Rail and Weather Forecasters

by Panos Prevedouros

Hawaii weather is meant to frustrate weather forecasters. They predicted buckets of rain for Sunday and we got next to nothing. Then they predicted next to nothing for Monday and we got buckets of rain!

Speaking of weather forecasts, professor Bent Flybjerg of Oxford University places weather and rail forecasters at opposite ends of the spectrum of truth and honesty. Weather forecasters are neither deluded nor deceptive; they use some of the most complex models and report their forecast for a few days in the future.

They get it right most of the time. Honolulu Rail forecasters have used primitive models (*) and gobbles of delusion and deception (Dr. Flybjerg’s words; see graph below) to predict rail’s efficacy 20 to 30 years in the future! And they never get it right. (*) Oahu rail forecasts were based on a relatively ancient OMPO zonal model from a 1994 survey. Much to the discredit of our local government at all levels, we have not conducted a comprehensive origin-destination survey since 1994. So we have developed a five billion dollar transportation investment using old and primitive data. We all know “garbage in, garbage out” and that’s exactly what we are dealing with here. Do not get me started about the traffic tools they have used in the multimillion dollar analyses to predict future traffic conditions. These rock bottom tools are acceptable to Hawaii government, and FTA simply does not care about traffic conditions.

However, the Federal Highway Administration has this opinion: “Equation tools are very appropriate for localized study areas like a single intersection or a highway section. Equation tools also are appropriate for a quick-and-dirty preliminary analysis that may lead to or warrant a future, more detailed analysis.” Above those tools come four more classes of tools with increasingly advanced sophistication, but hardly any of them were used in the rail EIS. Panos Prevedouros’ blog, which is from where this has been reposted (with permission), can be found at: //fixoahu.blogspot.com

Panos D. Prevedouros, Ph.D. is a professor of traffic and transportation engineering at the Department of Civil Engineering, Univ. of Hawaii-Manoa since 1990. Panos graduated from the Aristotle Univ. of Greece in 1984, and with Masters and PhD degrees in 1990 from Northwestern Univ. (Evanston, IL), a leading academic institution in engineering and transportation. He chairs the Freeway Simulation Subcommittee of the Transportation Research Board. He was president of the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance from 2006 to 2008. Panos co-authored a Transportation Engineering textbook and over 100 reports and technical papers. He received the 2005 Van Wagoner Award of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. He co-organized the 1st International Symposium on Freeway Operations (ISFO) in Athens, Greece, and the 2nd ISFO in Honolulu in June 2009. Dr. Prevedouros served in the Transit Advisory Task Force in 2006 and in the Technology Selection Expert Panel in 2008 of the City Council of Honolulu. He ran for mayor of Honolulu in the 2008 elections and finished 3rd in the primary elections with 18% of the vote from a field of nine candidates.

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