Mobility & Accessibility
By 2030, people can safely move to destinations with a choice of transportation options at reasonable time and cost.
Sustainable transportation systems are critical for Hawai‘i residents to access work and their basic needs. Transportation systems affect the health of land, water, air, and people, and are informed by the built environment. It is important that Hawai‘i provide a variety of safe options for mobility and accessibility to ensure the health and wealth of communities, businesses, and ‘āina. Fuel usage, emissions, and efficiency improvements related to transportation are currently being tracked through the Aloha+ Energy goal.
The ability to increase modes of alternative transportation, such as buses, bicycles, carpools, and walking, will vary across the state – depending on factors like population and density. Current challenges to increasing alternative transportation options include cost, distance between destinations, public awareness, and the established built environment that was primarily designed for automobiles. Transportation choices are also in large part affected by decisions surrounding housing; for example, whether a residence is within walking or biking distance to work or shopping centers. The nexus between housing and transportation planning influences key issues of access, cost, and travel time, and can affect low-income residents disproportionately. Equitable access to diverse transit options and proximity between housing and workplace are therefore important components to framing a sustainable transportation system.
Active transportation modes, such as bicycling and walking, provide a variety of health benefits. According to the Department of Transportation, investment in active transportation and public transit helps reduce the risk of obesity and chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Strategies to improve healthy mobility modes include implementing a comprehensive road design with safe crossings, creating protected bike lanes, promoting Safe Routes to School programs, and investing in streetscape amenities like benches, landscaping and lighting. Improved access and mobility also provides opportunities to build healthier communities. Planning and financial incentives can help increase sustainable modes of transportation, price out vehicular transportation and re-engineer communities to accommodate modes that promote physical health and wellbeing.
Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
Vehicle miles of travel or vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is defined by the U.S. government as a measurement of miles traveled by vehicles within a specified region for a specified time period. Commuter transportation choices can be captured by measuring the number of miles travelled by motorized vehicles, as a statewide total and per vehicle. The data reflects whether communities offer transportation alternatives, reasonable proximity of housing to jobs, and incentives for residents to choose non-motorized transit.
Figure 1: Annual Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per vehicle for the state of Hawai‘i from 1990-2018 (Source: Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) Databook)
Figure 2: Total Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for the state of Hawai‘i from 1990-2018 (Source: Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) Databook)
Note for Figures 1 and 2: While both metrics are important for gauging mobility statewide, total VMT increasing year to year reflects population growth and VMT per vehicle captures a better sense of individual mobility choices. Trends show a dip in 2014 with subsequent VMT increasing dramatically the following year. These accurately correspond to peak gasoline prices in 2014 followed by a significant price drop.
Figure 3: The bar graph shows annual VMT per vehicle for each of the four counties. Similar trends reflect significant decreases in 2014 during peak gasoline prices followed by major increases after prices dropped by nearly $2 per gallon over three months at the end of 2014.
According to the Department of Transportation, mode share refers to the proportion of commutes by each mode of travel. Typically, this includes bicycles, private vehicles, public transportation, and traveling by foot. Mode share is considered to be a well-known approach to measure travel behavior and set long-term targets, and provides a good metric to understand mobility choices. Data is collected by the US Census Bureau through the American Community Survey and the mode share target will track the percentage of trips by non-motorized vehicular travel across the state. The target also accounts for the increasing number of commuter trips that will occur with population and job growth in the future by tracking proportion of total commuter travel. The current percentage of commuter trips by non-motorized vehicle is 19.9%.
Figure 4: The chart shows the proportion of mode share for commuting trips for the state of Hawai‘i 2009-2013. (Source: US Census Bureau)
Percentage of Commuter per Mode
Figure 5: The chart shows the proportion of mode share for commuting trips for each of the four counties 2009-2013. (Source: US Census Bureau)
Figure 6 & 7: The charts show the proportion and total number of commuters for each mode share trip types for the state of Hawai‘i from 1980 to 2013 (Source: US Census Bureau)
Number of Commuters per Mode
Complete Streets is a well-established road design approach to implement more efficient transportation by applying a comprehensive system for all modes of travel that augments equitable access and safety. The conceptual framework is based on designing road infrastructure networks to accommodate travel by automobile, bicycle, foot and public transit, as well as enhanced streetscape features that bolster safety and overall community wellbeing. In 2009, Hawai‘i passed Act 54 requiring the state and county transportation departments to adopt Complete Streets policies. Subsequent resolutions were passed by all four counties between 2010 and 2012 adhering to the state law. By implementing specific Complete Streets guidelines set by this legislation, communities will increase opportunities for universal access for more mobility choices to promote physical activity, enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create more livable communities.
