Advocates For Consumer Rights

The Honolulu Rail Project

Compiled and written by Scott Foster

As time permits, we will be adding more of our massive collection of documents and photos related to Hawaii Advocates For Consumer Rights’ (AFCR) and my long, personal history to try and see a practical, affordable mass transit system in Honolulu.  NOTE: Follow the Honolulu rail saga via cartoonist extraordinaire John Pritchett’s book and on-line gallery of work on the subject HERE 

AFCR was not formed until 1995 but my own involvement began in 1992 when I personally joined with many other citizens and organizations to organize and implement a public education campaign resulting in former Honolulu Councilmember Rene Mancho changing her rail vote from “Yes” to “No.” Her no vote literally stopped the train. To learn more about how and who was originally responsible, read the August 8, 2005, Honolulu Star-Bulletin article which provides a brief history of rail in Honolulu, including the turned Mancho vote HERE.

Although we’ll never know, my personal opinion as to why we were successful then was because the rail proponents held many community presentations with large aerial photographs of the various stations with overlaid graphics depicting the massive station footprints. I attended all of these presentations and watched as people were literally stunned to see how overbuilt and intrusive the project indeed was. For example, the Moiliili station at University, King and Beretania put the entire intersection under concrete and obliterated the entire view plane.

THe late Councilmember Dr. Duke Bainum

The late Councilmember Dr. Duke Bainum

How we came close to having the best

At the time of his death, the late Honolulu Councilmember, Dr. Duke Bainum was working directly with then Councilmember Charles Djou and others to stop what has become today’s massive Honolulu rail “boondoggle.” I was retained several times by Dr. Bainum during his admirable political career and we had finalized Advocating Accountability & Wise Transportation Solutions the very night of his death on June 9, 2009. A media release was planned for the next day regarding the damning letter Bainum and Djou had sent to the US Department of Transportation (June 2, 2009). Read that damning letter HERE. Our Advocating Accountability & Wise Transportation Solutions document was to have been a part of a preemptive media release — along with the growing list of respected local organizations supporting Duke’s position on mass transit. Dr. Bainum was a strong supporter of expanding Honolulu’s efficient bus system.

When Dr. Bainum unexpectedly died, a full council vote was already scheduled and Council Chair Nestor Garcia indeed proceeded with that vote only a few days after Duke’s passing. Without Duke’s vote, the result was a foregone conclusion. The one bright spot from that vote was, we were able to force the rail project to come back to the Council to seek approval for every single bond request and that indeed continues.



Anyone wanting to know the full blow-by-blow story of how Honolulu got into the $10-Billion+ transit debacle should reference I’ve come to admire businessman and writer Cliff Slater and his wife Bobbi for their tireless work over many years to try and keep Honolulu from being bankrupted by the Honolulu Rail Project.


The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) was not established for any of the reasons given by our political establishment. The City Administration had proposed a Transit Authority ostensibly, “so we can take as much politics out of [rail] as possible.” And according to the Honolulu Advertiser, “it makes perfect sense.”

But it did not make sense to us. We wrote at the time, “The Administration has yet to make its case on the need for a Public Transit Authority. Elsewhere in the U.S. all the Transit Authorities we could find are established to deal with jurisdictional issues between neighboring counties. Honolulu may well be the only county in the U.S. that has its own transit authority. Until such time as we are given a reasonable explanation for the necessity for such an authority we should assume something untoward is afoot and therefore oppose it.” Sadly, HART passed and here we are today; way over budget with no leadership or accountability. Read more about how HART came to be HERE.

Aug 21, 2011
How the city misled the public. Despite chronic, troubling spin on facts,
rail is not a done deal, a prominent quartet insists
By Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater and Randall Roth
Read the original HERE