Posted by: loomisisc | June 25, 2010

Real Interest for Neighbor Isle Rail Transit

Timothy Wright from Pahoa wrote a letter entitled, Build railway here, published in the Hawaii Tribune Herald today, showing another example of neighbor island interest in rail transit for locals and tourists.

Wright wrote, “Being from the Big Island, a rail system from Hilo to Kona would work since most jobs are in Kona and not Hilo. A rail system here on the Big Island could send tourists from point A to point B in less time than driving,”

In the Maui News on March 18th, and reposted on Reality Rail, HCR 101, A nonbinding resolution that would call for Maui County to study the creation of a light-rail system, was introduced in the state House of Representatives.

HCR 101 says the county should take steps to plan for a transit system before extensive development blocks off land that could be used for rail routes. Proponents say the rail transit proposal on Oahu is a good example of the problems that can be encountered when a region is already overdeveloped.

“The one thing that keeps coming up is that (Honolulu) should have done this when (former Mayor Frank) Fasi pitched the idea in the 1960s,” said West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey, who is the principal author of the bill. “My thinking is, let’s get the conversation going on Maui now.”

Hawaii News Now’s Resident Explainer and Business Reporter, Howard Dicus, recommended neighbor island rail in this entry of his blog, also posted in March. He wrote,

“We should acquire transportation corridors today for rail that will be built tomorrow on neighbor islands, which will bring speculators to those corridors but lessen pressure everywhere else. Everybody should stare at a map of their favorite part of the islands and figure out what can be done now to control the future before there is a powerful interest in the opposite corner staring at the same map with visions of timeshares dancing in their heads.”

Plagued with the state’s worst automotive traffic, we’re thankfully the furthest along on Oahu for breaking ground on rail transit as seen in yesterday’s contract award. Though on several islands, benefiting both locals and tourists, railways are becoming a desired and sensible solution to current and future problems with island transportation.


  1. A single-track diesel-powered light railway (with passing sidings) from Hilo to Kailua-Kona would impact the environment of the Mauna Kea-Kilauea “saddle” much less than an upgraded road.

    A direct 70-mile railway (56 miles shorter than the existing highway) need only average 40 mph (top spd. 60-70 mph) to be dramatically faster than the infamous “Saddle Road.” Moreover, with cab-signalling, it would be much safer at high speed during bad weather than the existing road, which rises to 6632 ft. elevation.

    The cost might be very roughly $1 billion. Although it would be an engineering triumph, steep grades could be used to avoid major tunnels, bridges, and sharp curves.

  2. How about a train like this Big Island? Its a diesel multiple unit train used on the 3’6″ gauge tracks of Kyushu Railway Co. Narrow gauge would be considerably cheaper than a standard gauge railway on Big Island. Despite its appearance, Kyushu Ry. uses it on runs like the Fukuoka-Yufuin-Oita-Beppu limited express, which takes four hours.

    Here is another Kyushu Ry. train type on the same line; notice how well a narrow gauge diesel train fits with a landscape that looks much like parts of Hawai’i.

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