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Why We Must Build Rail

Take a good look at that photo. It was taken in February 2015, not even 18 months ago, and shows the guideway construction along Kualakai Parkway (old North South Road) turning onto Farrington Highway. Since that time we are well into Aiea and moving into the Aloha Stadium area. Station construction has commenced in Waipahu and the transformation of Waipahu is underway. If you doubt that, go look for yourself.

The loud voices we hear now are all about how much this is going to cost. “Can we afford it?”  My question is “How can we not afford it?” One of the most important aspects of this project has been lost in the uproar over cost and the ensuing political machinations from all sides. Nothing quite says “political season” like shifting stances and strange bedfellows.

If you are doubting whether it’s worth it to build the rail as originally intended, watch the video linked below and then tell me what better option we have to address the issues of quality of life, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability. If you have children and you want them to be able to live here, own a home, have good employment options and enjoy a thriving community,  rail is critical to making that a reality. Peter Calthorpe’s presentation on Honolulu Rail and TOD. 

And, for a real world example of the economic opportunities that come with a robust rail project coupled with thoughtful planning and community cooperation, look at Denver. The train that saved DenverThis well-written article chronicles the history of this isolated region and how nine separate counties came together over the years around a rail project. Denver now attracts the best and brightest to a connected, livable and dynamic community. We can do the same and do it better by learning from what worked and what didn’t work. Plus we have much better weather.

And, there are many ways to pay for it and many real-world examples of how that has been done not just in the United States but around the world. What it takes is a commitment and willingness to consider the options, make informed decisions and move forward. As a very smart man once said: “To plan is human, to implement is divine.”

As a wrap up to this, I want to share what Jesse Souki wrote on his blog about the rail project. It is worth reading.

“Once again, we are confronted with the question of whether to fully fund Oahu’s rail project. I can’t help but draw comparisons with recent world events, like Brexit.

Whether one agrees with the outcome of the UK vote to leave the European Union (52% to 48%), a lesson can be learned about making decisions based on passions and populism.”  Read the entire piece.


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Project Lead for the Colliers Hawaii Transit-Oriented Development Group. The Honolulu Rail Transit project is underway and the time is now to work together to ensure that we have thriving communities that promote health, opportunity and sustainability for everyone. Now is the time to communicate and connect our visions for the future while working to make them happen.

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