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Mass Transit and Maui

July 15, 2013 - Ray Tsuchiyama

On my return home to Kihei recently I boarded the new double-decker bus from Kahului’s busy Queen Ka’ahumanu central bus terminal. Zipping southward on the Mokulele highway, the new double-decker buses have clear views of the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala and the waving sea of green cane stalks – and I wondered why there weren’t such buses before and even buses without roofs, so passengers can have trade winds in their hair (if they didn’t like it, they can stay in the lower closed level).

Bus riders range in age from teen-agers to senior citizens. If the fares were slightly lower, I would bet more would take the bus, as a $4 round-trip fare is about a gallon of Costco gas, so drivers won’t leave their precious cars at home unless the fare is slightly lower and gas price is higher per gallon – I would have occasional “bus pass” sales or “free days” to attract more first-time bus riders (or even Bus Mileage program -- 200 1-way trips equals a Gift Certificate or a drawing for a flight to Las Vegas (you get the idea). Employers can be made aware of possible high discounts for 10 or more bus passes if bought in a group.

This is purely conjecture and guess on my route only: commuters are the main ridership on the bus: two-thirds riding Kihei-Wailuku/Kahului (to work at the County, State, hospitals, malls), about a third going the other way (to Kihei mall and Wailea hotel jobs, then returning to Kahului in the evening).

I counted no tourists, confirming that Maui, unlike Oahu, has a much higher number of tourists who rent cars to drive to touristy sites (plus condo-renters invariably need cars to make runs to Foodland and Longs). Tourists who stay at a Waikiki hotel for three-four nights and just wander to Waikiki Beach never rent cars.

During the longer summer evenings now I count increased numbers of people walking along Kihei Road (Fred’s Mexican Restaurant gets many drop-in diners who become too tired to walk in search of food) exploring a restaurant or just to get out of the condo and get some exercise with the children. If there were short-haul Wailea – Maaleaa shuttles all day, into the evening, I would bet tourists/condo renters would hop on board to the various Malls (Safeway/Foodland/Times/Longs), eat at a restaurant further out in Kihei or even Maalaea, then buy a bag of groceries, and return home – reducing car and gasoline use. I bet there would be up-tick in visitors to the Maalaea Aquarium and various restaurants, like Buzz’s Wharf.

(If the shuttles could somehow allow dogs and bicycles aboard, that would also benefit tourists/condo renters, too.)

Since the demise of the small Maui passenger train infrastructure (my father boarded a train at the Kahului Terminal through waving sugar cane fields to Maui High School in Hamakuapoko, past Spreckelsville and Pai'a – what a romantic and efficient way to travel – before the Pacific War), Maui bus service has been the sole replacement for Maui mass transit.

Somehow, there has to be a synchronized Commuter-Condo-Hotel-Mall ridership mapping, so that the bus system can be a key element in the commuter and visitor eco-systems. Easy and efficient bus service is also a key for more international visitors, especially older tourists, who can visit scenic places in a systematic way without renting cars (since this means a higher English-language ability).

So I applaud the new beautiful buses – hopefully, this will attract tourists to ride, as well – and I hope this step is the beginning of very exciting new phase for Maui’s commuters.


Article Comments



Jul-20-13 8:57 PM

Ray...about the dogs deal, unless they are "special services" (e.g. seeing-eye dog) then the exception will be made, considered it is a law (feds or state), but as for transporting pets on a daily outing, no, only for safety purposes plus who's gonna clean up the doots the dog leaves behind???

I work for Hele-On Transit here on the Big Island and we do not allow dogs, cats or any kinds of animals, with the only seeing-eye dog exception.

Most buses do have bike racks mounted on the front bumper of the buses which hold a maximum of 2 bikes.

I'm glad Maui followed suit in acquiring those Alexander-Dennis Enviro 500 DD's (Double Deckers), for peak ridership, it works out...pretty much the same as Hele-On Transit as we have one single unit #701

Aloha! :)


Jul-16-13 2:05 AM

Hey Ray, just FYI, the buses do allow bikes - most of them have racks on the front to carry them, Rob Collias


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