Ulupono report reveals annual costs of Hawaii’s vehicle economy

Feb 12, 2021

Hawaii’s vehicle transportation system has an annual price tag totaling $21.8 billion, including all direct and indirect costs, according to a newly published report, “The Costs of the Vehicle Economy in Hawaii,” prepared for Ulupono Initiative by ICF Incorporated LLC.

Hawaii’s vehicle transportation system includes approximately 9,800 miles of public roadways and more than 1.27 million registered vehicles statewide, as well as state and county transportation infrastructure (e.g., bridges, freeway on- and off-ramps, signs, speedbumps, parking and more). It also includes associated costs such as pollution and congestion resulting from public usage of the islands’ ground transportation system.

Key findings in the report related to the costs of Hawaii’s vehicle economy include:

  • Annual public costs of the state’s vehicle economy amount to roughly $15,000 per taxpayer ($24,400 per household), regardless of vehicle ownership.
  • Personal vehicles cost an additional $13,800 per taxpayer per year.
  • User fees amount to approximately $378 million annually, which covers only 49 percent of the public roadway expenditures from the state and counties — a significant revenue gap that is expanding alongside an expectation that 10 to 15 percent of the state’s highway system will be directly impacted by sea-level rise.
  • The system’s maintenance backlog is double its annual expenditures.
  • The land value of Hawaii’s asphalt is $2.5 billion.
  • Many public costs are indirect yet affect Hawaii’s communities greatly, including injuries, fatalities, congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution, and consumer parking subsidies.

The report’s conclusion notes, “One of the main concerns with the size of the costs of the vehicle economy is 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.”

Kathleen Rooney, Ulupono Initiative’s director of transportation policy and programs, adds, “It is critical that we understand these transportation costs and impacts, and that we evaluate whether these are the best financial investments we can, and should, make.”

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to view infographic.