Institute’s rail release becomes talk of the town

The finding that Honolulu’s rail is costing $54 per passenger creates a splash on radio, television and in the newspapers

Local media and Honolulu policymakers reacted quickly last week to news from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii that it likely will cost about $54 per passenger to operate the partially opened Honolulu rail during fiscal 2024, making it the highest per-passenger cost among light-rail systems in the nation — by far.

Joe Kent, Institute executive vice president, said the estimate was based on the system’s projected $85 million operationg costs for fiscal 2024 divided by the system’s daily ridership of 4,312 — the highest daily ridership during the system’s first five days of official service.

He noted that the Honolulu rail is already the most expensive rail system per capita to build in the world, and now it will have the distinction of costing the most per passenger to operate as well.

>> Reporter Bryce Moore of KHON2 was one of the first to reach out to the Institute for more information. His newscast aired on Thursday, July 13, and can be seen here.

>> Also on that day, Kent spent 20 minutes talking about the “problematic” rail with popular radio host Rick Hamada on KHVH News Radio 830, which you can listen to here.

>> On Friday, July 14, Kent sat down for a 10-minute interview with reporter Catherine Cruz of Hawaii Public Radio, which you can hear here. Kent mentioned at one point that he had ridden on the train during rush hour, yet it was practically empty. To see a short video he made about that ride, go here.

>> On Sunday, the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle published a commentary by Kent headlined “Skyline’s Costs Are Sky-High For Hawaii Taxpayers,” which you can read here.

>> Also on Sunday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii’s largest daily newspaper, devoted one of its front-page articles to a report by Dan Nakaso based on the Institute’s findings, which can be read here.

>> In that same edition, longtime Star-Advertiser columnist David Shapiro mentioned the Institute’s per-passenger estimate in a column headlined “Rail leaders must match big talk with performance,” which you can read here.

>> Then on Monday, the Star-Advertiser editorial board got on board with an editorial headlined “Education is key to rail ridership,” which referenced the Institute’s findings, and which you can read here.

>> And on Tuesday, there was an excellent letter to the editor abou the rail in the Star-Advertiser by Kapahulu resident Stuart Shimazu,  who reiterated points made in the Institute’s news release.

“The added cost of running an inefficient system that lacks ridership does not advance the goal of building a functional rail for Honolulu,” said Shimazu here. “It should not use tax dollars to operate the current 11-mile track at an annual cost of $85 million.”

In related news …

New ‘Hawaii Matters’ video takes look at Skyline’s past, present and future

Honolulu’s partly completed rail has finally left the station after decades of planning, construction delays and billions of dollars

Get a glimpse of the rail system’s opening-day experience and a quick look at its dubious history and cloudy future by clicking on the image below.


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