Honolulu is Learning the Vancouver Lesson – Build Light-Metro At Your Financial Peril

Updated May 22, 2016 – Added CAD currency conversions.

Bombardier and SNC Lavalin spent years grooming Honolulu City politicians to build with light-metro.

For their efforts, Bombardier and SNC got pipped at the post by Ansaldo with their proprietary light-metro and and the now chagrined burghers of Honolulu are now finding out that proprietary light-metro systems are indeed very expensive and tend to be an eyesore.

With the cost of the Honolulu light metro escalating, the idea of conventional surface LRT may get a fresh look to complete the system, KHON-TV reports. The three-part pdf links total 70 pages The 20-mile (32 km) elevated light metro now could cost USD $8 billion (CAD $ 10.5 billion) or $250 million/km. (CAD $378 billion). So it is natural where light-metro goes, much cheaper LRT must soon follow.

Zwei told them so in the 90′s in a series of letters that were printed in local Honolulu papers, but very few heeded my warnings, but when it comes to vanity transit projects, common sense always takes a back seat.

On our side of the pond, the massive costs of the Honolulu light-metro project must put to rest any thought of SkyTrain being built in Surrey and in fact, i will go one step further and transit planners who advocates ALRT/ART for Surrey should be charged with professional misconduct.

An earlier cost comparison with American cities with transit. One should temper Portland’s higher costs

is due in part that it has 60 miles (96.5 km) of route compared to Seattle’s 17.3 miles (27.8Ai??km) of route.

Honolulu will have 20 miles (32 km) of route if completely built. All costs in US dollars.

Could light rail help train reach Ala Moana and beyond?

gina-mangieri-8x10 By Published:

With the cost of Honoluluai??i??s rail project doubling, transit officials are scrambling to figure out how much more of it they can afford to build, where it will have to stop short, and what to do from there.

Already-studied alternatives could be a solution.

Honoluluai??i??s rail system is slated to hit at least $8 billion, according to the Federal Transit Administration. Experts say other options that move nearly as fast and for billions less could be tied seamlessly into whatai??i??s already built, and make it not only to Ala Moana but also to Manoa, Waikiki and West Kapolei.

Years ago, as the city closed in on launching the rail project, people on the job recall the atmosphere as officials pushed for heavy rail.

ai???They, the Honolulu client, were going to ram the thing through the process and ram it through downtown,ai??? said Douglas Tilden, who served as the projectai??i??s chief architect at the time for rail consultant InfraConsult. ai???It was wrong. It was going to be so very, very expensive and going to have such tremendous environmental and visual impact.ai???

But the city wanted support from the community. An extensive study paid for by Kamehameha Schools and supported by Hawaiiai??i??s professional organization for architects ai??i?? AIA Honolulu ai??i?? advised the city to go with light rail that was mostly at-grade and went up above where it had to.

ai???We had a nationally recognized transportation expert ai??i?? a lover of trains ai??i?? develop that study,ai??? said local architect Peter Vincent. ai???Rail is great. We need a fixed guideway to help the traffic congestion, but it should have been light rail from the get-go.ai???

That study said light rail would be nearly $2 billion cheaper than a heavy-rail, all-elevated train. It also would have been just 12 minutes slower end-to-end. That means light rail was $150,000,000 cheaper per minute, and thatai??i??s was before the cost of the overhead rail system doubled in the years since.

ai???It was a very valid study and it was just dismissed by the authorities as being not workable,ai??? Vincent recalled.

For the rest of the story…………….


3 Responses to “Honolulu is Learning the Vancouver Lesson – Build Light-Metro At Your Financial Peril”
  1. eric chris says:

    When will they learn. On Sun 4/28/2013 4:40 PM… I sent the following email:

    “Hasta la vista – elevated transit and hart ceo”

    Dear Honolulu Council and Mayor,
    Elevated transit with distantly spaced stations as proposed by the HART CEO has been a flop in Vancouver and has not reduced vehicle use. Elevated transit costing billions of dollars in Honolulu will increase housing density but it won’t reduce road congestion and vehicle use. In Vancouver, transit is a shady business where condo developers, Bombardier (sky train supplier), and SNC Lavalin (engineering firm) have teamed up to tax drivers to create a transit empire to employ a large staff of transit executives and administrators making lucrative salaries and doing nothing to run transit.

