Many isle motorists going solo
A study shows that while carpooling remains high, more people drive alone
Every work day, Eddie Garcia and his wife commute in their car together from the Ala Moana area to downtown Honolulu.
"We work around the same time and place," Garcia said. "It's convenient."
If his wife needs their sole car, Garcia sometimes walks home.
Despite people like the Garcias, there's a reason traffic in Honolulu is getting worse.
A new Census Bureau study shows a growing number of people are leaving carpools and buses and driving solo to work.
The Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates 67 percent of Oahu commuters drove alone to work in 2005, up from 61.4 percent in 2000 -- an increase of 20,344 cars.
It's part of a national trend, according to the census and transportation experts.
Even rising gas prices aren't moving many people out of their cars, said Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii at Manoa engineering professor.
"People want to maintain their mobility and just don't give up their cars," he said.
Honolulu is still among the cities with the lowest number of solo drivers and the highest number of carpoolers, mass transit users and walkers.
The census study shows urban Honolulu, the area between Hawaii Kai and Red Hill, has the fourth highest number of people who carpool among the 50 biggest cities in the country. Honolulu also ranked sixth in the number of people who walk to work, ninth in bicycle commuters and 15th in public transportation use, just below Los Angeles.
Kalihi resident Elsa Siapno, an immigrant from the Philippines, rides the bus to work. "I like the bus very, very much," she said, although if she could afford it, Siapno said, she'd consider buying a car.
"Nobody else lives by me and the bus is slow," said Lori Voorhees, a solo commuter from Hawaii Kai. "I've tried the bus and I was late for work."
City spokesman Bill Brennan said if nothing is done to give commuters an alternative to driving, traffic and commute times will continue to worsen. The bus, he said, sits in traffic and is not meant to take people out of cars.
But Prevedouros, an opponent of rail transit, said changing lifestyles are driving people to cars and away from mass transit.
Prevedouros believes that traffic is bad because there are not enough freeway lanes in Honolulu.
Brennan points to statistics from the American Public Transportation Association that show mass transit ridership has outpaced population and the growth in highways since 1995.
Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the state is looking at ways to increase carpooling and reduce the need to drive into town from West Oahu to lessen the commute.
Ishikawa said the state is studying adding an afternoon zipper lane and the development of the new North-South road in Kapolei that will hopefully spur the development of UH-West Oahu and reduce the number of students who drive to UH-Manoa.
Another alternative to commuting is working at home -- which is on the increase, according to the census study.
"Telecommuting one day a week, working at home, cuts down demand on roads significantly," Prevedouros said. "It doesn't cost anything and immediately saves money."