Honolulu Rail Transit: What is the Status?

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) is currently constructing a new, driverless, urban light metro rail system along the south shore of Oahu. The Honolulu Rail, which began construction on February 22, 2011, is expected to link key employment centers, tourist destinations, and residential communities – and offer an alternative public transportation method besides Oahu’s only option of the bus.

The System and Stations

The 20-mile rail system includes 21 stations:

  1. East Kapolei (Kualaka‘i)
  2. UH West Oahu (Keone‘ae)
  3. Ho‘opili (Honouliuli)
  4. West Loch (Ho‘ae‘ae)
  5. Waipahu Transit Center (Pouhala)
  6. Leeward Community College (Halaulani)
  7. Pearl Highlands (Waiawa)
  8. Pearlridge (Kalauao)
  9. Aloha Stadium (Halawa)
  10. Pearl Harbor Naval Base
  11. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
  12. Lagoon Drive
  13. Middle Street
  14. Kalihi
  15. Kapalama
  16. Iwilei
  17. Chinatown
  18. Downtown
  19. Civic Center
  20. Kaka‘ako
  21. Ala Moana Center

It is expected to take 42 minutes to ride from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center and 16 minutes to ride from the Honolulu Airport to Ala Moana Center.

Each station will have these enticing features:

  • Stairs, escalators, and elevators
  • Roving attendants
  • Restrooms
  • Bicycle racks
  • Ticket vending machines
  • Closed-circuit TV security cameras
  • Safety lighting
  • Compliant with ADA laws

There are a number of educational institutions along the rail: UH-West Oahu, Leeward Community College, Honolulu Community, and Hawaii Pacific University. HART says a rail extension could be constructed in the future to link the Ala Moana Center stop to UH-Manoa.

The rail system will be powered by environmentally friendly electricity. The plan is for the rail to be powered by alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and biofuels. The Rail Operations Center (ROC), located between Waipahu High School and Leeward Community College, is a 43-acre LEED certified building where the trains will be maintained.

The rail will be integrated with the city bus system with a single system-wide transit card, called Holo Card, making transitions from the station to a workplace or entertaining option easier.

The Trains

The new Honolulu Rail Transit trains are advertised as having top-of-the-line features, including the following:

  • Fully automated and driverless
  • Air conditioning
  • Free WiFi connectivity
  • ADA compliant, with priority areas for wheelchairs
  • Bicycle, surfboard, stroller, cooler, and luggage allowed on the trains
  • Visual display boards
  • Audio announcements
  • Closed-circuit TV security cameras and call boxes in each train vehicle
  • 30 miles per hour average speed, with a top speed of 55 miles per hour

There will be a total of 20 four-car trains, with 17 trains in operation during peak hours, and eight trains during non-peak periods. A four-car train has a maximum capacity of 800 passengers, with 188 seats in each four-car train.

When will the Honolulu Rail be finished?

In the Fall of 2020, HART says that first 10 miles of the rail will be open – from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium. The rail will run at limited times.

The second opening of the Honolulu Rail will be to the Middle Street Transit Center, which is expected no later than 2023. This second opening will include stops at Pearl Harbor and the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

The entire 20-mile system is planned to be open no later than late 2025. By then, the rail is expected to run from Ala Moana Center to Kapolei. However, the contract to build the last stretch through town has not been built yet.

As of 2/3/2020, the cost to build the last 4.16 miles of Honolulu Rail is not known yet and may affect the timeline. The last video construction update by provided by HART in June of 2019.

Planned Honolulu Rail Operation Schedule

When the trains are in full operation, they will run 20 hours per day, from 4 a.m. to midnight. During peak travel times, like rush hour, the trains will arrive at the stations about every five minutes. During non-peak times, they will arrive about every 11 minutes.

In 2030, HART estimates 121,000 passengers will ride the rail every weekday, and about 55 percent of these passengers will walk or bike to a station. They also except the Honolulu Rail to remove 40,000 car trips from Honolulu’s crowded roads, reducing gasoline consumption by 16,000 gallons.

The Honolulu Rail may transform the way residents and visitors to Oahu move around the island, but we will have to wait until it opens – possibly at the end of this year – to witness its impact.