Honolulu’s Skyline Opens


man speak at podium at event
From left: Gov. Green; Sen. Schatz; Paul P. Skoutelas; Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the navy for energy, installations & environment; Alistair Dormer; Amy Changchien; Colleen Hanabusa.

PHASE 1 OF SKYLINE, HONOLULU’S long-awaited $9.9 billion autonomous rail system, opened June 30 with a celebration and inaugural ride. Federal, state and local officials and APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas were in attendance.

The 11-mile first phase of the almost entirely elevated project connects riders between Kualaka’i (East Kapolei) Station and Halawa (Aloha Stadium) Station, with two additional phases planned to extend the line.

“Skyline presents an unprecedented opportunity to connect passengers to our central and leeward cities and the distinct beauty and character they each possess,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “My warmest Mahalo to the hundreds of hard-working professionals at Hitachi Rail who have served as valuable partners in this project thus far.”

Noting that there were challenges in getting to this stage, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) said, “What an extraordinary milestone; we finally have a rail system that is operational.” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said it was “an honor to be governor at this moment.”

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) CEO Lori Kahikina said that the initial opening “is a momentous achievement, and that Hitachi Rail has been an instrumental partner in reaching this goal of delivering to the community the first fully automated driverless commuter rail system in the country. The HART team is extremely grateful to have earned the trust and support from our stakeholders to work collaboratively in the interest of the taxpayer to deliver the first installment of the state’s largest capital improvement project and infrastructure investment in its history.”

HART oversaw construction of the project and transferred control to the city and county of Honolulu in early June. The agency will continue working to build the next phases of the project, which includes the Airport Extension planned to open in 2025 and the City Center Extension expected to open in 2031.

autonomous rail station

Calling the opening a “momentous day for Hawaii and for public transportation,” APTA’s Skoutelas commented that building a rail project “is not for the faint of heart, especially when it’s the country’s first fully autonomous metro system.” This day, he added, is the “result of hard work, persistence and passionate vision of the leaders and people of this great state.”

Skoutelas said to the more than 250 people in attendance, “You’re embracing the future; the future is yours.”

Yutaka Aoki, consulate general of Japan in Hawaii; HART Chair Colleen Hanabusa; Amy Changchien, FTA deputy director, Region 9; and Alistair Dormer, executive vice president, Energy and Mobility, Hitachi Rail, also gave remarks.

Hitachi Rail manufactured the railcars used on Skyline. The fleet consists of 20 four-car trains, each with the capacity to hold up to 800 passengers. Total train length is 260 feet, with open gangways between cars to allow passengers to move freely. Trains include Wi-Fi for passengers, as well as space for bicycles, strollers, luggage and even surfboards.