Rail Is Not a Path to Prosperity for Honolulu

Panos Prevedouros, PHD
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ENERGY.  Rail may be electric but 85% of electricity production on Oahu comes from oil and coal. This won’t change much with the current intermittent renewable energy schemes. So rail does not reduce our economic dependency to imported fuels but it increases our dependency to imported sole source equipment and parts for which knowledge base is absent throughout Hawaii.

DEVELOPMENT.  Rail is not needed for TODs and other development. To be done successfully, these need a solid business foundation and strong demand. Neither is present for major development. US Census statistics clearly show that Oahu and Hawaii are in prolonged and perhaps permanent “sideways” trends.  See here [link].  How can a place prosper when prime agricultural land is turned into cookie cutter sprawled homes and fake gentleman farms?

JOBS.  It is bad policy to develop transportation solutions in order to provide jobs, particularly by selecting a type of transportation that will take the transit subsidy share of the city budget from 11% to 19%. This is the path to bankruptcy, not the path to prosperity.

TRANSIT SHARE.  It is counterproductive to develop a form of transportation that will take the current mass transit share from 6% to 7.4% at a cost of over $4 billion for the local economy. Unsurprisingly if one looks at the Final EIS, all freeway and main arterial screen-lines are shown to have similar or worse congestion with rail. Congestion chokes our economy. Fake relief will provide fake results.


CONGESTION.  Honolulu has a modest tax base and it clearly cannot support mega-projects such as the proposed rail. Honolulu has relatively severe congestion because it is among the most lane deficient cities in the union.

ECONOMY.  Despite having the best bus system in the nation and very expensive fuel pricing, the demand for independent travel is very strong, partly due to tourism, military and people having multiple jobs. A single rail line does very little for tourists, too little for people with multiple jobs and nothing for the military.

MOBILITY.  A lot of our traffic is school and college based and rail does really nothing for these trips. Over half of the traffic on the roads is pickup trucks and SUVs of plumbers, electricians, distributors, repairmen and soccer moms. Rail does nothing for them too.

PRODUCTIVITY.  Adding a lot of nothing gets us nothing. In fact the FEIS clearly shows that 70,000 daily riders will switch from bus to rail.  Add a few carpoolers and the 1% who may abandon their car and that’s how the rail ridership comes about. Where is the productivity in this?  Even of rail had no construction cost, one would be hard pressed to come up with positive productivity for it.

GUT TheBus.  Last but not least, the rail will dismantle the No.1 system in the nation. All TheBus routes listed below (copied from the rail FEIS) will be terminated at the nearest train station or eliminated altogether: B, C, E, 3, 9, 11, 20, 43, 53, 73, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98A, 101, 102, 103, 201, 202.

An abbreviated TV editorial of this article appeared on Hawaii News Now on October 29 and 30.  Mahalo to Rick Blangiardi, General Manager of KGMB and KHNL for this opportunity.





  1. So what's your solution? More buses? If I am not correct doesn't more buses = more traffic? I know some people might stop driving and start riding the bus but that number will be very small and have little or no affect on traffic or drive times. What needs to happen is people need to be re-educated so they look at mass transit or light vehicle(Bicycles, mopeds, scooters or motorcycles) before they jump in their car and hit the freeway.

    • His solution is incorporated into FAST. More buses, more intelligent management of existing roadways, additional roadways, additional capacity via over-unders and other innovations, and a High-Occupancy Toll road. HOT will allow tour buses, construction rigs, cement trucks, city buses, emergency vehicles, and anyone else willing to pay the toll to escape the worst parts of traffic. Rail cannot do any of these things. Also, in the event of a disaster, independent vehicles could be on the road during and immediately afterward. NYC's transit system just died because of Sandy. Imagine people here becoming too dependent on centralized fixed-guideway transit.

      I agree that people should have to think twice about using their cars, but the only way to do that would be to tax road use like London does. Until we're ready to have that conversation, I don't think rail makes sense.

    • What if someone falls/jumps onto a train car? Would there be a investigation like HPD conducts a traffic fatality? And the chances of a someone going on to the tracks are much greater during rush hours or considering the homeless will be camping out in the railstations. You wrote "I know some people…….." SOME? What about you? Who's going to re-educate the people, you? BTW, it's termed; Civil Rights Specialist by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (City and County of Honolulu

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