Okay, so we’ve worried ourselves out about the staggering cost of the Honolulu transit train, the visual blight of the raised rail line, the probable ridership numbers and the exactly-unknown cost of the 4 a.m. to midnight operation of the 20 four-car trains.

Now, looking at some other cities’ experiences, maybe we should start worrying about the homeless making homes in the employee-less cars.

The photos I’ve included with this story are from New York City, where the Daily News documented the problem we’d better start thinking about.

Yes, our trains will have closed-circuit TV cameras and call buttons  for emergencies. But no transit police — no police, period.

New York City recently had to temporarily close 10 of its mass transit stations to clean them up because of a flood of homeless. The Daily News reported that “On any given day in any given corner of the city’s sprawling subway, train cars are filled with people who have nowhere else to go or choose the subways over the shelter system.”

Sure, we can have police meet a car at a station and kick off the homeless squatters. But the homeless are canny. One subway liver in NYC told the newspaper “It’s hell out here. They tried to kick me off but I got different ways to get back on. I agree with them, I get off, get out, and I get on the next train.”

Our trains will not even have a driver. The only roving attendants will be at the stations, not on board.

Probably no problem with the first increment to open (maybe) late this year from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium. But the final segment in 2025 through town to Ala Moana Center — that’s where we’re likely to encounter the homeless.

Am I being too much of a worrywart?

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

12 replies on “Another Honolulu Train Issue?”

  1. I lived on the upper west side of Manhattan (1970-1975) and never saw the homeless on the trains or in the stations. Maybe I was blind. David and I now live near the Aloha Stadium rail station. We are looking forward to taking the train to Kapolei, have lunch there, and return to the stadium. Hope all goes well.

    1. The train will not go to Kapolei city, it starts on an empty field in East Kapolei, 3-4 miles from the city. Hey Bob, good article, photos confirm the allegations.

  2. Hope for the best but plan for the worst!
    Thanks for you’re skeptical but realistic thinking. Let’s hear from some Rail / transit officials on this question?

  3. Bob, My Friend: The NYC Subway System covers four of the 5 Boroughs with 36 subway lines on 665 miles of track and 472 subway stations. Before the Pandemic shutdown, this system carried nearly 6-MILLION riders EACH DAY. The average train has between 6 and 10 subway cars. Before the Pandemic shutdown, homeless folks did hide out on some cars but more likely in the corners of some stations, usually when it got very cold. The trains, usually pretty full, left little or no room for “flops’. And Police often moved them off the trains and out of the stations. There were some problem stations and on some cars. But given the size of the system they were minor and mostly dealt with. After the City Pandemic shutdown, even though 90% of daily riders stayed home, the system continued to run about 35% of the normal schedule. During that time, with most cars empty or having 1 or 2 riders (the “essential workers), the homeless moved in. And THOSE are the pictures you republished. Police patrols on the subways were cut back because 1. police were responding to a variety of CoVid calls AND 2., at the height, nearly 20% of the Dept.’s members were out sick. So it did get bad in some places. But the situation shown in those pictures was not normal or even close…involving maybe 200 people over the entire system. It was the result of this amazing situation with which we are all dealing. To even hint this is what could easily occur on HRT trains or even NYC trains during normal operations is bogus and a red herring. And you, of all people, ought to know better. (Incidentally, on Wednesday, the City began an aggressive program clearing out and cleaning all train cars.)
    On O’ahu, 20 trains, with 4 cars, will be easy to patrol AND under proper management, kept clean. (BTW– the AirTrain, which runs from the Jamaica, Queens Long Island Railroad Station to JFK with automated cars very similar to HRT has NO homeless or vagrant problem at all.) HRT trains will NOT become rolling versions of River Street.
    Bob, there are anti-Rail arguments which are credible and deserve discussion. But using those NY DAILY NEWS photos to hint that “it could happen here” is “Donald Trump”-style, not the Bob Jones style we are used to and respect.

    1. Suggest you research how the homeless and crime have become major factors in BART’s declining ridership. As for HART’s contention that there will be security patrols, suggest you research that as well, it’s not a budget item.

  4. No more money for the rail will stop it’s building soon. The train could run to middle Street where buses will then move people to/from west Oahu. That said traffic will be light for a while without jobs and fear of virus. The homeless could get a ride but it could be emptied at each end but smart ones get off and on at different next to last stations. Not our biggest concern with economy.

  5. Form follows function. Holo card for boarding; for entry to separate disabled/senior seating section; station parking, station entry and bathroom entry. Train cars designed with no armrests but “ribbed” seat to discourage sleeping. No food or open drink containers or shopping carts/wagons allowed at station (inside and outside). Sealed trash bins. Food vendors on station lower/entry level; with no floor sleeping areas. Without food scraps, sleeping areas and Holo card tracking, trains and stations will be transit areas instead of “homes.” If there is a maintenance or cleaning shutdowns, 2-4am and running one train in each direction during that period, passengers must exit before train barn at Leeward CC.

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