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Friday, August 23, 2002



Joint venture to
start Maui bus service

A blessing for the new system
will be held today at Maui Mall


By Rosemarie Bernardo
rbernardo@starbulletin.com

Thanks to county officials and two local companies, the Valley Isle will get a bus system to serve South, Central and West Maui.

"This has been a dream of Maui County," said Mayor James "Kimo" Apana.

A blessing for the new bus transit service, called "Holo Ka'a" (Come Take a Ride), is to be held at Maui Mall at 3 p.m. today. Officials from Maui Economic Opportunity Inc., Akina Aloha Tours Inc. and Apana are expected to attend the blessing. The transit system is expected to kick off Monday morning.

"The reason we can do this (is because) we married the private sector, the private nonprofit sector and the county," Apana said.

A total of $100,000 in county funds helped pay for the mass transit system to help alleviate traffic on the Valley Isle.

In the one-year pilot project, Akina Aloha Tours, whose bus routes cover South and West Maui, and Maui Economic Opportunity, which services Kahului and Wailuku, will team up to move passengers between South, Central and West Maui.

Dennis Levine, general manager for Akina Aloha Tours, said: "We have a great working relationship. We both have the same goal in mind: to provide Maui a wide transportation system."

According to Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez, of Maui Economic Opportunity, service to Central Maui will include Kahului and Wailuku. In West Maui the transit system will extend to Kaanapali, and in South Maui the service will extend to Kihei and Wailea. A maximum 20-minute wait period is expected between buses.

Apana said Maui County will also receive $1.5 million in federal funds to expand the bus system to Upcountry Maui and to purchase more buses.

Akina Aloha Tours, a 74-year family-owned business, will charge between $1 and $5 for a one-way ride based on the destination. Daily and monthly passes will also be available. Akina will use six mid- to large-size buses on its routes.

For the past year, Akina Aloha Tours has provided public transit in South and West Maui for about 2,000 passengers daily.

Maui Economic Opportunity Inc.'s system uses four or five 25-seat buses. There is no charge to ride its buses, but donations will be accepted.

This is Akina's third attempt in starting a public bus system. Previous attempts ended because of low ridership and no support from county and local businesses, said Sandy Akina, owner of Akina Aloha Tours.

Gladys Baisa, executive director of Maui Economic Opportunity, said: "This is a very, very (big) milestone in Maui's history. People have been wanting to see this for a long time."


Hop aboard

Hours: Monday to Saturday from 6:05 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Information: Call Maui Economic Opportunity at 877-7651 or Akina Aloha Tours at 879-2828
Internet: Bus schedules are set to be posted at www.meoinc.org, www.akinatours.com and www.co.maui.hi.us.




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