Light Metro Fiasco In Honolulu

Light-metro, a 1970′s solution for a 1950′s transit problems and made obsolete by light rail by the early 90′s. Why oh why do politicians love gadgetbahnen.

The total cost of Honolulu’s 20-mile (32 km) rail line and 21 stations as $9.862 billion. If the add-ons approved by the board Friday are included in the final budget next year, the construction budget for rail will total $10.2 billion, not including about $1 billion in financing costs.

Remember, in Vancouver, we are spending $4.6 billion for 12.8 for light metro extensions to the Expo and Millennium Lines.

Then there is the issue of Private Public Partnerships or P-3′s, which were so designed to mitigate cost overruns. They don’t!

It is interesting to note that the Honolulu rapid transit project, was Bombardier’s last gasp to sell their proprietary Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) light metro (erroneously called SkyTrain in Vancouver), but the added cost for LIM operation, saw Bombardier pipped at the post by AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS .

The desire for a mythical fast and driverless operation comes at a cost and politicians are finding that cost adds billions to the final price tag, P-3 or no.


‘How Do We Go Forward?’ Honolulu Rail Leaders Kill P3, Confront Unknown Costs

Officials will start a fourth attempt to find a way to finish the final four miles while adding hundreds of millions of dollars to the overall budget.


November 20, 2020

The quest to finish building Honolulu rail and run it for 30 years with a public-private partnership is officially over, two years after project leaders embarked on that path hoping to get the price and schedule under control.

Instead, the beleaguered multibillion-dollar transit project currently faces more runaway budget costs, a schedule delay of as much as 13 years compared to the original 2020 service date, and a future more uncertain than ever.

On Friday, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director Andrew Robbins announced his agency would take immediate steps to cancel the long-touted P3 effort after his last-ditch attempt earlier this week to convince city leaders to rejoin that procurement failed.

“This is not a moment to celebrate,” Kirk Caldwell, the city’s outgoing mayor, said Friday after a two-hour meeting with Robbins.

When the city withdrew from the P3 effort “it was a very sad and depressing moment for me,” Caldwell said. “Since then, it’s how do we go forward?”

HART rail guideway columns near the Keehi Lagoon Beach pedestrian walkway as rail snakes towards Middle Street. September 17, 2020HART rail guideway columns stand near the Keehi Lagoon Beach Park pedestrian walkway as rail snakes toward Middle Street. The city still hasn’t been able to award a contract to build the line past that area.Cory Lum/Civil Beat

HART will now start its fourth attempt since the rail project’s inception to award a contract to build the elevated rail line into town.

With the city once again short on funding, the next procurement may not include all of the transit line’s remaining four miles and eight stations to Ala Moana Center. Both Robbins and Caldwell have separately suggested a “phased” approach will be needed to eventually get that far.

Robbins said Friday it will probably take another couple of months for HART to issue the next request for proposals — and then it will take another year or so to award the construction contract that has proven so difficult.

Precisely what caused the P3 pursuit’s failure hasn’t been disclosed, although one of the companies competing for the contract shared in an earnings call this summer that its proposal was hundreds of millions of dollars more than what HART and the city had budgeted for the remaining construction.


For the rest of the story, please click here.


4 Responses to “Light Metro Fiasco In Honolulu”
  1. Nathan Davidowicz says:

    US cities have differen givernance than cities in Canada/BC.
    Most infrastructure projects are done by referendums.
    I expect that HART will be finished in the next two years.
    In BC unless we get proper governance soon we will continue making mistakes and will not get a proper transit system.

  2. Paul says:

    Money well spent.

    Zwei replies: Actually it is money badly spent.

    1. Broadway has nowhere near the ridership to justify building a subway and the annual operating costs, based on Toronto’s estimate of a new subway, of $40 million annually will mean operating costs must be sourced elsewhere.
    2. Subways do not take cars off the road and in fact very poor in attracting ridership. As the Broadway subway is an extension of the Millennium Line, which currently and pre pandemic, operated 2-car trains, the only customers that will benefit is a small number continuing west to UBC.
    3) Monies allocated for the subway could have been spent on far better projects in the region, which is transit poor.
    4) the higher taxes needed for the subway will still fuel urban flight of both the middle class and businesses.

    The subway is being built for only one reason and that is political prestige.

  3. Haveacow says:

    @Paul, The Broadway Extension Project compared to the last Toronto Subway line Extensions upgraded to today’s costs compares this way.

    1. The Broadway Extension Skytrain Stations are 48% shorter and 12% more narrow than T.T.C. subway stations.

    2. The Broadway Extension Skytrains are 46 % shorter and 11 % more narrow than a Toronto Subway train.

    3. The Skytrain Network has 50 % of the capacity of Toronto’s Subway Network using the T.T.C.’s current 60 year old signaling technology. The Skytrain Network capacity drops between 35%-40% compared to the new C.B.T.C system, which starts fully operating on line Toronto Subway Line#1 (The Yonge-University-Vaughn Subway Line) in 2022.

    4. On a per kilometre basis the Broadway Extension is only 7% cheaper than the last T.T.C. subway extension. An extension that was over budget and late due to politicians changing the project’s scope.

    That isn’t money well spent, @Paul!

  4. Keli’i Kamakawiwo’ole says:

    Nathan Davidowicz, sorry to disappoint you, but Honolulu’s mayor kirk clodwell recently contacted the Federal Transit Authority in a last ditch effort to keep $250 million of the promised $1.55 billion federal money from expiring at year end. In his letter, clodwell estimated total costs at $11 billion ($550 million per mile) and a completion date of 2033. The original Federal Funding Grant Agreement specified an opening date of January 2020 and a total cost of $5.12 billion for the full 20 mile alignment. The first 10 miles from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium was supposed to be in service last month (October 2020), but it’s looking like it will be near the end of 2021.

    We had a vote on rail here, but it was not a yes or no vote on whether or not to proceed with rail. The question was shall the rail use steel wheels on steel rails or not, and this only happened after the city spent many hundreds of thousands pushing for it.

    I would say that it’s being run by the Three Stooges, but there are more than three of them, and I also don’t want to insult the Three Stooges.

    Zwei replies: Thank you, it is always great to get first hand knowledge, please keep us up to date.

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