NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Light-Rail to Nowhere

August 7, 2013

In 2011, officials in Honolulu, Hawaii, began construction on a controversial 20 mile light-rail project partly because of almost $1.8 billion in federal subsidies to President Barack Obama's home state. The project's total cost estimate stands at $5.3 billion, but if other similar projects are any indication, the final price tag will increase dramatically before anyone even gets to buy a ticket. What's playing out in the Aloha State is happening all over the country, says Sharif Matar, a documentary producer for the Reason Foundation.

Hawaii has some of the worst congestion and roads in the country,  and studies consistently rank its major city, Honolulu, among the worst cities for traffic.

  • The INRIX Index has estimated that Honolulu drivers waste an average of 58 hours in traffic every year during peak travel times.
  • Yet there's no reason to believe Honolulu's rail project will do anything to improve traffic congestion.
  • In fact, it's likely to divert resources from more affordable solutions.

Panos Prevedouros, one of the state's leading transportation experts, says the rail plan that the feds approved will siphon off state funding for the area's bus system. The project's own report, which Prevedouros says is filled with overly optimistic estimates of rail ridership, still shows that Honolulu's congestion will be worse in the future with rail.

Source: Sharif Matar, "Light-Rail to Nowhere: Honolulu, Hawaii's Train Boondoggle," Reason Magazine, August 1, 2013.


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