    In Honolulu, the players are different but the scam is the same – transit is being used as a ploy to let developers over develop land along the elevated train route. If you want more people, more pollution and more traffic – go ahead, invest in elevated transit and let the developers cut down your trees and build condos in your parks. Unfortunately, four out of five people moving into the condos will drive and congestion will worsen on the existing freeways and roads.

    While the trip on the elevated train is fast, getting to the elevated train spaced one mile apart on average is slow. In contrast, trams which are inexpensive and efficient with closely spaced stops every 300 yards are faster than elevated trains, door to door for most transit users. More transit buses (fatal flaw of elevated transit) on the roads will be required to get people to the distantly spaced elevated train stations and road congestion from buses cutting off drivers will worsen – transit operating costs will soar to strain the operating budget for transit.

    Any increase in transit use in Vancouver can be attributed to either population growth or to coercive measures such as restrictions and limits to parking in the central business district and the University of British Columbia. Frequent and elevated transit has not attracted many drivers and 86% of the population does not use transit even after over 25 years of sky train. In fact, vehicle use has accelerated since the elevated trains were implemented, and exaggerated ridership on transit has resulted from getting existing transit users to make more trips on transit operating later into the night until 3:30 am, at a great expense to taxpayers.

    Transit commutes take twice as long as vehicle commutes. Most of the population in Vancouver avoids transit here as it is very inconvenient and crime riddled.

    According to University of Toronto researchers, Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner – transit has essentially no effect on traffic volumes. Consequently, transit by TransLink in Vancouver does not reduce carbon emissions and road congestion. While more transit might lead to slightly more transit use in Vancouver, it also frees up scarce road space for existing or new drivers to drive more – to effectively negate any reduction of vehicles on the roads from drivers taking transit. This paradox has foiled attempts by TransLink to reduce road congestion with spending on SkyTrain lines and frequent transit. Since the formation of TransLink in 1999, driving has not decreased and trips by drivers remained unchanged at 57% in 2011 (TransLink).

    Hope this clarifies things for you. The following email is relevant, too.

    Eric Chris, PE Vancouver, Canada


    Sustainability by Design – 2009 UBC research paper

  2. Haveacow says:

    Guys to be fair Honolulu’s urban structure doesn’t lend it self well to surface transit. The roads are always clogged day or night and the main thrust of urban development snakes linearly following along the shore line. Which guarantees that your rapid transit line must be long (and expensive) or it doesn’t go anywhere. You would have to introduce extremely heavy handed traffic control measures to make a surface line work well. That is something that this very heavily republican dominated island state would just not let happen. The history of this line is heavily accented in local party politics and extremely acromonious debate. Remember, transportation planning is also about what is politically possible not just technically possible. Sometimes you have to put aside the technology argument in terms of what will be allowed to be built by the locals.

  3. eric chris says:

    Apparently the cost of s-train in Hawaii has soared to $10 billion or about $12,000 per capita in US dollars. It is going to be up to 15 more years for the Vancouver copycat s-train disaster in Hawaii to go into operation, maybe. Tram service or light tram service taking one year to put into operation and $10 billion less to build just didn’t cut it in Hawaii. Too bad.


    Without the BC provincial government hiding the real cost of s-train, heads are rolling in Hawaii. As predicted, the scam of s-train could only to come to light in the USA where there are enough checks and balances for pig-dogs lying about the cost of s-train to get caught.


    Everyone including the HART Chair who can flee the sinking ship in Hawaii is bailing to get off the pig-dog s-train project before things get nasty. Anyone who’s left is going to be called upon to face the US senate committee for the $10 billion-plus and ultimate price-tag of the “low cost” s-train.


    Wait until the s-train copycats in Hawaii figure out that the s-train needs seven buses per kilometre of “budget s-train track” to recycle passengers at a cost of $100 per service hour for each bus. Adios pig-dog copycats… maybe you can find a job at TransLink in Vancouver if you manage to avoid jail time.

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