Kapolei express


POSTED: Sunday, October 04, 2009

Since March 2008, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has been using trust funds to pay for a shuttle service to bring employees to its new Kapolei office to keep valued workers.

The state doesn't charge employees for the 44-mile round trip, according to Lloyd Yonenaka, Hawaiian Homes information and community relations administrator.

“;When the department planned its move to Kapolei, employees were surveyed and many were concerned about the distance and the lack of convenient bus routes,”; Yonenaka said. “;We have great employees and we didn't want to lose them.”;

Every morning, about 20 Hawaiian Homes workers pile into a 12-passenger van, a mini-van and a car for the 40-minute trip from downtown to Kapolei. Employees do the driving and the vans belong to the department, Yonenaka said.

Although the workers start every morning by riding a state van to work, their working day doesn't start until they are in the Hawaiian Homes office in Kapolei, according to Yonenaka.

The 12-passenger van was purchased for $28,000 and the Dodge minivan was bought used from the federal government for $4,500, Yonenaka said. The vans are kept in the state Transportation Department garage in Honolulu for security at night and are used all day for trips from Kapolei to Honolulu and to Hawaiian Homes projects.

Hawaiian Homes used its trust funds for the shuttle service and doesn't draw money from the state treasury, Yonenaka said.

The vehicles are used during the days, so Yonenaka said he couldn't break out the specific operating costs, such as gasoline, for the shuttle service, noting that the drivers are already DHHL employees.

Before the new building in east Kapolei, Hawaiian Homes' 120 employees worked out of leased office space at Alii Place at 1099 Alakea St. But Micah Kane, the then-chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, wanted to move the agency to Kapolei, where the department has both development and housing projects.

“;When we built our own building, there was literally nothing around and there was an issue of how do we get to work,”; Yonenaka said.

He added that many workers were already using public transportation to get to work downtown.

“;We can't walk to do any business as we used to in town,”; Yonenaka said.

While many workers have to use either their own or state vehicles for trips during the day, Yonenaka said there are some workers, mostly clerical staff, who remain in the office all day and are able to use the shuttle service.

Asked if the public would view the free daily 44-mile trips as pampering state workers, Yonenaka said the department was “;addressing a very real problem.”;

“;We realized that not everyone was comfortable with going to Kapolei,”; he said. “;They are great employees and this also keeps fewer cars on the road.”;

Also, the program is not permanent, he said. Once Kapolei's North-South Road is finished, it is expected that there will be more bus routes.

“;The shuttle is a temporary situation and will change as the place becomes more populated, secure and public transportation becomes more available,”; Yonenaka said.

“;Our timeline for the shuttle will be based on ongoing development and available public transportation in the area,”; he added.