Bus route restoration good for some; not so much for others

Published On: Mar 25 2013 06:29:00 PM HST

After nearly eight months, Clients of The Arc in Hawaii resumed its routine Monday of catching city bus No. 14 at a bus stop on Kahala Avenue. The nonprofit group helps people with mental disabilities, and taking excursions two to three times a week is part of the effort.

"When you suddenly are able to see the world on your own terms, that's different from the Handivan," said Arc in Hawaii Director of Development Becky Tyksinski. "Being able to go around and explore your world is a big deal."

But when the city scaled back Route 14 last August, Arc in Hawaii was forced to cut its expeditions to Kahala Mall or the beach to only one day per week, even though another bus, Route 22, was still available.  

"The 22 was too crowded," said Jessica Palakiko, an instructor at Arc in Hawaii. "We usually caught it on a Monday or Thursday. The 14, now we can catch it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday."

As part of Mayor Kirk Caldwell's plan to bring back bus service that was lost under former Mayor Peter Carlisle, the No. 14 bus was partially restored on March 23. Service to St. Louis and Maunalani Heights was increased to every 40 minutes during peak hours, while weekday and weekend off-peak service added areas around Diamond Head.

"It's good to hear that the Arc community is once again able to use Route 14 as a result of Mayor Caldwell's bus restoration plan," Transportation Services Director Michael Formby said in a statement to KITV4. 

However, the frequency of buses along the popular route continues to be an issue with some riders. Barbra Armentrout of St. Louis Heights says people in her neighborhood are still having a difficult time getting back home when they visit the Kahala Mall area.

"They've made the last bus going up to St. Louis Heights earlier," Armentrout told KITV4. "It used to go up at ten till 10, (and) these people aren't going to be able to get up the hill. These are the things that got to be adjusted still."   

Caldwell had proposed raising the city's gasoline tax by a nickel to 21.5 cents per gallon in order to fund the restoration of bus routes and the repaving of roads. Although the mayor's proposal was shot down last week in a 6-3 vote, members of the City Council remain committed to reestablishing bus routes in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"I think it's been a good start to replace some of the routes and frequencies, but we still have a long way to go," said Councilman Breene Harimoto, chairman of the Transportation Committee.

 "The Caldwell Administration worked to balance Route 14 commuters' preference for more frequent service with mid-day riders who prefer the longer route around Diamond Head," said Formby.  "We will continue to listen to riders on Route 14 as well as the other routes improved in Mayor Caldwell's bus restoration plan and make further adjustments as necessary over the coming months to make best use of taxpayer dollars."

Another six city bus routes are scheduled to be restored, or partially restored in May. Harimoto said the Council will continue to examine the situation as the city budget makes its way through the Transportation Committee.


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