Will Visitors Ride New Honolulu Rail System?

The likelihood of both visitors and locals riding the new $5.5 billion 20-mile elevated rail system may just have increased significantly. Plans for Honolulu’s mass transit system have been in the works for a half-century. The city announced yesterday that it had received confirmation from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that the project has met all the requirements of the environmental review process. That clears the way for construction to begin on Honolulu’s first rail system.

Will it be of help to visitors?

The new rail system will connect 21 Oahu stations, including the Honolulu Airport, downtown, and Waikiki-adjacent Ala Moana Center. The problem is that there are no plans that I can find for the rail lines to enter Waikiki. (Note: some earlier maps had shown Waikiki as a future extension). Visitors will need to board buses at Ala Moana for Waikiki destinations.

Today marks an important milestone in Oahu’s quest to become a more transit-friendly island”– Peter Rogoff, FTA.

Honolulu’s traffic is among the country’s worst. The rail system should be of great help to those trying to cost-effectively transit the airport and other parts of Honolulu.

Trains will carry about 300 passengers each and be similar to Portland’s MAX, Seattle’s Sound Transit Light Rail and L.A.’s Gold Line. The project is slated to be completed in five stages taking place over the next six to nine years.

It comes at a good time in terms of of rising fuel costs, of which Hawaii’s are the nation’s highest.


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4 thoughts on “Will Visitors Ride New Honolulu Rail System?”

  1. I wonder who owns larger tracts of land which
    Are slated for purchase for the new rail
    System. I have not seen this reported, if it has,
    Could someone please send me date etc so
    I can read it? Joy Brown

  2. I guess if any Island can have an interstate highway system that runs 12 miles and goes to no other island let alone another state, it can have a huge transit system. what happened to “the bus”. GOOD GRIEF! NO WONDER WERE BROKE.

  3. “Honolulu’s traffic is among the country’s worst.” I always find this a funny statement. Whenever I’m in Hawaii, people complain about the traffic…and every time, I tell them “at least the cars are moving!” I live in the shadow of the nation’s capitol and if you want traffic, we have a beltway highway that twice a day becomes an 8 lane parking lot. This beltway has one of the countries most dangerous highways connecting to it. And because the federal government lets out employees in staggered times, rush-hour traffic starts at 3pm and doesn’t stop until well after 8PM. And if there is any kind of precipitation, like rain or especially snow, the rush-hour continues to 10pm. I have personally driven the main east/west highway (Washington DC is east of where I live) at 3am and while the traffic is moving, it’s still almost bumper to bumper. Traffic in Hawaii is a joy compared to what we put up with here in the nation’s capitol!

  4. I like your question. Perhaps someone involved in planning will respond. One obvious answer is that tourists using the rail are not a priority in the planning or it would, at the least, have a planned future connection into Waikiki. Another possible answer is that Waikiki is very expensive to lay rail due to its density and due to the negative impact on businesses during the construction phase. That is a tough one as the benefits later will more than make up for it but some business won’t make it thru the transition. I lived in Portland, Oregon, before, during, and after the light rail was put in. Some businesses were put out of business during construction. However, the amazing transformation of the city later is nothing short of magical and encouraged many new businesses. Waikiki has too much traffic and it would be the best thing to happen there in the long term. I hope the rail will be like Portland’s; it is user friendly, clean, quiet, and efficient. I hope they make it street level like Portland. That is very user friendly, more attractive, and less maintenance than the expensive platform idea.

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