Honolulu rail’s launch means big changes ahead for bus riders, too

The city’s long-awaited rail line opens on June 30.
Published: Jun. 23, 2023 at 12:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city’s long-awaited rail line opens on June 30, but regular bus riders may not yet be aware that it could affect their usual routes, especially west of Aiea.

While the Skyline takes practice runs with test passengers — like journalists on Thursday — Waipahu bus riders like Wyatt Ballesteros are waiting for their turn.

“I think that could work out for positive you don’t have to sit through the traffic lights and what not,” Ballesteros said.

To integrate Skyline between Aloha Stadium and East Kapolei, the city is changing many bus routes.

Like Route A. Many use it to get between Waipahu and town, but it will now end at Pearl Ridge because in Pearl City and Waipahu it essentially duplicated the rail route, city Deputy Transportation Services Director Jon Nouchi.

Want to ride Skyline? Here’s your guide for jumping on Honolulu’s new rail system

“The Waipahu bus riders will have to board Skyline and they can transfer either at the Pearl Ridge station or here at the Halawa station, Nouchi said.

That was not welcome news to Alexandra Miguel.

“I’m very surprised,” she said. “I ride the bus everyday, this is my basic transportation. Being told that I am going to have to catch the bus here to get on the rail to go to town that seems like double the work and i will probably have to get up extra earlier.”

The city has produced and posted detailed videos showing the route changes and with a Holo card the same fare will cover the entire commute, as long as it’s within two and a half hours.

On a media ride Thursday, speeding above all traffic took just 22 minutes, including all stops, between the stadium and the Kapolei Kroc Center.

One thing regular bus riders will appreciate: With so many rail cars, when they jump on a rail car they are virtually guaranteed a seat. The added capacity provided by the rail also enabled the city to shift buses to feeder and express routes, and match the 10-minute arrival intervals of the trains.

“We’ve tried to design our connections thoughtfully at both ends of Skyline right now,” Nouchi said. “So that people can have a well-timed connection to the bus and to their final destination.

Veterans of other transit systems, like retired Professor Neil Milner, said Skyline feels comfortable and safe.

“There’s certainly nothing to worry about it other than does it get me where I really need to go,” Milner said. “That’s of course the big worry.”

All that, especially the shorter period between buses and trains was good news for Alexandra. “Every 10 minutes ... really?” She laughed, “Well, I got all worked up for nothing then you should have started with that.”