The Rail Facts
Click on the questions below for the straight answers to your most frequently asked questions about the Honolulu Rail Transit project.
How is Honolulu’s rail transit going to help people?
Rail transit will provide a fast, safe, reliable alternative to driving in traffic congestion. In addition, there will be about 40,000 fewer car trips on Oahu's congested streets and freeways.
Is rail transit going to make a difference in traffic congestion?
Yes. Rail will eliminate an estimated 40,000 cars from our congested streets and highways. If you know what traffic is like when UH and private schools are out for the summer, you have an idea of the difference rail will make.
Who will be paying for construction of rail transit?
One-third of the construction cost is being paid for with funds from the Federal Transit Administration. A large percentage is being paid by tourists making purchases on Oahu (to which the half-percent GET surcharge applies), and the balance is being paid by Oahu residents and businesses (through the half-percent GET surcharge).
Isn’t HART borrowing money to pay for the rail project?
The project is only using short-term bonds that will be paid back using federal funds and revenue collected from the GET surcharge. All bonds will be paid by the end of 2022, leaving no long-term debt.
Why was the elevated rail design selected for Honolulu?
After multiple studies evaluating which transit system would be best to link Leeward Oahu to downtown Honolulu, an elevated rail system, separated from ground transportation, was found to be faster, safer, and more reliable for on-time performance than alternatives built at ground level-and less expensive than an underground system.
Why is an elevated rail transit design safer and faster?
With elevated rail transit, the trains do not cross paths with cars or pedestrians at street level. As a result, trains don't get in the way of pedestrians and motor vehicles, and the street-level traffic doesn't interfere with the trains. This avoids the possibility of collisions between trains and pedestrians or motor vehicles traveling at street level. Transit riders can be sure they will get to their destination on time, regardless of traffic conditions.
Are there environmental advantages to rail transit?
Yes. The rail system will eliminate tens of thousands of car trips every day that would otherwise be taken on Oahu's roads. That means less auto pollution, a reduced need for new highways, and less dependence on imported oil. Rail transit will be electrically powered, and with Hawaii moving toward the goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030, the trains will get greener as the percentage of renewable energy produced increases.
Where will rail transit run ?
By 2030, nearly 70 percent of Oahu's population and more than 80 percent of the island's jobs will be located along the 20-mile rail corridor. Rail will connect major residential areas with primary job centers. There will be stops downtown, at three UH system campuses, Aloha Stadium, the Honolulu International Airport and several shopping centers. Rail will offer a convenient way to get to work, school or home. In addition, rail will provide a way to attend special events at Aloha Stadium, catch flights at the airport, or enjoy concerts at the Blaisdell Center, without the hassles of parking and traffic.
What is the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation?
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) is a semi-autonomous public transit authority approved by the voters in 2010 and is responsible for the planning, construction, operation, maintenance, and expansion of the city's fixed guideway system. HART is governed by a 10-member board composed of the state director of transportation; the city director of transportation services; and six volunteers from the community: three appointed by the Mayor, three by the City Council. The director of planning and permitting also serves as a non-voting member. The voting members appoint the tenth member to the board.
How will rail transit enhance our economy?
Each year, the rail transit project will help generate an average of 10,000 jobs. Thousands of jobs in construction, engineering, and professional services will be created as a direct result of the rail project. In addition, thousands of other indirect jobs will be created by businesses that provide goods and services to the project. The direct investment of federal and local funds will boost the economy and increase demand for goods and services at local businesses, while increasing tax revenues for the City and State. Transit oriented development around rail stations will sustain the demand for jobs in a variety of industries for many years into the future.
Why don¹t we just add more buses?
Expanding the existing system to meet future public transit needs with an all-bus rapid transit system would cost more in the long run than a combination bus-rail system. Operating costs for buses are much higher than for rail. The cost of operating bus systems is rising much faster than the cost of operating rail systems.
In addition, rail transit is more efficient than buses for high-volume passenger loads. Each two-car train can carry more than 400 passengers, the equivalent of more than five buses. Moreover, an elevated rail system operates above our congested streets and highways and will deliver passengers to their destinations on time every time, while buses get caught in traffic congestion, just like cars.
Why was steel-wheel on steel-rail technology selected?
"Steel-on-steel" technology is the most reliable, proven technology available as recommended by a panel of engineering and transit professionals. Oahu voters then specifically approved a steel-on-steel rail transit system in 2008. Honolulu's light-metro rail technology is different from the old heavy elevated rail lines in New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere. The new steel-on-steel system is quiet, smooth, efficient and uses one of the most advanced control technologies in the world.
Won’t the steel wheels and rails have corrosion problems in Hawaii’s environment?
No. Steel-wheels-on steel-rail technology is being used successfully in many oceanside and island locales worldwide.
Have we received any Federal funding?
