Consider the Cost of Commuting When Buying a Home in Honolulu

With O‘ahu’s roadways gridlocked, consider commute time when buying a home.

HONOLULU Magazine’s latest cover story and a new national report confirms what locals here already know: Traffic in Honolulu sucks.


When buying a home, it’s more important than ever to consider the time and costs involved in commuting to and from your workplace or school.


According to the Urban Mobility Scorecard released this week, motorists in Honolulu spend an average of 50 hours in gridlock every year.


That ranks Honolulu as the nation’s No. 1 congested city of its size, according to the report by Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the traffic monitoring firm INRIX.


Honolulu was followed by Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn. (49 hours), Baton Rouge, Louisiana (47), Tucson, Arizona (47) and Hartford, Connecticut (45) in the medium-city category, which was defined as an urban population of 500,000 to 1 million.


The report also found motorists in Honolulu waste an average of 26 gallons of fuel a year because of traffic.


Despite the bumper-to-bumper lifestyle, O‘ahu’s population is growing out west, where sugar cane fields have transformed into strip malls and new neighborhoods.


With O‘ahu’s median single-family home price rising to about $700,000, many local families are heading west for a more affordable, larger or newer home. But that also can mean spending almost two hours a day on the H-1 Freeway, in addition to the additional costs of fuel and car maintenance.


On the ‘Ewa Plain, where homes are generally newer, the median price was $578,500 for the first seven months of the year, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. That compares to neighborhoods closer to town that are almost double. Some other neighborhoods below the $700,000 median are: Pearl City-‘Aiea ($645,000), Wahiawā ($502,500), Waipahu ($596,000), Mililani ($688,000) and Makakilo ($625,000).


Here are some tips to consider for homebuyers who are weighing price versus traffic:

  • Determine your commute tolerance with some real testing. Drive between the neighborhoods in consideration and your workplace during morning and afternoon rush hours to see how long it takes on average.

  • Consider a neighborhood near a future rail station. The rail is still several years and billions of dollars away from completion, but when it’s finally up and running, it may be an attractive option for getting to work or school.

  • Figure out how much living space you really need. Maybe something smaller that’s closer to town would work.

  • Talk to your employers. Will they allow you to work from home one day of the week? Will they allow you to start your workday later, such as 9:30 a.m., to avoid the bulk of the traffic?

  • Seek carpooling options with friends, family or co-workers. Taking the Zipper Lane may save you time and money.

  • Consider TheBus. Besides saving the costs and stress of driving, it will save on pricey downtown parking, too.


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