City’s Rail System is Poorly Planned: Project Should Not Start without Permits, Financing in Place

City's rail rendering
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City's rail rendering

BY GEOFFREY PATERSON – I had my own architectural firm here in Hawaii for nearly 40 years and I never started a project without having final construction documents, all permits approved, and guaranteed financing.

This city’s proposal to build a 20-mile, $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail system has broken all those rules, and moreover, is subjected to lawsuits and a lack of financing that could shut it down.


The people of Honolulu have been consistently misled by the propaganda the city has continued to churn out at taxpayer expense.

Construction documents are barely 50 percent completed so there is no way that an accurate estimate of the ultimate cost of this project can be determined at this time.

Huge obstacles lie ahead that include land acquisition cost, soil problems, burial sites, lawsuits and change orders simply because the city jumped the gun and recklessly proceeded without receiving final approval of the financial plan from the federal government or confirmation of the required 1.5 billion dollar federal funding.

I recently returned from England where there are trains and buses everywhere but people still prefer to travel by car on often gridlocked motorways in spite of gasoline being the equivalent of $9 a gallon.

This project that you have been pressed into service to supervise is a disaster waiting to happen that will destroy Honolulu financially and aesthetically and do nothing to alleviate the present traffic congestion returning to Honolulu after visiting the great cities of London and Los

Angeles is like returning to a village, which lies on a narrow strip of land between mountains and the sea.

The idea of a high capacity train that will carry over 100,000 a day is so far beyond the realm of believability, that it boggles the mind.

This ridiculous outdated, overpriced project, which no other city is building, needs to be stopped now.

Geoffrey Paterson, AIA emeritus, is a Kailua resident.





  1. 1 First the train was going to take cars off the road. Everyone would ride the train, and it would be fast. Also, with less cars on the roads, traffic would flow faster.
    2 Then it was discovered that the train would not be that fast. (Not that quiet either) And it seems that everyone who is pro rail wants the other guy to ride the train, so they can continue to drive.
    3 Costs keep escalating, but we dare not talk about it – someone might use it as an excuse to delay or cancel the rail! Can’t have that.
    4 The pro rail people stopped talking about the benefits to traffic (the only reason to build the rail), and started talking about how many jobs it will bring!!! Hawaii needs these jobs. Are you against more jobs???
    5 Turns out, most of the jobs are going to foreign companies and out of state workers… but a few will go to locals, so the unions signed on to support the train!!! whooppie!
    6 HART (Honolulu Area Rapid Transit) has expensive, plush downtown offices, with top of the line anything, and lots of over-paid staff (“experts”).
    7 The state of Hawaii is now spending taxpayer money to advertise the benefits of rail… they are trying to influence your opinion with your money…
    8 We don’t dare ask where the money will come from when HART talks about starting construction. When someone does ask, the city and HART lock arms, and say “bonds”. Ok, so how will we pay back the bonds? “we will deal with that later” “DON’T RUIN THE MOOD”

    Do we need a train? yes, no, maybe, It depends on your definition of need. An elevated toll road would be faster, cheaper, and allow people more flexibility to accommodate technological advances in the future. Rail does not.

    Where will the money come from? There is only one source – taxpayers. There is no way to “tax the other guy” w/o having it affect us in some way.

    What will the final cost be? I put it at 3 times the original estimate. Approx. 15 billion. And the cost to operate it will also be much more than currently estimated. (have you seen HART’s offices? NICE!!! The word CHEAP is nowhere to be found)

    We, the taxpayers and residents of Oahu are being lied to. The current establishment wants the rail project for the money THEY can make off of kickbacks, contracts, and bribes. That is why they are smearing Ben Cayetano, and forecasting what a disaster it will be if he is elected, and cancels the rail project.
    – And yet, they sign contracts, obligating the city and taxpayers to huge penalties when cancelled…
    – They are proceeding w/o permits, so that they can be so far into construction, that we will just go along…
    – They are ignoring multiple lawsuits, and an environmental impact study…
    – Honolulu’s sewers are the worst in the nation. Many parks in Honolulu don’t have bathrooms, because we can’t afford to maintain them. Our roads need repaving.

    There sure seems to be a hurry to get this project started before November… Still, no matter how much we pay to cancel it, it will be more expensive to continue, complete, and try to run this abomination. There is no way Honolulu can afford to run this train for a year – unless we divert all money away from the bus, parks, road repairs, etc. and put it all on the train. But that still won’t be enough.

    vote for Ben in November. It is the only way to keep our money in our pockets.

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