Start Or Stop Light Rail Transit In Honolulu…You Decide!

Start Or Stop Light Rail Transit In Honolulu...You Decide!

One of the most debated subjects currently in Honolulu is whether or not “Light Rail Transit” is the solution to the traffic nightmare and therefore a good thing.

Cost, loss of more natural Hawaiian landscape and noise pollution are high on the list of given Cons to light rail. Pros given are pretty much in line with just easing the traffic congestion that plagues Oahu motorists everyday.

Two non-profit groups, one on each side of the fence, have emerged and offer great insight into whether or not this is the right or wrong approach to solving all the bustling traffic of this metropolitan city located in the middle of the Pacific. The key points of both organizations are highlighted below.

Those for light rail claim:

  • Best For The Local Economy
  • Best for the Environment
  • Best for Our Community

Those against light rail claim:

  • It Will Cost $Billions And $Billions And $Billions
  • It Will Not Relieve Traffic Congestion
  • It Is Noisy
  • It Will Be An Environmental Blight

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Support Rail Transit    Stop Rail Transit

What do you think? Take a minute and cast your vote in our current poll listed below. If you want to build your opinion before you cast your vote, feel free to visit the links to both sides of the debate and then come back and submit your vote.

Comments are also open below so let us know how you feel. Are you a local resident, tourist or just concerned party that wishes to voice your opinion? Voice it freely below.

Is Rail Transit A Good Idea For Honolulu?
NO (

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26 Responses to “ Start Or Stop Light Rail Transit In Honolulu…You Decide! ”

  1. Aloha,

    I wish this post had more information to give people an educated way to place their vote.

    Like statistics & proof of where this rail system has worked in other cities & what their population is compared to Honolulu.

    What about all the alternatives to the rail system – like elevated highways, or adding more buses & giving them their own lane to use to commute to work?

    How many people resist taking public transporation in Hawaii and why – so we can see what type of success this very expensive rail system would be.

    WE cannot afford to spend billions and have our children’s children pay for our mistakes just b/c we didn’t care enough about them to do a little research and get beyond the emotion of the subject and really see if this is the best system or not to implement.

    @CoachDeb on Twitter
    I’d love to continue the conversation on your show and or on TWitter

  2. You made the case for rail — traffic is a nightmare now and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something now. And the people who are against rail? First, they are professional anti-rail people who have been opposing rail at least since the 1980s. They make their living and reputations on saying things rail is “noisy” and environmental blight. you want environmental blight? Try another 20,000-30,000 cars on this island in the next 10 years.

    Sorry if i get carried away, but after sitting on the sidelines watching the facts get distorted, i have had enough. Let’s get the rail going.

  3. @CoachDeb: Links to both sides of the debate are listed within the post and the key points mentioned come directly from each side of the fence.

    @Bring Rail: I experienced the implementation of the St. Louis Metro Link ( and watched both good and bad come from it. Still a little undecided as to having a rail system in Honolulu, but studying up on both the Pros and Cons to get a better idea if this will be feasible for a place like Oahu.

  4. I think the steel on steel is a disaster, unless they can prove that there is not screeching & that our salt breezes wont rust it all out. Remember what happened to Aloha Stadium? We almost had to tear it down as the steel rusted out. What other sea area with trade winds have survived with a steel rail?

    The magnetic seems more likely alternative. I love the system in Holland, sleek cars with less intrusion. But the worst thing about the overhead rail is just that. It will ruin our million dollar vistas! I live near the university & if my Koolau views are marred by an overhead rail, yuck. What will the tourists see when they look towards the mountains & see a rail? It will destroy the beauty of our islands. Although I do agree we need a fix for too many cars on the road.

    When working downtown Honolulu, I bought a bus pass every month, though I have a car. The parking down there is prohibitive & I organized my day meditating on the ride to work. Leeward people need to work closer to home, in our second city Kapolei.


  5. The way I see it, either we get rail and hope to ease the traffic congestion or we just continue to let the number of people on the road increase, the number of houses being built to increase and so on and so forth. Remember we’re on an island and this one is not growing anymore like the Big Island, but it is eroding away, so eventually the people will outgrow the island and traffic will be the least of our worries.


