Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Article published in New Geography. Also appeared in the Washington Examiner, NCPA, Hawaii Reporter and elsewhere.

An exorbitantly costly rapid transit heavy rail project has been proposed for the small Hawaiian island of Oahu, where the leading metropolis, Honolulu, ranks 53rd in population among U.S. cities, with less than 950,000 people. If the project moves forward it will be the world's only elevated heavy rail in a metro area with a population of under four million.

Nothing about this 20-mile long rail project makes sense, except for its politics and its cronyism. It is projected to cost $5.3 billion according to the financial analysis of the city, or $7.2 billion, according to the state. For comparison, the Blue Line between Los Angeles and Long Beach that opened in 1990 has the same length and would cost roughly $1.5 billion to build now.

Cities worldwide and in the U.S. have shown a clear preference for light rail. The only rapid transit (heavy rail) system built in the US since 1990 is the one in Los Angeles in 1993; another was constructed in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2004. In the same period, 19 light rail systems were installed.