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'Let's get ready to ride': City officials prepare to roll out Honolulu rail on June 30

The inside of a Honolulu rail car.
Honolulu Department of Transportation Services
The inside of a Honolulu rail car.

A 55-year project in the making is expected to glide along the Oʻahu skyline with passengers starting June 30 at 2 p.m. There will be a grand opening at the Aloha Stadium station earlier in the day.

"Let's get ready to ride," Honolulu Councilmember Tommy Waters announced at a rail press conference on Wednesday.

In this first partial service phase, the rail will travel through nine stations from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium. The trains are slated to run every 10 minutes on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., and on weekends between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

To encourage people to familiarize themselves with the new system, the Fourth of July weekend will be free for riders. TheBus will also be free from July 1 to July 4.

On June 30, passengers are invited to tour all nine stations and hop on any train for free. Starting July 1, the first full day of service, passengers must tap a HOLO card to ride for free.

Honolulu Department of Transportation Services
HOLO cards for the rail can be bought in advanced to opening day, according to Jon Nouchi. Kiosks will allow passengers to buy HOLO cards.

After July 4, in accordance with other forms of public transportation on the island, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said rail rides will also be offered at a subsidized rate.

"It's not a profit-making venture," Blangiardi said. "I think when we have people riding on this, they're gonna see the efficiency in what it does to the quality of our lives."

A normal rail fare will cost the same as TheBus, which is currently $3 for a single adult with a daily cap of $7.50.

Jon Nouchi, deputy director of the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services, said that "open payment" is a final goal for the rail. That would mean that riders could use any form of payment, including the HOLO card, to get on.

Nouchi said riders will be able to get from the stadium to Kapolei in 21 minutes.

"We can't guarantee that if you're on our roadways for our commuters," Nouchi said. "That sense of confidence, certainty is going to be huge for this rail alignment that you can set your watch on how long it will take you every day with that certainty to get to your destination."

HART CEO and Executive Director Lori Kahikina said that the technical issues with the hammerhead pillars are expected to be fixed by the end of the month.

The rail is expected to accommodate 85,000 people per day once it reaches Downtown Honolulu.

"It's cost a lot of money. Now it's ready to turn it on," Honolulu Department of Transportation Services Director Roger Morton said.

When the Federal Transit Administration last year approved the Honolulu rail's financial recovery plan, which outlined a truncated version of the rail line, the projected construction cost was about $10 billion.

Once construction is complete under the current plan, the rail's final stop will be the Civic Center station at the intersection of Halekauwila and South streets in Kakaʻako. The rail will be 18.75 miles long with 19 stations.

The original plan called for 20 miles of rail and 21 stations with Ala Moana Center as the final stop.

Oʻahu voters first approved the rail project in 2008, but the idea can be traced back to city officials in the late 1960s.

The Honolulu rail route map in May 2023.
Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation
The Honolulu rail route map in May 2023.

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