  6. @SH: There have been railways in Hawaii before and still some smaller ones even today and never heard of the salt air affecting them. As for the beauty, that would really be bad to loose any of the beauty in Hawaii due to the rail system. My only thing is that as time goes on gas will continue to rise and right now it seems as if the number of cars on the road continues to grow. Will we the commuters in Hawaii be able to continue to cope with the growing number of cars on the road and also be able to keep up with the price of gas, just to sit in traffic and burn it away for up to an hour or more to get to work just 16 miles away?

    Not saying that rail is the definite answer, but what can we do to minimize the traffic? What are our options?

  7. I’m all for light rail. I guess those who are opposed must have the money to continue to pay for gas as the prices increase. Do they realized that there is a GREEN movement underway? Trying to cut down the use of oil is on the list of ways to a GREENER world!

    Agree with vbrown about the trains and salt weather. Trains have been around in Hawaii for years, so what’s so different about light rail? Don’t really think the salt will affect it IMO.

    Coachdeb you said elevated highways and bus lanes? WTF! Elevated highways are as much of an eyesore as a light rail system and that only means more burning of OIL! Come on people get on board the rail system. It’s our best option.

    - Dennis


    Oahu Residents Weigh In on Light Rail Plan

  9. Rail may be good for others, but it’s NOT for Hawaii! We are unique, different and contain cultural aspects that depend on us to keep them in tact and preserve the beauty. Article today talks about how the rail will most likely cross paths with numerous burial sites. This is one of the many unique things about Hawaii, so let’s abandon rail and perhaps put a cap on the number of cars per household. This has been used in the past on other island communities outside of Hawaii.

  10. Cynthia,

    There are burial sites everywhere on Oahu. Should we stop building everything? Rail will not spoil the uniqueness of the islands. There is no way oin America at this time there will be cap on cars. Maybe in the future but not now. Rail will help keep the island beautiful by cutting the use of automobiles. Rail is one of the solutions. You need to be part of the solution too.

  11. I have carefully considered the pros and cons of rail and can strongly say that in Honolulu’s particular case, WE NEED RAIL TRANSIT!

    It’s always easier to shoot down someone else’s idea than to suggest your own. This is why the “Stop Rail Now” campaign was careful not to include the HOT lanes in their proposed ballot measure. They would much rather keep the focus on attacking rail instead of defending their HOT lanes proposal. If all the scrutiny surrounding rail transit was directed at the HOT lanes, we would see that rail is clearly a better choice.

    Here are my top 10 problems with the idea of HOT lanes:

    1 ) HOT lanes don’t take any cars off the roads. They just relocate cars from one freeway to another.
    2 ) HOT lanes don’t address the issue of parking.
    3 ) HOT lanes are still affected by local road congestion once you get off the toll-way.
    4 ) HOT cater to a higher income class who can afford to pay the tolls ($30 or more per week not including parking).
    5 ) HOT lanes would have very limited on and off points similar to the current H-1 zipper lane. Rail, on the other hand, would have many more stops for passengers to get on or off.
    6 ) HOT lanes would only cover a 10-mile stretch between Pearl City and Iwilei. They would not alleviate any traffic between Kapolei and Waipahu or between Chinatown and Ala Moana.
    7 ) HOT lanes would only be open during the day time, whereas rail service would continue until midnight every day for those who work different shifts.
    8 ) HOT lanes would leave commuters still dependent on imported oil and rising gas prices.
    9 ) HOT lanes would promote more car dependency which causes air pollution and urban sprawl.
    10 ) HOT lanes could never be paid for with Hawaii’s transit tax because current law prevents this money from being used on road construction or bus lanes. In addition, the federal government has very little funding available for the construction of new roads compared to rail systems.

    To read my complete argument in favor rail transit, here’s a link to my blog where I answered the 10 most common objections to rail in Hawaii (ie. cost, ridership, route, etc.)

    While I think the “Stop Rail Now” petition is frivolous, I’m not scared to take a vote! More discussion will lead to more information which will lead to a more educated public. I believe we should give proper scrutiny to EVERY public transportation idea whether it’s the rail, HOT lanes, Superferry or H-3 freeway. Fear and ignorance often go hand in hand. The more information, the better.

  12. Hey guys, I think this is a really interesting topic.

    For starters, the research article by UH Head of Engineering department is definately biased. It’s quite apparent in his research, look at page 11. Then, I want to know exactly how he conducted this experiment. I want to know his procedures, (But 100 pages was too much for me to read tonight, and it was one of the most unorganized research articles I have read)

    I am for the rail. Here is why:

    From my understanding, it will cost around $4 Billion. It is electric based. Faster than the speed of light, the rail travels at 25 MPH.

