‘A 21st century system’: To fanfare, city announces official opening date of rail’s first phase

The grand opening of the first 11 miles of the Honolulu rail system is set for the July Fourth weekend ― and the public is invited to ride for free.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 3:33 PM HST|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 10:38 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The grand opening of the first 11 miles of the Honolulu rail system is set for the July Fourth weekend ― and the public is invited to ride for free.

City officials announced the opening on Wednesday morning, thrilled that after 16 years of planning and construction the first riders will soon be aboard.

To get to the free ride Independence Day weekend, taxpayers kicked in billions of dollars over 17 years.

But now Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he expects that with a taste of what it feels like to use the system, Oahu residents will be won over.

“What we’re delivering here is a 21st century rail system,” Blangiardi said.

“One of a kind, being driverless, all electric security gates, electric. We’ve talked a lot about since coming into office about modernizing our city and this is a statement to that effect.”

Giddy at the prospect of people actually riding the rail, the mayor and other city officials gathered at the Halawa station near Aloha Stadium to announce the start of service between there and Kapolei on June 30.

Honolulu Council Chair Tommy Waters was particularly excited.

“Let’s get ready to ride!” he shouted to cheers. “Keiki and kupuna, ladies and gentlemen get your Holoholo card. It’s awesome. It’s clean. It’s safe. It’s efficient and ready to go.”

The system, including bus connections, will be wide open and free from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on June 30.

From July 1 to 4, the service will still be free but riders will need a HOLO card to get on.

The first phase begins in Kapolei and extends to the now-shuttered Aloha Stadium. There are nine stations along the initial route.

“I think what’s going to happen is we’re gonna have a tremendous amount of people,” Blangiardi said. “Hopefully, it’s going to be joyous and everything will be positive and so I’m thinking only the best you know.”

After the weekend, the system will be ready for paying commuters.

A $3 fare for adults will cover the train and connection to new express bus routes.

Keiki under 5 are free, as long as they’re riding with a fare-paying rider and not occupying a seat.

City Transportation Services Director Roger Morton said riding the entire 11 miles will take about 21 minutes.

For some commuters, that could reduce their commute times.

“The train will be here every 10 minutes,” Morton said. “And that articulated bus will get on the freeway. It’ll take people into town and then we’ll continue on to UH-Manoa.”

HART CEO Lori Kahikina said construction of the next segment, including the airport and Middle Street station is going more smoothly with a different contractor and design process. It should be open in 2025.

“So the infrastructure is being built right now. The guideway, the rails are done. The stations are each about 95% complete,” Kahikina said.

You can purchase a HOLO card at its retailers, vending machines or online at Holocard.net.

For details on the HOLO card, click here.