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  • Emmanuel Bartolome

The Honolulu Traffic Crisis

Honolulu is currently experiencing issues of traffic congestion which has been a growing issue for local communities.


Honolulu was once a city without traffic, easy to traverse from and to however that Honolulu is long gone. In 2023, Honolulu is encumbered by various issues of transportation such as potholes, poor design, a lack of road signs and most concerningly congested streets.


“It’s really unfortunate that no one is really stepping up and proposing any solutions to this issue. And it’s even more unfortunate when you realize that things weren’t this way, like all my uncles and aunties used to tell me about how easy it was to go from town to home like 40 years ago.” Oahu resident

Across the nation, infrastructure is an issue a majority of Americans are concerned about. A Monmouth poll showed nearly 57 percent of Americans expressed concern towards infrastructure.


An Oahu resident stated, “It takes a long time for me to commute. Since I live out of town, towards the North Shore area it takes me about an hour and sometimes more to commute in the morning to Downtown. And when going back home after work like after six p.m. takes much longer like an hour and a half or sometimes two.”


INRIX, a firm analyzing traffic congestion and other infrastructure related issues, considered Honolulu the 58th most congested city in America and globally as the 439th.

The study noted that drivers on average lost at least 22 hours a year because of congestion. In past years, congestion statistics were worse. An INRIX document from 2015 noted the average commuter spent 49 hours in traffic compared to 2022’s 22 hours.


A Farrington High School student from class of 2026 revealed he did not experience traffic issues over the past two weeks.This was because he lived close to campus. “[It takes] about 10 minutes [to go to school].” He noted that while he rarely experiences traffic, he wastes nearly two hours a week in traffic.


This decline in traffic was the result of a change in tabulation methods rather than reforms to infrastructure. This is noted in a Hawaii Civil Beat article that interviewed Trevor Reed, an INRIX analyst noted that this change in statistics was due to increased compiling of new streets and data which have previously been left out of prior data sets.


When asked about what he feels about issues of traffic congestion, the Oahu resident noted that, “It’s really unfortunate that no one is really stepping up and proposing any solutions to this issue. And it’s even more unfortunate when you realize that things weren’t this way, like all my uncles and aunties used to tell me about how easy it was to go from town to home like 40 years ago.”


An article written by Marcel Honroe of Hawaii Civil Beat revealed congestion first began in 1881 with the intersection of King st. and Waialae. In this article, Jon Nouchi, Honolulu Deputy Director for Transportation Services noted freeways would often carve up neighborhoods and from the 50s to the 90s local engineers were largely focused on ensuring that roads can move as many people as possible rather than optimizing road layouts for the benefit of residents and businesses.


The Oahu resident, when asked if he could move into town stated, “[While] many people may think it's best for someone like me who lives out of town to move into town since it will reduce the time that I will need to go to work. Many people like me can’t, this is because we have families and houses that we simply cannot leave behind to just live closer to work.“


A Living in Hawaii article written by Peter Kay lists several reasons for why traffic in Honolulu is so bad. Kay notes that most jobs on Oahu are based in Honolulu which leads to most people living out of town being forced into long crowds of congestion during rush hours.



Kay notes that this issue is worsened by the fact that there are more than a million cars registered in the State of Hawaii, of which almost a million vehicles are registered on Oahu according to a Khon2 article discussing the number of vehicles on the island.


Kay also notes that issues of congestion are worsened by the limited space available on Oahu preventing new infrastructure projects and the fact that expanding already existing roads to become wider is impossible due to many structures being too close to the street.


The concerns and justification from Kay in regard to congestion are further explicated in the Honolulu Magazine article, How Did Traffic in Honolulu Get So Bad? written by Don Wallace and Ikaika Ramones. In the article, it is revealed that in the State of Hawaii there is an increasing discrepancy between the increase of registered cars to the increase in Hawaii’s population.


Over the last 30 years, Hawaii’s population grew 41 percent with car ownership surging 74.6 percent with the number of people driving alone increasing 72.2 percent. This issue is further worsened by the existence of tourists which often take private tour buses, shuttles and trolleys which are rarely at full capacity.





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