    More people taking rail = less cars on the road.
    Less cars on the road = less money spent on gas.
    Less money spent on gas = demand for gas goes down.
    Decreased demand on gas = cheaper gas prices.
    Less money spent on gas = more money in your pocket.
    Less cars on the road = less polution, accidents, and road rage.

    I don’t think high gas prices will go away for many many years to come. But the only way to finally lower gas prices is to reduce Hawaii’s dependency on gas NOW. The people at stoprail and other antirail groups propose different means to combat traffic. I don’t think ANY of them address Hawaii’s gas problem. Plus, I think building super highways does not teach the people of Hawaii responsible gas useage. With a super highway, MORE cars will be on the road..great! Yeah you’ll speed through the freeway but how much more conjested Kinau exits, Piiokoi onramps do we need? When cars finally get off the freeway and off to their destination and smaller roads, conjestion will just get worse.

    With the rail, yeah it will cost $5 Billion compared to maybe the supposed $1 Billion different plans supported by anti rail campaignes. The rail will have starting mountain high fixed cost. But like nucleur power plants, 10- 20 years down the road, their fixed cost will be next to nothing, and plus $5 billion from goverenment and private/public partnerships but you ride the rail to work now and you save $300 a month vs. the super highway $1 billion plan and you pay $5 gas. Whats the real savings? You decide.

    And for those that say we can simply add more lanes. Really? Where? Pearl City area already has what 5 – 6? What is several more going to do? And where are we going to put them? I imagine the goverenment will have to buy “189 properties” as well to make space for more lanes.

  13. $3+ billion for a light rail project is going to be much cheaper than elevated toll HOV lanes. Texas just spent $256 million for the High 5 intersection at IH 635 (LBJ Freeway) and US 75 (North Central Freeway) in Dallas. Yes, $256 million American dollars for a freeway interchange to accommodate HOV lanes at an intersection of two major freeways. Honolulu will need four such interchanges, H1 & H2, H1 & H3, H1 and SH 78 twice, if not more. Please don’t suggest Hawaii can build the other 20 miles of new multiple elevated HOV lanes for just $2 billion.


  14. LIGHT RAIL IS THE ONLY WAY TO CLEAR YOUR ROADS! I live in the beautiful city of Seattle where we have finally created our first light rail segment, and it ROCKS! It doesn’t matter whether it’s Honolulu, Seattle, New York, or Los Angeles, light rail will clear congested highways. ADD LIGHT RAIL IMMEDIATELY!


    Put it in analogies…

    Let’s say there is a busy guy who has a choice to either drive or take light rail (assuming Hawaii already has a network). If the guy drives, he will wait in the clogged highways wasting time, money, and fuel. Or… He could be already at work having got there an hour before, and not wasting any fuel, time, but spending a couple of dollars!
    Bonus: When driving, all eyes are needed for watching road and other cars. On light rail, you can work, read, or just daydream!

    On the other hand, not every person is able to take light rail. A mother to drop off kids at daycare/school and errands to run, light rail doesn’t seem logcial. However, with light rail, the effcient network of rapid transit takes people off the roads leaving the mothers (with children and shopping) clear and untouched roads!




    …this was written by a guy from Seattle who has been taking rapid transit (light rail, buses) and bikes for a long time.

  15. Why on earth are you guys building with the SkyTrain light-metro as it’s hugely expensive for what it does. Vancouver’s SkyTrain:
    1 ) has now cost the taxpayer nearly CAD $6 billion
    2 ) is subsidized by CAD $200 million annually
    3 ) 80% of its riders are forced to transfer from buses
    4 ) has not created a modal shift from car to transit, indeed ridership, as a percentage of population, has stagnated at 11% for almost 2 decades
    5 ) costs up to 10 times more to install than LRT for about the same capacity.
    6 ) cost almost twice as much to operate when compared to LRT
    7 ) has a higher death rate when compared to LRT
    8 ) the light-metro attracts crime and creates ghetto like areas around stations.
    There is a lot more. When it comes to SkyTrain, the adage is “Follow the money”. as the light-metro is a money pit.

    Written from a Vancouver type with a lot of experience with SkyTrain.

