Oahu has fewer registered vehicles, but gridlock isn't easing

Oahu has fewer registered vehicles, but gridlock isn't easing
Updated: Oct. 4, 2016 at 6:10 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The number of registered motor vehicles on Oahu last year dropped to its lowest level since 2011, figures reported to the state show.

Some 780,909 vehicles were registered islandwide last year, down nearly 68,000 from 2013.

Why the decline? It's not exactly clear.

Serge Marek, a Hawaii Pacific University professor who specializes in urban geography and transportation trends, said it's likely a combination of issues.

"Maybe some people aren't registering their vehicles," he said.

But more people are also switching to bikes and the city bus, teens are waiting longer to get drivers licenses, and urban dwellers might be getting rid of a vehicle.

"I think certainly some of them it's possible that they are going with one vehicle rather than two," he said.

The number of registered vehicles on Oahu is down from 848,567 in 2013, and compares to 755,425 in 2011.

"We hope over the long- and the short-term that trend will continue. That will help to reduce congestion," said Chris Clark, of the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization. "As there's less drivers on the road people seek alternative modes."

But with fewer cars on the road, you'd think congestion would ease. It hasn't.

Kaimuki resident Rochelle Manrique was stunned to hear there are thousands fewer registered vehicles on the road.

"It doesn't seem like it is down. It seems more for some reason," she said.

One contributor to congestion could be found in a statistic called vehicle miles driven.

State data shows that in 2015 Oahu drivers traveled an average of 1,140 more miles per vehicle than they did in 2014.

"Even though there are less drivers, the number of miles each driver tends to go on average every day is longer because gas is relatively cheap," Clark said.

The city believes a portion of the reduction in registered vehicles can be attributed to military members who leave the state and take their cars and trucks with them.

Meanwhile, the decline in registered vehicles in Honolulu is continuing this year. Through August. the total was down about 1 percent compared to the same period last year.

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