Honolulu Transportation

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Honolulu is the state’s main transportation hub. Its airport, harbors and roads are among the state’s most heavily utilized. Honolulu suffers from serious rush hour congestion that makes commuting an ordeal for hundreds of thousands of its residents.

While the neighbor islands all have regional airports, Honolulu International Airport is the primary gateway for air travel to the U.S. mainland and the Pacific region, as well as the main entry point for most Hawaii tourists. Read more about Hawaii tourism.

Honolulu’s harbors also receive the tourists who arrive on cruise ships, but they serve a more important purpose as the center of the islands’ shipping industry. Although efforts are underway to make the state more self-sufficient, about 80 percent of Hawaii’s goods are imported, including two-thirds of its food.

Honolulu suffers from serious rush hour congestion that makes commuting an ordeal for hundreds of thousands of its residents. During the 2008 election Honolulu voters approved a steel-on-steel rail system] by a very slim margin, giving the city approval for the Honolulu Rail Project.


The City and County of Honolulu has about 2,000 miles of streets and roads under its jurisdiction, while the state administers 21 roads and highways across Oahu. All but 13 percent of households have cars, contributing to Honolulu traffic congestion problems. Honolulu also has a nationally-acclaimed public transportation system, which the Federal Transit Administration ranks fourth highest ridership-per-capita in the nation.

TheBus, operated by Oahu Transit Services, Inc., has more than 100 routes and serves more than 72 million passengers a year. The city’s Handi-Van service for disabled riders has annual ridership of about 850,000. The average number of weekday trips for TheBus and Handi-Van is 238,800. TheBus fleet includes 531 buses, including 20 new 60-foot articulated hybrid-electric buses. These new buses have 55 seats and can hold 100 passengers. The majority of the fleet consists of 40-foot buses with 37 seats and a 59 passenger capacity.


Compared to other major U.S. cities, Honolulu’s “travel time tax” ranks among the worst in the nation, comparable to Los Angeles, even though Honolulu’s level of total congestion ranks far lower.

Up to 75 percent of Oahu commuters use H-1 during peak periods, causing bottlenecks in several areas. At the Middle Street merge, for example, traffic can slow to 8 mph. During morning rush-hour, the roughly 20-mile drive from Kapolei to downtown Honolulu lasts about 89 minutes — a trip that takes 32 minutes in the opposite direction.

Both the city and state have taken measures to alleviate congestion, including operation of high occupancy vehicle lanes, the movable H-1 zipper lane and using contraflow lanes during designated periods. These strategies have improved traffic flow in some areas, but government leaders have struggled since the 1960s to reach consensus on a rapid transit system that would provide an alternative for commuters and remove enough cars from the road to relieve rush hour congestion.

Any significant solution requires cooperation at every level of government. Jurisdiction over city roads falls under the Department of Transportation Services, while the state Department of Transportation oversees Oahu’s highways, harbors and airports. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Hawaii Division administers approximately $168 million in federal aid annually to help the state and counties — urban Honolulu in particular — deal with congestion, promote safety and protect the environment from negative impacts from traffic.

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Honolulu Transportation

April 2017

Wednesday, April 5

House Panel Ponies Up Another $1.2 Billion For Honolulu Rail

April 2016

Tuesday, April 19

Martin Pulls Papers For Mayoral Bid

October 2015

Monday, October 19

Bill Slowing Bike Lane Construction Approved Over Bike Riders’ Objections

September 2015

Wednesday, September 23

A ‘No-Brainer’: Honolulu Streets Should Be for the People, Not the Cars

You’d Think Honolulu Would Have Lots of Sidewalk Cafes, But You’d Be Wrong

June 2015

Tuesday, June 16

What Does it Take to Get a Traffic Light in Pahoa?

May 2015

Wednesday, May 27

Is Kapolei a Mistake?

Friday, May 8

City Needs to Manage Bike Lane Projects Better, Audit Says

Wednesday, May 6

Make Way for Hoopili: City Council Approves Rezoning

Tuesday, May 5

Honolulu Rail Tax Extension Clears the Legislature

April 2015

Wednesday, April 29

Deal on Honolulu Rail Tax Remains Up in the Air

Monday, April 27

Roads for Rail? Hawaii Senators Pitch New Tax Idea

Wednesday, April 22

Civil Beat Poll: Most Voters Oppose Honolulu Rail Tax Extension

March 2015

Tuesday, March 31

Honolulu Drivers Frustrated With Traffic Hell Take to Twitter

February 2015

Tuesday, February 24

Caldwell Vows Not to Run From Rail, Homeless Problems

December 2014

Tuesday, December 30

Caldwell: City Meets Road Repaving Goal for 2014

Tuesday, December 9

When the Rail Rolls Into Kalihi, What Kind of Change Will it Bring?

November 2014

Saturday, November 22

At TOD Summit, Experts Urge Honolulu to Dream Big

October 2014

Wednesday, October 29

Bill Encourages Car Sharing on Oahu

July 2014

Friday, July 11

Waialae Avenue Repaving Project Is Finally Finished

May 2014

Wednesday, May 21

Why Is It So Dangerous for Pedestrians in Hawaii?

Saturday, May 10

Honolulu Rail Takes Shape, City Prepares for Development Boom

Tuesday, May 6

Companies Jockey for $1 Billion Worth of Honolulu Rail Contracts

April 2014

Tuesday, April 22

LIVE: Civil Cafe on Honolulu’s Bicycling Renaissance

January 2014

Saturday, January 11

Hawaii Car Sharing Aims for a Sustainable Future

December 2013

Friday, December 13

Finding the City’s Flow: Why Honolulu’s Traffic Goes Against the Grain

October 2012

Tuesday, October 2

Honolulu Spinning Its Wheels On Bike Planning, Advocates Say

September 2012

Wednesday, September 12

Honolulu City Council Considers Widening Parking Stalls

August 2012

Wednesday, August 29

Honolulu’s Most Dangerous Intersections: Guess Where?

February 2012

Monday, February 6

Taken for a Ride: 17,000 Students Could Be Without School Buses Next Year

January 2012

Friday, January 20

Cayetano: Rail A Wall of Concrete Snaking Along Honolulu’s Waterfront

October 2011

Tuesday, October 25

‘Intermodal Pete’ and the Tale of Two Bus Stations

August 2011

Saturday, August 20

New Twist in Case Against Ansaldo — Lack of License

Thursday, August 18

HART Uses Kid Gloves on Controversial Rail Contract

Monday, August 15

State Rejects Sumitomo Appeal, Clears Path for Honolulu Rail

July 2011

Friday, July 22

Recent Rail Tax Revenues a Pleasant Surprise for City

Honolulu Shuts Freeways Longer Than Other Cities

May 2011

Tuesday, May 24

Waialae Avenue Latest Battleground In Making Honolulu Bike-Friendly

Thursday, May 12

Honolulu Is Best City For Commuting On Public Transportation

April 2011

Thursday, April 21

Honolulu’s Billion-Dollar Door-to-Door Service

January 2011

Thursday, January 13

After City’s Rail Panel, Opponents Hold Their Own

November 2010

Wednesday, November 10

Carlisle: New Buses Both Green and Cost-Effective

July 2010

Friday, July 30

Why Isn’t Honolulu Bike Friendly?

May 2010

Saturday, May 1

Are Honolulu Rail Job Projections On the Right Track?