With school in session, Skyline sees a positive bump in ridership

Officials are seeing about a 14% increase in demand
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 8:31 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 3:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city says more people are riding Skyline after a disappointing slum in rail ridership over the summer.

Officials are seeing about a 14% increase in demand that they say is fueled partly by students.

“I ride the Skyline because it’s the fastest route to my school,” said Dylan Delgado, a frequent rider.

During the summer, Skyline’s ridership on the weekdays at times was dropping below 3,000 riders a day.

One of the worst days was on July 19, a Wednesday, seeing just over 2,600 riders.

But with UH West Oahu now in session, this past Wednesday jumped to 3,400 riders, according to data from the city.

Despite the growth, it’s a stark difference from the average 10,000 daily riders in the first five days of operations when riders did not have to pay.

“Of course, there are detractors that say the ridership is not where it should be. We hear from the people who use it who say it fits their needs,” said Jon Nouchi, the deputy director for Honolulu’s Department of Transportation Services.

But there are other wins the city is celebrating nearly three months since opening, like data that shows it’s been running on time 99.6%.

The city also says it will extend Skyline’s hours of operation once Skyline reaches the airport, but that won’t be until at least 2025. They believe only then will the demand pick up.

But officials acknowledge Skyline never intended to make a profit and will continue to operate at a loss regardless of ridership.

“We look at public transit as a service, and so we would never look to make money off people,” said Nouchi. “The operating costs will always exceed the revenue we get for fares, and that’s true across public transportation systems across the United States.”

The cost for Skyline’s first year of operation is estimated at $85 million. To put that in perspective, the city says that operating the bus costs around $300 million a year, with fares for both services only covering a small fraction of that.

City officials say Skyline could hit 4,000 daily riders in the next six months but believe once it opens at the airport, ridership will surpass 10,000 a day.