Pain at the Pump - a Closer Look at Hawaiian High Fuel Prices

Title Photo


Hawaii has some of the most expensive consumer products in the nation. According to, most Hawaiian good are more expensive than those of New York City:

  • 1 liter of whole fat milk: +41%.
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) of apples: +68%.
  • Bread for 2 people for 1 day: +67%.

In addition to exorbitant food prices, Hawaii also has highest fuel prices in the entire United States, according to The Aloha State has long had the dubious honor of the most expensive fuel in the nation but until recently quantifying additional metrics was difficult. To better analyze such data in 2009 the US government established the data aggregation website Datasets are available online to conduct research, develop web applications, and design data visualizations on a variety of topics ranging from agriculture and manufacturing, to health and economics.

These datasets are published in the Socrata Open Data Format. Socrata is a Seattle-based company that develops software for government agencies to publish and manage their data in an open format. The Socrata Open Data Format is used by the US Federal Government, as well as 25 US states, and more than 300 cities. Thus far, more than 4,000 government datasets are published in Socrata format.

Hawaiian Fuel Prices Dataset

This article uses data sourced from concerning Hawaiian fuel prices.

From 2006 to 2012, the State of Hawaii compiled AAA fuel prices for each of these fuel types:

Diesel, Gasoline - Regular, Gasoline - Midgrade, Gasoline - Premium

In turn, fuel prices are recorded for the following Hawaiian locales:

Hilo, Honolulu, Wailuku, US, State of Hawaii

Access the raw dataset on supports data download in the following formats: CSV, RDF, JSON, and XML. also supports several visualization tools directly from the site: CartoDB and plotly are currently available.


This visualization tool supports time series visualization but lacks tools to perform ad hoc data transformations.

These instructions enumerate the process of using plotly to visualize the data.

Open the Hawaii Fuel Prices dataset, and select plotly from the Open With drop-down list.


Select a Filter from the Data Tools menu, as shown below.

Figure 1

Open the Gasoline - Regular filter and select choose as x.

Figure 2

Open the Group By option and select Month_of_Price for the x axis, County as G, and Price for the y axis.

Figure 3

Using plotly to analyze datasets from is rendered inefficient due to the number of settings required to create a single visualization. Data in plotly is static and cannot be transformed using group statistics or aggregators.

Figure 4

Axibase Time Series Database

ATSD supports several collection tools with built-in heuristics to handle and other Socrata datasets. The Axibase Collector uses Socrata metadata to interpret the meaning of columns and extract dates, times, and categories from data files.

ATSD stores the data in a local database instance. As such open source and other public data can be combined with private, institutional, or other internal data sources.

ATSD does not require you to design database table schema, provision an application server, or write parsing programs to import new data.

Configure a scheduled job to retrieve data from a specified endpoint import the data into ATSD according to pre-defined rules. Once the data is stored in ATSD, creating and sharing reports and creating interactive visualizations with built-in widgets is trivial. Reports are continuously updated with the flow of incoming data.

The plotly visualization above is replicated in ChartLab below. ChartLab is a visualizaton application that relies on data processing and stored from ATSD.

Figure 5

View in ChartLab

Sort the dataset by location or fuel type and easily navigate through the entire dataset using [dropdown] settings to create variable data inputs.

Hilo Fuel Prices (All Fuel Types)

Figure 6

Diesel Fuel Prices (All Locations)

Figure 7

Creating Custom Portals

Create custom portals using the example portal above as a template. Change or display particular aspects of the dataset as needed. ChartLab supports complete visualization customization.

Recreate Hilo Fuel Prices Visualization

  1. Open the Fuel Portal above.
  2. Define the county and fuel tags. Use Hilo for county and wildcard * for fuel to select all types.
  3. Click Run to render the visualization.

Figure 13

View in ChartLab

Diesel Histogram

  1. In the Editor Window define the county and fuel tags as Hilo and diesel respectively.
  2. To calculate the difference between Hilo and mainland diesel prices, create a second series. Define the county tag as US.

Figure 14

Create a derived series to calculate the difference between local and mainland prices:

  1. In the Hilo series, define an alias alias = s1. In the US series, define a second alias alias = s2. Hide both series using a display=false setting.
  2. Define a new series with label = Hilo over US Diesel Surcharges setting included. Use the expression value = value('s1') - value('s2') to calculate the derived metric.

Figure 16

Make additional optional changes to fine tune the visualization:

  • Modify the range of the visualization with min-range = 0 setting.
  • Change the type of visualization rendered with mode = column setting.
  • Define custom colors with color = red setting.
  • Under [configuration] scale the visualization with height-units = 2 or width-settings 2.

Figure 17

View in ChartLab

Read Charts Documentation for an exhaustive list of available settings.

Combining Datasets

Exploring the complete dataset for fuel prices, Wailuku is more expensive for any fuel type than Hilo and Honolulu. Are products generally more expensive in Wailuku than the other islands, or is fuel an anomaly? One way to investigate further is to investigate a second dataset tracking consumer products in Hawaii.

On, locate the Hawaii Electricity Prices dataset.

From 2008 to 2012, the State of Hawaii collected electricity prices (in cents/kwh) for each of the Hawaiian islands:

Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Oahu

The electricity metric is tracked by sector:

All Sectors, Commercial, Residential, Street Lights

View in ChartLab

The geographic tags for the gasoline and electricity datasets are different: the former is county-based while the latter is island-based. Regions with data for both metrics are highlighted below:


Compare Diesel prices in Honolulu, Wailuku, and Hilo with residential electricity rates on their corresponding islands (Oahu, Maui, Hawaii).

Figure 10

View in ChartLab

For more information about generating custom portals, see the Charts Documentation.

Additional Datasets

State dataset Axibase Portal
Illinois Abortion Demographics, 1995-2012 Portal
Maryland Anne Arundel County Crime Rate By Type Portal
New York Automobiles Annual Imports and Exports Through Port Authority of NY NJ Maritime Terminals: Beginning 2000 Portal
Maryland Employment Figures Portal
New York Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Incentive Program Completed Projects by City and Contractor: Beginning 2010 Portal
Hawaii Solid Waste Recycled (in tons) Portal
Iowa Math And Reading Proficiency by School Year, Public School District and Grade Level Portal
Connecticut Sales and Use Tax per Town by NAICS (2013 and 2014) Portal
Maryland Per Capita Electricity Consumption Portal
Maryland MVA Vehicle Sales Counts by Month for CY 2002-2015 Portal
Connecticut DAS HR Almanac - Executive Branch Employment By Race Portal
New York Scholarship Recipients and Dollars by Sector Group: Beginning 2009 Portal
New York Public Assistance and SNAP Fraud Prevention Performance Measures: Beginning 2013 Portal
Maryland Maryland Veterans Unemployment Rate Portal
Maryland Trips Taken on Public Transit by Transit Type - Monthly Total Trips Portal
Iowa Employee Compensation by Industry in Iowa Portal

Action Items

  1. Install ATSD on a virtual machine or in a Linux container.
  2. Install Axibase Collector and configure Collector to write data into your ATSD instance.
  3. Upload the Job file to Axibase Collector.
  4. Import datasets to enable data collection.
  5. Log in to ATSD and open a sample Socrata portal to explore the data.