transportation Services

Collaboration is also something that is being pushed hard.

“Whenever there is a water main break, there’s a city project, a state project, a [Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation] project, we all get together,” said Fuchigami, “and we figure out the best way possible so that traffic doesn’t get impacted in the great extent that it does.”

Police are also getting into the act by working to reduce the time it takes to investigate traffic accidents.

“If it’s not a complete opening of the lanes, then we’ll be trying to do a partial opening or a contraflow,” said Maj. Calvin Tong, commander of the Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division. “Anything to help the motorists to get to their destinations in a timely manner.”

For its part to deal with traffic congestion, the city will move its monitors, its eyes on the road, to a new joint traffic management center to be built on what is now a police department employee parking lot off King and South streets.

The center will cost from $55 million to $60 million to build, and will become operational by the year 2017.

It will house city traffic management employees, as well as personnel from the state transportation department, first responders, as well as representatives for rail and TheBus.

“We will all problem-solve together, and we will plan for future events,” said Mike Formby, director of the city’s Department of Transportation Services. “This is proactive traffic management, something that has never been done before in the City and County of Honolulu.”

The city hopes to award a contract soon to build the center, and is looking to hold a ground breaking ceremony in May.

Top Five Most Congested Cities

Rank City Overall Congestion Level 2014 Overall Congestion Level 2013
1 Los Angeles 39% 36%
2 San Francisco 34% 32%
3 Honolulu 32% 29%
4 New York 31% 26%
5 Seattle 31% 27%

As much as workers hate it, employers aren’t thrilled about it either.

“It’s not good for employers either because, of course, the productivity, goes down, people are already exhausted from white-knuckled commuting into work, or they’re late. Nobody’s happy about that and everyone’s less productive,” said Nick Cohn, TomTom Head of Global Traffic Research.

For those looking for a silver lining, that increase in traffic, means more people are working.

“You can see the cities in the U.S. where the economy is going really well, you can see that in the congestion levels, for better or for worse, of course,” Cohn said.

Cities that relieved some of their rush hour congestion from last year, according to TomTom, are benefitting from things like bike lanes, re-timing signals, and working with major employers to stagger the workday, so not everyone is on the roads at once.

Employees who can’t make their in-time more flexible, can try different routes, real-time apps that keep tabs on traffic, and public transportation where available.

Additional Insight Into Rush Hour Traffic

Commuters in Los Angeles experience the worst traffic congestion overall, the evening rush hour is no exception. The average 30 minute drive in LA will take 54 minutes during evening rush hour, leading to an extra 92 hours wasted in traffic annually.

Top Five Cities with the Worst Evening Rush Hour:

Rank City Evening Congestion Level  Overall Congestion Level
1 Los Angeles 80% 39%
2 San Jose 75% 30%
3 Seattle 74% 31%
4 Honolulu 68% 32%
5 Houston 68% 25%

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