  16. My biggest problem is that the government is using the tax payers money to do these expensive propaganda against the “Stop Rail Now” group. Of course, in these propaganda campaigns, they never mention about how the Stop Rail Now people are also emphasizing “Let the people decide”. I have lived in many different states and countries in my life, but this is my first time seeing how a government is using tax payers money to attact those who disagree with the government. This act is almost scary.

    Regardless of which side you are standing by, I think as a tax payer of the state of Hawaii, a resident of Oahu, we deserve to vote in one of the most expensive project in our history.

  17. I just hope all the people that want to stop rail live where they have to take the land to expand the freeways and live next to bus stops. I also would like to see all parking prices go up due to more cars on the road and needing a place to park, not to mention the added pollution of more cars and busses!!!!!!!! People should take a trip down to sand Island to see all the CARS IN THE HOLDING AREAS OF THE PIERS.

  18. I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah and have witnessed first hand the construction and implementation of a light rail system and I can say without a doubt that it has been an incredibly wonderful addition to our transportation system. The TRAX system was completed approximately one year prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and it proved to be a great success in transporting tens of thousands of people daily within the Salt Lake area who were attending the many events. Since that time, ridership has only increased and construction is underway for additional lines to SLC International Airport and other areas within the Salt Lake valley.
    I have visited Honolulu several times and am aware of the incredible traffic congestion there. In my opinion, a light rail system would definitely reduce the problem. Contrary to the naysayers, it does not promote crime, is not noisy, and is not a blight on the landscape. On the contrary, it is much quieter and less obtrusive than additional lanes of interstate freeway. The people of Hawaii would be well served to support a light rail system.

  19. Good info if you’re still undecided on the rail issue which will come to a vote on the November ballot.

  20. I don’t believe either of the candidate’s proposals will help relieve traffic and I also don’t believe that buses running on an overpass will be less noisy than rail.

    What I do believe is rail will provide another option we need to travel from point A to point B, not necessarily for us, but maybe for our children.

    So go rail!

  21. Try another 20,000-30,000 cars on this island in the next 10 years. Even though the rail is built, their will be more than double the cars. Get the facts right.

  22. I voted for rail. Oahu voted for rail. the debate has been settled. The city has $400 million in the bank already to start construction. let’s build it already and create some new jobs in this recession.

  23. Why spend $5.5 billion for a line that does not reduce jams, from key places jams begin?

    Why spend 5 times the $$$$$ for a line that does not reach Nanakuli, Heart of Kapolei, Ko Olina, Ewa, West Loch, nor in front of Plant on Leeward Coast, from where MANY jammed cars come?

    ‘Cut Costs Combine:’

    OR&L line + Light Rail + Bike Plan = 1/5 of $5.5 Billion

    Using existing resources, we can have ‘LIGHT Rail’(as we VOTED for). See my website, and click the tab ‘Cut Costs Combine.’ Thank you.

    John Roco

  24. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to get this rail, but these people seem to forget that this is an island, not a continent, and should be treated as such. In the long run, do you think people would want to use their own cars or ride the rail? I’ll bet you any much it’s their car! And how many can it employ or who will get the jobs for these rails after it is built? The answer to bad traffic is not these hi-tech rail. One answer first is to stop bringing in all these cars, and build a few railway tracks. Yes, similar to the one in Ewa. Remember, we are an island! Do you think the local people (and tourist) will love the open air scenery while on their way to whatever destination, and back in reverse? And no gas is needed. Wouldn’t that be great! Anyway, that is my lolo idea. :)

  25. As an island State, limit the number of car ownership – as in the Bahamas & heavily tax SUVs.


  26. After reading others input, it makes me feel that a lot of pepople are totally missing the point here!!!! Opinions and or ideas are what we all are sharing here which is good, constructive communication! But you all forget “the others” that this idea affects…..we(neighbor islands)the other tax-payers that live off island. Yes, this does directly effects those that live on O’ahu….but it affects ALL taxpayers Statewide! More education on this touchy subject matter should be on a broader scope, we all should have input! Remember, not “ALL” neighbor islanders were or are born on other the islands, but are and were transplants from O’ahu for reasons such as open-space to rise our children, less traffic and crimes,and so forth. I would definetly not wanna come back home to see my childhood home being desecrated with huge, ugly piling for “light rail” and a rail that we “all” have to pay for and it’s only usage will be from one specific area to another….it makes no sense! And will it someday be open to further development in the key areas that need the rail?! Just food for thought…..



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