JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Rachel Marie sat at Pier 9 yesterday during a news conference for TheBoat, an intraisland commuter ferry service that will connect downtown Honolulu with Kalaeloa.
TheBoat ready for riders
Oahu's new intraisland ferry readies for launch from Pier 9 downtown to Kalaeloa on Sept. 17
Honolulu's ferry service, dubbed TheBoat, will weigh anchor on Sept. 17, city officials announced yesterday.
The one-year pilot project will take passengers from Barbers Point in Kalaeloa to Pier 9 at Aloha Tower Marketplace in an attempt to reduce traffic between West Oahu and downtown Honolulu. It is intended to connect with TheBus system on both ends of the intraisland voyage.
"We have a culture that is very dependent on their vehicles," Mayor Mufi Hannemann told reporters yesterday at Pier 9. "We want to give them another choice. Use TheBus, TheBoat and TheBus as opposed to feeling you have to bring in your car."
The project, funded by $5 million in federal money, is beginning more than a year behind schedule. It was delayed once when no one bid for the contract and again when the federal government raised concerns about ridership and parking at the Kalaeloa terminal.
To address parking concerns, the city is providing 19 parking stalls at Kalaeloa with plans for more. However, the integrated bus and ferry system is meant to encourage riders to leave their cars at home, Hannemann said.
"We want to get people away from their cars," he said. "We didn't want to wait until we build a parking facility. ... People want options and they want choices now."
Two 72-foot aluminum catamaran-style boats, Rachel Marie and Melissa Ann, can carry up to 149 passengers each. They arrived by barge this summer from Seattle.
The city contracted Hornblower Marine Services to provide the service and run the vessels five days a week, Monday through Friday, including holidays.
Hannemann said the service could remove about 400 cars from the road each day. He hopes to expand the ferry service and is working with the military to open a terminal at Iroquois Point.
Unlike problems plaguing the Hawaii Superferry's start, the city's ferry service uses pre-existing facilities and a route that a previous ferry service used in 1999, so an environmental study is not needed, city officials said. That project shut down because of a lack of ridership. It did not coordinate with the bus system, either, which officials say has been changed with TheBoat.
"If you're familiar with TheBus, we're saying you're going to love TheBoat," Hannemann said.
To bring riders to the ferry terminals, the city created five bus routes that have been designated "F" -- three in West Oahu and two in Honolulu. Riders can catch shuttles from Waianae, Makakilo and Kapolei to the Kalaeloa terminal and then catch a shuttle from the Honolulu terminal to their workplaces in downtown, Waikiki and Manoa.
The one-hour ferry ride costs $2, including two bus transfers. The city will offer continental breakfast and afternoon snacks for purchase on TheBoat. Officials are also working to provide free Internet access, said Melvin Kaku, director of the Department of Transportation Services.
He expects to see a lot of downtown employees and hotel workers from Waikiki using the ferry service.
An open house will be held on the boat at Pier 9 on Sept. 16. Visit trytheboat.com online for more information.