Hawai'i has invested in adapting transportation infrastructure to create safe bicycling options. The City and County of Honolulu has 2 miles of protected bike lanes, 46 miles of bike paths, 59 miles of bike lanes, and 40 miles of bike routes. All of the City's transit buses are equipped with bike racks. (City and County of Honolulu).
Figure 8: The Department of Transportation hosts a map of bicycle routes on O‘ahu, full map located here (Source: Hawai‘i Department of Transportation).
The County of Kaua‘i completed a statewide master plan with the Department of Transportation to create a 16-mile coastal bike and pedestrian trail from Nawiliwili to Anahola (County of Kaua‘i).
Traffic Fatalities and Serious Injuries
Traffic safety partners and advocates in Hawai‘i are working to reduce bicycle and pedestrian-related injuries and fatalities through engineering enhancements, improved planning and design policies, targeted enforcement and public education efforts, and reductions in the average number of vehicle miles traveled (NHTSA). Injuries from motor vehicle crashes are categorized into 4 main modes: those among the occupants of automobiles, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. When including all four modes of transportation, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of fatal unintentional injuries among Hawai‘i residents from 2008 through 2012, and the second leading cause of nonfatal hospitalizations for injuries, at 17% of the total (DOH). Currently, Hawai‘i still has the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the nation for older adults, and the vast majority of bicycle fatalities in recent years involved a motor vehicle. Implementation of Complete Streets design policies and Safe Routes to School programs seek to encourage infrastructural, behavioral, and educational changes to improve the safety and transportation equity for all road users (DOH, 2017).
Figure 9: The above graphs show the annual rates of fatalities and serious injuries reported statewide for pedestrians and bicyclists. Tracking injuries and fatalities helps to assess the safety for active transportation modes such as bicycling and walking. (Source: Department of Health & Department of Transportation)
Figure 10: The map shows the location and rate of accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians in the Urban Honolulu core in 2016. (Source: Department of Health)
Figure 11. Fatality data for all counties, 2003-2019. Filter data by county and year. Motor vehicle operators remain the highest class of fatalities overall; however, pedestrian deaths persist at a steady rate. (Source: Department of Transportation).
More and Make a Difference
You Can Do
- Bikeshare is a relatively new transportation option offering an alternative short-term shared bike usage for residents and visitors alike. To learn more on rates and location follow the links below:
- Carshare provides memberships for short-term shared car usage for occasional drivers as an alternative to car ownership. To learn more on rates and location follow the links below:
- Hui Car Share, a partnership between Toyota and SERVO
- Learn more and get involved! The Hawai’i Bicycling League provides multiple resources for O‘ahu residents including suggested bike routes, bike maps, bike plans, bike shop locations, volunteer opportunities and advocacy resources.
- Learn more about the City and County of Honolulu’s efforts to making Oahu a bicycle-friendly place.
- Consider public transportation options. Each island has its own unique bus transport system. Learn more about your local public transportation system including schedules, fares and maps
- The Hawai’i Department of Transportation convenes a forum for stakeholders committed to sustainable transportation. Sustainable Transportation Forum meeting notes are publicly available.
- The Department of Health (DOH) provides information on traffic safety including strategies for pedestrian and bicycle safety.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers strategies for promoting active transportation and health-oriented transportation projects.
- Safe Routes to School is a federally funded program to promote walking and bicycling for school-aged children and increase safety. The program is managed by the Hawai’i Department of Transportation.
- Sugar Access is a mapping software tool for community planners interested in measuring the multi-modal accessibility of neighborhoods.
- The Honolulu City and County offers many resources on Transit-Oriented Development, including local neighborhood plans for design strategies for multi-modal neighborhoods.
- Vision Zero is a strategic model for eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The strategy is being implemented in many cities across the United States.
- Walkscore is a great tool for assessing the walkability of neighborhoods and provides an easy resource with maps to help stakeholders and policymakers gauge pedestrian access at a local scale.