Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Maui subsidized bus
plan could be out of gas

Supporters say that the system
was not properly advertised

WAILUKU >> Maui County might end its two-year experiment with a subsidized bus system interconnecting West, South and Central Maui effective July 1.

Akina Bus Service Ltd., a major private partner with the county, said it needs $1.5 million annually in subsidies, and the County Council has provided only $500,000 yearly.

"It just didn't happen and that's unfortunate," said Akina General Manager Dennis Levine. "We cannot afford to be on a losing path."

Levine said without the $1.5 million subsidy, Akina Bus Service plans to cancel all scheduled Holo Ka'a routes, except its Lahaina-Kaanapali hourly service.

Levine said the cost of insurance alone has increased by 300 percent in the past three years, and the Akina family has lost more than $1 million in providing the service in the last two years.

Round-trip bus fares range from $2 for Kaanapali-Lahaina to $10 for Kaanapali-Kahului.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said his administration is in favor of a transit system, and the county has to look ahead as Maui grows in population.

"It's going to be critical that we do have a public transportation system," he said.

He said unless the Council agrees to pass a supplemental budget fully funding the bus system's request, he is probably not going to release the $500,000.

"We don't want to do a half-baked job in pursuing the creation of a transit system," he said. "In all probability, we're going to let it expire."

Arakawa said the Council also failed to provide funds to build bus stops and advertise the bus service.

He said he was also disappointed that the Council did not fund new positions for two transportation engineers and an administrative-support person for the new county Department of Transportation.

Arakawa said the positions were needed to draw up design plans that could be used for seeking federal transportation funding.

The county-subsidized system started in August 2002 under former Mayor James "Kimo" Apana's administration.

The system joined the scheduled bus routes of Akina Bus Service Ltd.'s Holo Ka'a system serving West and South Maui and Maui Economic Opportunity Inc.'s shuttle service in Kahului-Wailuku.

Levine said passenger numbers have been low -- about a fourth of the anticipated customers on some routes.

The Kihei-Wailea route has about 40 passengers daily, and the Maalaea-Wailuku route, 33 passengers, he said.

Levine said passenger numbers in the Kihei-Wailea route recently increased 22 percent after the service was promoted through county advertising.

County Councilman Michael Molina said Budget Committee members felt the bus system had low passenger numbers and until recently was not being promoted or advertised.

Molina said the Council provided $150,000 to fund a study that would include a look at a bus system.

The study is scheduled to be completed by December.

County of Maui


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