Yes. To date, HART has received $320 million in federal funding for the project. These funds are part of the $1.55 billion federal Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) that was approved in 2012 to pay for the construction of Honolulu's rail project. President Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget includes $236 million as the next installment of FFGA funds for the project, the largest amount for any transportation project in the nation. The President's 2014 budget includes another $250 million for the Honolulu rail transit project.
How much will the project cost?
The full 20-mile alignment will cost $5.2 billion, including interest and inflation.
How will we pay for it?
The local General Excise and Use Tax (GET) surcharge for rail, which is a half-percent surcharge on goods and services purchased on Oahu, has been collected since 2007. The surcharge will continue through 2022. This will yield $3.3 billion for the project. Another $1.55 billion has been awarded to hart by the Federal Transit Administration. The remaining funds will come from other federal programs and locally generated revenue, such as interest on funds on deposit.
When will trains operate?
Trains will arrive about every five minutes during peak travel times and about every 10 minutes during non-peak hours.
How much will it cost to ride?
There will be a single fare system for the train and TheBus. Transit riders will be able to use a single pass to ride both the train and TheBus. Senior, student, and other discounts for bus service will apply.
Will there be parking?
Yes. There are four park-and-ride structures planned. They will be at the East Kapolei, UH-West Oahu, Pearl Highlands and Aloha Stadium, providing 4,100 spaces combined. The city bus routes will be reconfigured to provide shuttle-like services to the rail stations from nearby communities and high-use facilities, like hospitals and shopping centers. In addition, each station will have drop-off areas, including areas for the Handi-Van that comply with all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Will there be security on the trains and at stations?
Security considerations include security patrols and closed-circuit camera monitoring of stations, trains, and park-and-ride facilities. Transit operations personnel will have both audible and visual communication with passengers. The elevated guideway, situated above ground-level hazards, provides an added measure of safety, minimizing the risk of vehicle collisions and pedestrian accidents.
When will the train start operating?
The initial section of the rail transit system, from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, is slated to open in 2017; and the entire system, from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, is set to be fully operational in 2019.
How many people can fit on the train?
Each four-car train can carry a passenger load of more than 800 people, which is greater than the load capacity of 10 City buses.
Compared to TheBus, how much will it cost to operate and maintain rail?
Rail will cost about half the cost to operate and maintain TheBus. The cost of operating and maintaining TheBus system will increase much faster each year than it will for rail.
How much of the construction cost will be paid by the federal funds?
One-third of the project cost will be paid for by the federal government.
When will the project be paid for?
The rail transit project will be completely paid for in 2022, three years after it opens. There will be no long-term debt.
Will the train go to the airport?
Yes, the train will make traveling to the airport quick and easy, without the hassle of traffic and parking. For example, to take the train from the downtown station to the airport will take just 12 minutes on the congestion-free elevated system, which is on time, every time.
How will people use rail transit?
Rail transit will be used to commute to and from work, and school; to go to shopping malls, the airport, and entertainment venues such as Aloha Stadium. (See our interactive route map for more details.)
How many people are expected to ride on the Honolulu rail system?
Ridership is estimated at 119,600 weekday passenger trips by the year 2030.
What can I take on the train?
Items, allowed on the trains include: bicycles, surfboards, wheelchairs, strollers, coolers, and luggage.
Are the trains air-conditioned or open-air?
All trains are air-conditioned.
What kinds of features are at the stations?
There will be a variety of features, which will include escalators, elevators, stairs, bicycle racks, closed-circuit security cameras, attendants, and interior/exterior safety lighting.
Are the stations going to be made accessible for people with disabilities?
The project will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
How can I take TheBus to the stations?
There will be bus routes going to all stations and four new bus transit centers at the following stations: UH West Oahu, West Loch, Pearl Highlands, and Aloha Stadium.
How can I take my car to the stations?
Four park-and-ride lots will be constructed at the following stations: East Kapolei, UH West Oahu, Pearl Highlands, and Aloha Stadium. These will provide a total of 4,100 parking spaces. For the convenience of Central Oahu transit users, a dedicated access ramp will directly connect the H-2 Freeway to the Pearl Highlands Station's park-and-ride facility and bus transit center.
How can I get to a nearby station?
There are many options to get to a station, depending on your starting point. These options include walking or bicycling; taking TheBus; or taking one of private buses or shuttle services that will be operating. TheHandi-Van will offer drop off and pick up services and there will be automobile drop-off and pick-up (kiss-and-ride) locations, as well as park-and-ride facilities at several stations.
How fast will the trains travel?
Trains will have a top speed of 55 mph and an average speed of 30 mph (including the time spent stopped at stations).
Where will the trains be maintained and stored?
Trains will be maintained and stored at the vehicle Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) near Leeward Community College.
How many train vehicles will the Honolulu rail system have in all?
There will be a total fleet of 80 train cars, with approximately 17 four-car trains in operation during peak travel periods.