Council hesitant to extend TheBoat
As city transportation officials pushed yesterday for follow-on funding for a commuter ferry system, several City Council members questioned whether it is worth $4 million to continue the service from Kalaeloa.
City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka said ridership on TheBoat, a city pilot project, has increased to about 300 passengers a day since crews fixed an ongoing engine problem on one of the two ferries.
"It's very positive right now," Yoshioka said in a recent interview. "If we can get a little above of what we're getting at right now (in ridership), we'd be very satisfied."
The administration hopes to decide by August whether to extend the project beyond one year, which will cost about $4 million, Yoshioka said.
"We'll evaluate what the ridership is projected to be, and we'll make a decision whether that's enough to justify moving forward," he told the City Council's budget committee yesterday.
But several members of the Council were skeptical about approving the money without knowing TheBoat's impact on alleviating traffic.
"If we're merely shifting bus riders onto TheBoat, I'm not sure this is a wise expenditure," said Councilman Charles Djou.
Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall was also concerned that if the $4 million is approved in June, the Council would have no control later if the city extends the service.
Council Budget Chairman Todd Apo said he supports extending TheBoat's service for another year to better gauge ridership numbers.
"The operation problems we had in the beginning were terrible, and we need time to recover," said Apo.
In an effort to boost ridership, the administration is considering changing TheBoat's schedule. A 6 a.m. departure from Kalaeloa might be moved to 6:30 or 6:45 a.m. The 5:30 and 8 a.m. rides would stay the same.
The afternoon schedule, departing from Aloha Tower, could change to 4, 5 and 6 p.m. versus the current 4:20, 5:20 and 6:50 p.m. times.
That would accommodate Kapolei resident Melanie Brooks, who gave up her car to ride TheBoat and saves about $60 in gas every week.
"I have to wait 45 minutes after getting off work to catch it," said Brooks, who takes the 4:20 p.m. boat every day.
Several passengers said yesterday they would like it to become a permanent service, but noted that many riders are tourists and not commuters.
The service began in September funded by a $5 million federal grant for the two ferries, which can carry 149 passengers each.
The city is also looking into applying for more federal money and adding another stop at Iroquois Point in Ewa Beach.