APIOPA Intern Blog: Say NO to the Rail in Hawaii!

14By Nathan Lee

There has been some heavy controversy and debate about constructing an elevated rail system on the island of Oahu in Hawaii ever since it became a dominant issue for local politics in 2008.  Along with many of the locals inhabiting the southern shore of Oahu, I am passionately against constructing this system dubbed as “The Rail.”  The opposing argument is so that the completion of the project will alleviate Honolulu’s traffic, ranked the third worst in the nation (only behind Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively).  But there are many more reasons to not go forward with the rail.

To begin with, for the same reason that billboards and aerial advertising are illegal in Hawaii, constructing a gray elevated cement rail system running over the majority of the southern part of Oahu would look hideous and unpleasant to the natural beauty Hawaii is known for.  Like many other locals will say, there is not that much land between the “Mauka and Makai,” or the Hawaiian words for mountain and ocean.  If you were to stand above the Ko’olau or Waianae mountain ranges, everything is visible between yourself and the ocean.  The rail system would be a huge eyesore protruding from the land obstructing the beautiful views of the ocean and the mountains.  In addition, graffiti and tags will inevitably be sprayed all over the columns of the railways.  It would be wise to keep Hawaii as aesthetically pleasing as possible.  How does having this sort of construction near the beautiful Pacific Ocean look to you?



Among all travel options on Oahu, mass transit only serves a mere 6% of travelers and commuters.  Fixating on this small piece of pie will not have a significant effect on alleviate the nation’s 3rd worst traffic, because in contrast to the 6% of mass transit travelers, 80% of people on the island drive and/or carpool.

The original proposed Honolulu Rail Transit System was supposed to stretch for 34 miles along the southern part of the island from a city located in the “west-side” of the island right into the heart of Honolulu, at the University of Hawaii/Waikiki area for about $3 billion.  Currently, the plan is to start the rail system one mile out of the city of Kapolei, and to end it right at Ala Moana Shopping Center, the most famous and popular mall of Hawaii.  This would cost $5.3 billion for a rail that runs for only 20 miles.  This doesn’t account for the rest of the locals on the island, nor does it provide service to the University of Hawaii or Waikiki, and the rail does not supply access to many popular areas of town.  Spending over $5 billion on a non-solution is unethical and breaches fiduciary duties.  This money could have funded the education system that suffered Furlough Fridays in 2009.  The state couldn’t afford to pay public school teachers, which resulted them in taking unpaid days off every Friday for 17 weeks.  In addition, students missed out on 17 instructional days- that’s an immense chunk learning and growing all public school students missed out on.

One of the largest reasons Oahu has the third-worst traffic in the nation is because the island is lane deficient with the lack of space.  While constructing 20 overhead stations and 20 miles of rail for the next decade, there will be critical lane closures and aggravated congestion, worsening the problem they are trying to fix.


As much as we all like to complain about traffic, it’s an unavoidable, integrated aspect of our society today.  It’s a necessary evil that has to come with transportation.  The consequences heavily outweigh the benefits of funding and constructing this rail.  The rail will do more damage than good to the community of Hawaii.  Even though the construction is far from complete, the cracks have already begun to show…literally.  Fixing these cracks will cause the project to go even more over budget (already $700 million over the budget), but there are more than enough reasons to not support the rail.



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