By Sophia Compton – Reporter, Pacific Business News

June 28, 2023

When the initial portion of the Honolulu rail system, called Skyline, opens to the public on June 30, nine stations will extend from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, according to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

Pacific Business News checked in with Sherry Menor-McNamara, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, to chat about how the new transit system – and ongoing construction – will impact its member organizations on Oahu.

How will the opening of the rail impact the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s members now and in the future as it expands to Ala Moana? The rail will provide an efficient and convenient means of travel across the island and increase our connectivity, as one community, over time. Our families and our businesses will benefit from a more efficient form of transportation, and they will be able to enjoy the new affordable housing and retail opportunities that will diverge along the rail line.

What are some challenges, if any, of the rail? The financial investment and extensive time required to complete the entire rail route from Kapolei to Ala Moana, and beyond, are two challenges of the system. Our community waited a long time for the opening of rail. It is reassuring to know, however, that most of the planned track is now complete.

What are some benefits, if any, that the rail offers? The opening of rail is highly anticipated and long awaited, but now that we are here, we are very excited for the future of rail and the benefits it will bring to our community. There are tangible benefits for our businesses. Businesses will have exposure to rail passengers who are in between trains or meeting along the rail line. Our workforce will be able to enjoy enhanced connectivity and faster commuting times. Employees will have more time to spend with family and the flexibility to live outside of the urban core. There are also intangible benefits that kamaaina will enjoy over time like increased mobility, environmentally conscious public transportation, the activation of new public gathering spaces and the redevelopment of underserved communities along the rail line.

What is your outlook for Skyline as it connects West Oahu and Ala Moana? We can envision an Oahu that is more connected by rail with commercial and residential areas that are both affordable, desirable, and convenient. Today, traveling through traffic between the west and east sides of the island can require a full day in the car. West Oahu residents often leave their homes when it is dark to get to work in town only to arrive back home in the dark. East Oahu residents often avoid westbound traffic later in the day and sometimes all together. This means the east and west side communities are disconnected. Family and friends do not visit as much as they should, and restaurants and retail stores are limited to a regional customer-base. The rail will serve as a catalyst to bridge some of these gaps and reconnect our community.

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