DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melvin Kaku, city Department of Transportation Services director,*
spoke yesterday in front of video screens at the city's Traffic Management Center showing freeway and road traffic. The state and city kicked off their annual Beat the School Jam to prepare drivers for the expected 59,000*
college and private school students who will head back to class the week of Aug. 20. CLICK FOR LARGE
City warns drivers to prepare for school traffic
It's that time of year again, so expect traffic gridlock as about 59,000* private school and college students return to school starting Aug. 20.
To reduce congestion, transportation officials are encouraging motorists to leave their homes either before or after peak traffic and to ensure that their vehicles are properly maintained. For every minute a vehicle is delayed on the road, there is a 10-minute delay for those behind that vehicle, state Transportation Director Barry Fukunaga said yesterday.
» Make sure vehicles are properly maintained and serviced to reduce risk of stalling on roadways and clogging traffic.
» Watch out for pedestrians.
» Drive slowly in school and residential areas.
» Obey school zone speed limit signs.
Source: State Department of Transportation and the American Automobile Association
SOME USEFUL LINKS:
» www.driveakamai.org to check on city road closures and road construction projects
» www.thebus.org for bus schedules and routes
Officials also suggested the use of alternative means of transportation such as carpooling, TheBus and Vanpool Hawaii.
As students return to school, the state Department of Transportation will postpone daytime roadway projects throughout the state from Aug. 20 until after Labor Day. Roadwork conducted at night will continue. Meanwhile, the city will restrict road closures from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 20-24.
School location and limited parking compound the traffic problem during morning peak traffic, Fukunaga said at a news conference at the city Traffic Management Center. Schools opening in the coming weeks are generally within the urban core, Fukunaga said. He added that a number of commuters who leave their homes early are in competition to find a decent parking space.
With the approval of a mass transit plan, the city is hoping to alleviate gridlock, said Melvin Kaku, director of the Department of Transportation Services.
City officials are also looking into streamlining and eliminating bus stops to provide more efficiency, Kaku said.
Officials are working with University of Hawaii officials to improve bike paths from Waikiki to the Manoa campus as another way to reduce congestion.
Kaku encouraged UH students to take advantage of U-Pass, a bus pass offered to Hawaii's college students at a reduced rate.
Officials with Oahu Transit Services Inc. noticed an increase in the number of college students using the U-Pass.
About 6,230 U-Passes were sold at the end of May, up from 5,300 sold at the end of December, said Roger Morton, Oahu Transit Services president and general manager. Morton said they hope to increase sales to 10,000 this fall.
There are seven express bus routes that provide direct daily and weekend commutes to UH from areas in Hawaii Kai, Windward Oahu, Pearl City, Mililani and Wahiawa, Morton said.
Vanpool Hawaii also offers passenger vehicles, minivans and sport utility vehicles to those who are willing to commute with a group into downtown.
Riders share fuel costs, while Vanpool Hawaii covers insurance and maintenance costs, said Executive Director Vicki Harris.
The 2008 model minivans and SUVs that are slated to arrive sometime in October will be E-85 flex fuel vehicles, which means they can either run on gasoline or a blend of ethanol of up to 85 percent. So far, more than a dozen people have signed up for the vehicles, Harris said.
Vanpool Hawaii plans to hold a "Beat the School Jam Rideshare Rally" at Tamarind Park tomorrow, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to encourage motorists to sign up for the service.
Friday, August 10, 2007
» More than 59,000 university and private school students will return to class during the next month. A story and photo caption on Page A4 in yesterday's morning edition incorrectly said the number was about 98,000. Also, Melvin Kaku, city Department of Transportation Services director, was shown in the photo. He was misidentified in the caption as state Director of Transportation Barry Fukunaga.