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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 28, 2008

Most in Honolulu say they won't use rail regularly, poll shows

 •  76% of Oahu voters want rail on ballot

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer


Do O'ahu residents support the city's plan to build a $3.7 billion commuter rail?


Will residents, especially those near transit stops, ride the rail if it is built?

Day 3 tomorrow

How have pro-rail and anti-rail ads impacted community perception?

Day 4 Wednesday

Has the rail campaign changed the perception of Mayor Mufi Hannemann?

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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What are the biggest reasons people support or oppose steel wheels on steel rail? Tim Sakahara breaks it down at 6 and 10 p.m.

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Even though most Honolulu residents say they support building a new elevated commuter rail line, they don't expect to regularly ride the train, according to the Hawai'i Poll.

According to the survey of 510 residents, 47 percent said they were very unlikely to regularly ride the train. Another 12 percent said they were somewhat unlikely.

That compares with 16 percent who said they were very likely to be regular train riders. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they were somewhat likely to be train regulars.

Whether other Honolulu residents will embrace rail transit is critical to financing the rail system. More riders means higher fare collections and a decreased need for taxpayer subsidies for mass transit. By 2030, Honolulu's train is expected to carry an average of 95,000 riders a day, according to a city forecast.

Trains are expected to attract more riders than buses by offering faster, more reliable service. A rush-hour, 20-mile commute from East Kapolei to Ala Moana would take about 40 minutes and cost passengers $2, according to city plans.

Those living along the route said they were more willing to ride it, according to the poll. About 23 percent of residents near the route that were polled claimed they were very likely to ride the train, while 33 percent said they were somewhat likely to ride the train.

One of those future train riders could be Heather Houck, a 26-year-old mother of three in Red Hill.

"I don't like bus systems. I've never really used them my entire life," she said. "But the times I've actually used a metro rail system I've loved it.

"We went to (Washington) D.C. for our honeymoon a few years ago and their Metro system is just so functional and so good and the traffic here is just unbelievably stupid."

Thirty-one percent of those living along the route said they were very unlikely to regularly use rail, while another 12 percent said they were somewhat unlikely to use it.


Among other Hawai'i Poll findings, residents with higher household incomes, or residents born and raised in Hawai'i, were less likely to ride transit.

Whether people ride the rail is likely to depend on how easy it is to use. Daisy Wong, a 27-year-old Pearl City resident, said she would take the train if the stations weren't too far away.

"It kind of depends on where the stations are if it's pretty close to my house or I gotta walk like 20 or 30 or 40 minutes to the station," she said. "It's a good way to get people from depending on oil so much. It's not like gas is getting any cheaper or anything."

Others wanting to use the train may not be able to because they live too far from the route. Jessica Ausborn, a 27-year-old 'Ewa Beach veteran, said she'd use the train if there is a nearby station. However, under current plans the nearest train station to her would be in Kapolei.

"If it were accessible I would probably ride it all the time," said Ausborn, who doesn't ride the bus. "There's certain times that the train comes. You know where your stops are. It's not like a bus (where) you get stopped in traffic. I'm so sick of the traffic here so to bypass all of that I would be happy."

The reasons respondents cited for not regularly riding rail were:

  • 60 percent said they don't live along the train's route.

  • 15 percent said they don't commute in that direction.

  • 11 percent said they need a car during the day.

    The reasons for riding rail included:

  • 24 percent cited high gasoline prices or the high cost of autos.

  • 18 percent said trains are convenient or free up commuting time for other purposes.

  • 8 percent said to avoid traffic.

    Honolulu's planned rail line is expected to spur more people to ride public transit.

    Overall mass-transit ridership is expected to increase to 7.4 percent of total transit trips in 2030, up from 6.1 percent projected if the commuter rail line is not built, according to a November 2006 Alternatives Analysis report by city consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff.

    Kailua children's therapist Anna Bowman, 48, is unlikely to be a frequent train rider. However, she said trains could help boost mass transit ridership by offering faster, more reliable service.

    "I think you're going to get the higher-income people who wouldn't think about riding a bus," said Bowman, who also owns a home in the Washington, D.C., area. "I've lived in cities with subways. It works and is a real nice way to get around."

    Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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