HONOLULU (KHON2) — Skyline was officially opened to the public on Friday, June 30 with no shortage of excited riders over at the Halawa station.
Fanfare and optimism at Skyline opening ceremony
There was a lot of fanfare to celebrate the historic occasion before opening Skyline to the public. Officials said the day marks a big step in moving the troubled project in the right direction.
The grand opening ceremony was held at Skyline’s Halawa Station with dignitaries touting the momentous occasion.
“Today you cannot overstate the word historic, you cannot overstate the word iconic, and you cannot overstate the word transformative,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
“This has been really challenging, challenges remain ahead, but what an extraordinary milestone, we finally have a rail system that is operational,” said United States Sen. Brian Schatz.
Guests were then invited to ride the train. Among them, is the former CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Andrew Robbins.
“To get to this point today, it’s just tremendous, I’m very excited. We always said we wanted to see people on board and today’s the day, it’s fantastic,” said Robbins.
Getting to this day is also considered a turning point.
“The federal government is, I think, feeling increasingly confident that this project is on the right track again,” said Schatz. “We have a long way to go, but we are in better shape than we’ve been in a very very long time.”
The current CEO of HART Lori Kahikina saw the day as a momentum builder as she now works toward building the next phase, from Halawa to Middle Street.
“Other CEOs across the country told me ‘just wait, you’re going through pain right now but once you open once they get on and see how spectacular it is, they’re going to start clamoring for you to hurry up and do more segments,'” said Kahikina.
She said the next phase should be done in two years.
Public reaction at the Halawa Station
It continues to be a busy day here at the Halawa Station. The much-anticipated opening of Skyline has attracted people from near and far.
Many people on the historic day were on the platform waiting with KHON2.com for the next train to arrive.
Station operators on site directed the crowds and handling the boarding and departing of passengers.
People were so excited to check out Skyline that the lines started forming outside from around noon.
“This has been 30 years in the waiting so I’m super-duper excited about it,” said Skyline rider Rommel Marcelino. “And the fact that I just learned the reason why it’s ‘Skyline’ is because it’s a birds-eye view and the rail is not on the ground so everything is on stilts — can’t wait.”
“It was bumpy but fun,” said Keenan, another rider.
“Usually takes me 45 minutes to bike here from Kapolei but I got here on the train half the time,” said Kapolei resident Douglas Brown.
“We live in Kaneohe so we drive through and see it being run every day — getting all excited to ride the rail,” said Kaneohe resident Dean Mishima.
“A lot of excitement downstairs, the line is so long but people are so mellow a lot of patience but a lot of people are really excited to ride this rail,” added Mishima.
By around 3 p.m., the city said the parking lot at the Halawa Station is full. Aloha Stadium will be providing parking over the weekend but you’ll have to pay the swap meet admission fees.
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Free rides continue through Tuesday but you will need a HOLO card starting tomorrow.
Public reaction at the Kualakai Station
One of the best places to be to see the Skyline is at Kualakai East Kapolei where it’s either the last or first stop depending on what way you’re headed.
Since opening up, every train KHON2.com has seen come and go has been packed full of people, the vast majority local residents many of whom live in this area.
Skyline rider Larry Santos said “My son lives across the street and my grandson who’s here also, his bedroom faces the rail and we saw from day one being built and built and I said whenever it’s built we’ll go and ride it. Fortunately, we’re here.”
“I feel sorry for those that have to drive every day. Going and coming it’s horrendous,” said another rider, Sherrie Alcos. “I’m glad my money went into it but now I’m retired so the next generation will be filling it up.”
The Kualakai Station does not have a park and ride so this is ripe for people to take the bus and or bike.
Folks KHON2.com spoke with said that the west Oahu stop east of the Kualakai Station has lines around the corner that station has park and ride.
Public reaction at the Kalauao Station
Over at the Pearlridge Station, cheers could be heard loud and clear and riders got free HOLO cards from staff after the gates opened.
“Oh, yeah. I could hardly sleep! In fact, we were talking about it two or three weeks ago and today what we did was in preparation, she came here at 10,” said Pearl City resident Adrian Lau. “I bought a folding bike in anticipation of the rail and it’s been, 2014 I think that I bought the bike and, well, we’re lucky to be still alive and get to experience the grand opening.”
“Hey, being here today, I mean it’s like just about like the Super Bowl, man. I mean, like, we waited so long,” Downtown resident Keola Akana who came to the station with his wife Evan.
“This is where commerce is the main station of Hawaii. So, we need to progress and have something for the state, because this is where all the tourists come,” Keola said.
Three friends Beverly, Omi and Cecilia are Waipahu residents who road the rail together.
“Swap meet, we’re going to go swap meet now,” Beverly said after being asked about how the Skyline will change her life.
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“But otherwise, we’re still going to drive because otherwise there’s no parking,” Beverly said. “I think it will make it much, much better, then that way we can park and ride! Just like we don’t have to catch the bus, walk like miles.”