30 days of Skyline: Ridership may be lower, but confidence remains high

Rail officials say they wish there were more but overall, express confidence the system is catching on.
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 5:54 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 31, 2023 at 6:28 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In its first 30 days, Honolulu’s Skyline rail system has carried 170,000 passengers.

Rail officials said they wish that number was higher — but overall, they expressed confidence the system is catching on.

On Monday, many riders on the system were out for a joy ride.

At the station at the University of Hawaii West Oahu, Kamalani Manner led her three nephews and her mother to the Holo card vending machines.

“We haven’t tried riding it yet, so we wanted to have a first experience for all of us — for funsies,” Manner said.

At the other end of the line in Halawa, Waipahu resident Carlo Lorenzo waited for the bus that would take him to work in Salt Lake. His prior bus route had been adjusted to synch with the rail schedule.

“It’s faster to get to the rail than the bus,” Lorenzo said. “So it’s much better.”

City Transportation Services Director Roger Morton said the ridership numbers were not a surprise, given that few employment centers are on the initial 10-mile route and the traditional slow transit use during the summer months.

But he still was hoping.

“Our ridership, I would like it to be a little bit more,” Morton said.

The city reported 170,185 trips on the system, based on how many time Holo cards were tapped on entry and exit gates.

More than 71,000 of those were in the first five days when rides were free.

After that weekend, the average fell to about 3,800 per day.

The busiest stations were Halawa, Pearlridge and Waipahu indicating there was some shopping along the line.

“I know that those businesses around Waipahu station have commented to us how they are receiving business from people that are riding the rail,” Morton said.

Morton said summer is always slower for transit use, which should pick up with the school year beginning soon as more people hit the roads during rush hour.

Rail advocate and Makakilo resident Carolyn Golojuch felt that many more would have been using rail if it didn’t shut down at 7 p.m.

“I am pissed off and I really am upset,” she said.

She said the hours from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. leave out shift workers like her daughter, who works at Ford Island, and people like her who might want to avoid driving at night.

“The average person is who this rail was built for,” Golojuch said.

“The shopper, the retired person like me who would like to go into Honolulu doesn’t want to stay late because I don’t want to be caught driving in the dark and also if I want to have a drink or two.”

Morton said their research predicted dramatically less demand after 7 p.m.

“It’s never quite as easy as it sounds,” Morton said.

“Because we also have the bus service that goes along with it, too. And so, it’s a little complicated. But I’m certainly open to change to looking at extending hours.”

Morton also points to big turnout last weekend, when Aloha Stadium, next to the Halawa Station hosted a music festival.

He also celebrated Skyline’s on-time record: 98% within 10 seconds of schedule, with no serious mechanical problems.

With only half the system operating, there were no predictions high ridership.

But it will be very important when the system is built out, which will determine how much taxpayers will be subsidizing it in the future.

That number won’t be available until at least 2030.