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Cost of driving slated to increase

HONOLULU — Hawai‘i’s vehicle-transportation system comes with an annual price tag totaling $21.8 billion, including all direct and indirect costs, according to a report released Friday by the Ulupono Initiative.

“The Costs of the Vehicle Economy in Hawai‘i,” prepared for Ulupono Initiative by ICF Incorporated, LLC, reveals that more than half of the total $21.8 billion, or $11.2 billion, is borne by the public in the form of state and county expenditures, social and economic trade-offs, and real estate value of land set aside for roadways and parking.

The remaining amount, $10.6 billion, is borne directly by consumers in the form of vehicle-ownership costs, including maintenance and operation.

“To help realize a more-sustainable, resilient Hawai‘i, we need to understand what our current transportation investments are to know whether they are helping us meet our critical climate and community goals,” said Kathleen Rooney, Ulupono Initiative’s director of transportation policy and programs.

“The purpose of this report is to provide comprehensive local data to Hawai‘i leaders as they weigh expenditures and investments to best address community needs and promote our post-pandemic recovery. At the same time, this information will help Hawai‘i residents make informed choices for themselves and their families about the costs they bear directly as consumers as well as taxpayers,” she said.

The report uses a 2019 methodology developed by the Harvard Kennedy School on the vehicle economy in Massachusetts, adjusted to reflect Hawai‘i’s unique vehicle economy by substituting in available Hawai‘i-specific data sources and assumptions.

The report also estimates county-level impacts.

Highlights of the Ulupono report include:

• Public costs amount to roughly $15,000 per taxpayer ($24,400 per household), annually, regardless of vehicle ownership;

• Personal vehicles cost an additional $13,800 per taxpayer per year (about 17.25% of household income);

• User fees amount to approximately $378 million annually, covering only 49% of the public roadway expenditures from the state and counties. This gap is expanding, with 10% to 15% of the state’s highway system set to be directly impacted by sea-level rise;

• The roadway maintenance backlog is double annual expenditures;

• Land value of asphalt is $2.5 billion;

• Many of the public costs are indirect but affect communities greatly. For example, injuries and fatalities, congestion, greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollution, and consumer parking subsidies.

The report’s conclusion states that “… costs are only slated to increase, as funding stays stagnant or decreases. In the wake of COVID-19, budget cuts are expected across many agencies, which will only further exacerbate deferred maintenance. The threat of climate change also necessitates a look at how such expenditures and investments are being made, and how we could be better addressing or prioritizing these investments.”
Source: The Garden Island

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