Honolulu Rail Costs Balloon, Ridership Projections Called High

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle has released an independent analysis of the proposed Honolulu rail program to the public and to elected officials. The report was commissioned by the state Department of Transportation. Infrastructure Management Group, CBRE Richard Ellis and Thomas A Rubin performed the equivalent of a "due diligence" report on the project, and according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, indicated that the project would rise in cost by $1.7 billion to $7.0 billion for the 20 mile long line.

In addition, the consultants indicated that operating subsidies could be substantially higher than forecast, and that the city of Honolulu could become saddled with heavy debt by the project. Further, the consultants noted the likelihood that ridership projections might not be met.

Post-rail transit system usage and fare revenue are likely to be substantially lower than that projected in the current Financial Plan, since the Plan’s projection would require an unprecedented and unrealistic growth in transit utilization for a city that already has one of the highest transit utilization rates in the country.

The findings of cost escalation and over-projection of ridership have been noted as a fairly routine occurrence in international infrastructure research.


Note: Honolulu rail project planning documents indicated greenhouse gas emission reductions as a benefit of the project. Demographia published an analysis indicating that the impact on greenhouse gas emissions either a marginal increase or a marginal decrease depending upon performance. It was projected that any reduction would have been at costs per ton many times above international standards.

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