Monday, January 17, 2005


Leihua Hutchinson was ready to roll Thursday as a driver on Waikiki Trolley's "Pink Line," which ferries passengers, mostly visitors from Japan, back and forth between Waikiki and Ala Moana Center. Hutchinson drives several other routes for the company as well.

Trippin’ on
the trolley

Leihua Hutchinson gets
around as a driver for E Noa
Corp.'s Waikiki Trolley

Who: Dawn "Leihua" Hutchinson

Title: Trolley driver

Job: Drives trolleys for E Noa Corp.'s Waikiki Trolley throughout Oahu, providing information about points of interest along the way to the passengers, most of whom are tourists.

Leihua Hutchinson loves meeting new people, and her job as trolley driver for E Noa Corp.'s Waikiki Trolley lets her do just that. As one of more than a hundred drivers steering the company's more than 50 trolleys, Hutchinson drives scores of passengers around the Honolulu area, most of whom are from Japan. While navigating the streets for her riders, she points out and comments on the local sights -- and sometimes even sings. The Moanalua High School graduate, now 34, lives in Wahiawa with Alex Naihe and their two children.

Question: How long have you been driving for E Noa Tours?

Answer: In total about two years. I just came back from maternity leave.

Q: What did you have?

A: A boy -- another boy! (Laughter) I have two boys now.

Q: Do you have any girls?

A: No, unless you count my dog. (Laughter)

Q: What are your hours as a trolley driver?

A: My hours vary. I can start as early as 6 in the morning or maybe 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Q: Why does it vary?

A: Depending on what route you drive. Like this morning I had the airport shuttle. We pick up passengers from the hotels and take them to the airport, and sometimes we stand by at the airport to pick up arrivals and take them to Waikiki.

Trolley driver Leihua Hutchinson welcomed new passengers aboard Waikiki Trolley "Pink Line" at the company's Ala Moana Center stop on Thursday. Most of the passengers are tourists, but residents occasionally hop on board to experience the ride.

Q: What would be the other routes that you drive?

A: I drive what is called the Pink Line. That's an express that picks up passengers at different locations in Waikiki and takes them to Ala Moana Center. I also drive the Waikele route. It picks up people in different spots in Waikiki and I bring them all the way out to Waikele, to the Waikele factory outlets. And then I drive the Oli Oli route, which has stops all the way from Diamond Head to Aloha Tower.

Q: Is that for the public?

A: That one is a private charter.

Q: Are any of the routes public?

A: The Pink Line is public. The Waikele is public. There are other lines that are public, but I don't drive the other lines.

Q: What does it cost to ride the public ones?

A: The Pink Line is $2 per person one way. And the Waikele excursion is $22 round trip.

Q: That Waikele ride really is an excursion, isn't it?

A: Yeah, but it's kind of like a guided tour because we go on the highway instead of the freeway and we point out points of interest along the way.

Q: What's your favorite route to drive?

A: It's kind of hard to say. I don't have a "not favorite" route. It depends on my day, I guess. I kind of like them all. It gives you a change of scenery.

Q: What about the passengers? What kind of people are they mostly?

A: Mostly Japanese tourists, Japanese nationals. It's fun because I'm trying to learn their language and they're trying to learn mine, too. We're trained to say the safety briefing in both English and Japanese.

Q: Do you get many people just jumping on the trolley instead of TheBus?

A: If it's the Pink Line, I think we get a lot more people jumping on because they'd like to experience the trolley. Plus the rates are comparable to TheBus.

Q: What's the best thing you like about your job?

A: I love meeting different people. I love it. They say, "I'm from so and so. I'm from here or I'm from there."

I met this one daughter and mother from New York and the daughter wanted to do something special for her mother, so I was telling them about things to do. They really appreciated that, and they asked me, "Can we stay with you all day?" But I said they couldn't, my route ends here. But they were really nice.

Q: When you're driving, are you miked up?

A: Yes, I have my headset on me.

Q: Do you talk a lot to the passengers?

A: Oh, I do. Boy, do I. (Laughter)

Q: Any singing or anything like that?

A: Once in awhile I do. We do listen to the Hawaiian music on the trolleys, so out of habit you once in a while start to sing along. Once I got the whole trolley clapping, applauding my singing. So it's fun. Especially during Christmas. They dubbed me the "Christmas Diva," because I was doing all the Christmas charters.

Q: Who dubbed you that?

A: Everybody at work.

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