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Riders lament loss as city cuts TheBoat


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POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eric Palmer found it peaceful to see whales, flying fish and turtles on his way to work aboard the TheBoat.

“;It's more of an adventure,”; he said of the city ferry service between Leeward Oahu and downtown Honolulu. “;It's fun to watch the tourists.”;

More then two dozen riders embarked on TheBoat yesterday at Aloha Tower for the early afternoon departure. Many took a seat on the sunny top deck with a scenic view.

No one was without a seat, a clue to why Leeward commuters and tourists who have relied on the ferry service will have to find another means of getting to and from downtown.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced yesterday that the commuter ferry service will be stopped at the end of June.

Hannemann did not rule out the possibility of a ferry service returning.

“;The city has gained invaluable hands-on experience with ferry operations for the next go-around,”; Hannemann said in a news release.

“;I have not ruled out a return of TheBoat in the future,”; he added. “;Should an Ewa terminus become available, which would open a new market and cut commuting time, we'll be ready to act promptly to resume the service.”;

Several riders sighed in reaction to the loss of another travel alternative.

“;It's sad,”; said Kapolei resident Charlene Kelesoma, who rides TheBoat to her job in Honolulu. She loves the boat, but said some people suffered seasickness and didn't return. “;It's a good way to travel, but it's not for everybody.”;

Cancellation of the service comes a month after the City Council deleted funding for TheBoat in the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Four Council members advocated removing the city's funding for the service and TheBoat's $5 million subsidy was among the first cuts.

“;TheBoat was a good experiment but simply too expensive for taxpayers,”; said Councilman Charles Djou, one of the four members who proposed ending the project.

In his state of the city speech this year, Hannemann said he asked his transportation director to complete a feasibility study on the ferry by the end of April.

According to the city, TheBoat has carried about 110,000 passengers since it began service in September 2007, averaging about 270 riders per day.

Service was launched as a one-year pilot project with the help of a $5 million federal grant. The city spent $1 million to create connecting bus shuttles to and from the piers at Kalaeloa Harbor and Aloha Tower.

Engine troubles on the two catamarans, the Rachel Marie and the Melissa Ann, led to frequent dry docking of the vessels and, in turn, low ridership in the early months of operation.

 

Star-Bulletin reporter Rob Shikina contributed to this report.