CityExpress buses, which started running this
month, have many of the same features as a
light-rail system, a city official said.
Riders and drivers alike appreciateBy Rod Ohira
the new CityExpress service
An excited Stephan Koopman checked his watch as a city bus made its ninth stop on an express run from Kalihi to Sinclair Circle at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
"This is great, excellent!" Koopman said. "We left the Kalihi (Transit Center) 20 minutes ago in rush-hour traffic, and now we're at Ala Moana Center.
"Normally, it would take 45 minutes to an hour for me to get home on the bus. This is cutting my commute time in half."
Koopman, a Kaimuki resident who works at an auto body repair shop in Mapunapuna, was raving about a new public transportation service called CityExpress which started March 8.
Nine buses displaying special CityExpress logos are making 84 round trips every day, except Sunday, from 5:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
There are only 12 stops each way on the Phase One route from the Kalihi Transit Center on Middle Street to Sinclair Circle on University Avenue.
The waiting time for a CityExpress bus is about 10 minutes.
City Transportation Services Director Cheryl Soon said there were 1,700 riders the first day and 2,400 three days later. The number increased to 2,700 on the eighth day of service.
The feedback from riders has been positive, she added.
"You're looking at a saving of 30 percent in time," Soon said. "A lot of people have to drive to work, but everybody also has trips during the day.
So what we're saying is, if you have to go somewhere in town, like a dentist appointment, check us out.
"CityExpress should be a consideration for anyone who has to look around and pay for parking."
The current route is part of a two-phase, $3.2 million project.
Phase Two will be implemented Sept. 6 and feature six stops between the Kalihi Transit Center and Pearl City.
"Phase One is a new route that combines the highest ridership of three routes: Kalihi to Hawaii Kai (Route 1), King Street (Route 2) and Vineyard Boulevard to Waikiki (Route 3)," Soon said.
"CityExpress is a consideration for a light-rail system since it has many of the same characteristics. We're demonstrating many of the important features of light rail to see how we react and how the people react to it."
CityExpress is touting "frequent service, fewer stops and simply faster," says Soon.
For some regular bus riders, CityExpress is ideal.
"I do a lot of movement from (UH) to downtown, and this is just perfect for me," said John Craven, an oceanography professor emeritus at the university.
"The biggest uncertainty is sitting 15 to 20 minutes waiting for a bus, but with CityExpress you don't wait long. There's always another one coming along."
There's an "A" on bus route designations to distinguish CityExpress service.
The stops between Middle Street and Sinclair Circle, along King Street, are at Gulick Avenue, Kalihi Street, Kokea Street, Liliha and Dillingham, Maunakea Street, Richards Street and Punchbowl Street.
Proceeding to Kapiolani Boulevard, the CityExpress stops at Ala Moana Center before Keeaumoku Street, the Hawaii Convention Center before Atkinson Drive and at Isenberg Street.
After turning left onto University Avenue, CityExpress stops only at the Puck's Alley bus stop and Sinclair Circle.
"It's a good concept, and I wish we could also use it on different routes," said Russell Tyler, a city bus driver for 25 years. "So far, people like it."
Tyler, who is one of 21 CityExpress drivers, said he makes six round trips a day, each taking 90 minutes.
"I really think it saves some people more than 20 minutes," Tyler said. "As soon as more people hear about the faster route, we'll be carrying more than seating loads.
"Right now, I'm picking up a lot (of riders) at UH and people coming out of Waikiki at Ala Moana."
Most stops on the return route are on the opposite side of the street until CityExpress turns from Kapiolani Boulevard onto Alapai Street and then to Beretania Street.
The first Ewa-bound stop on Beretania is at Punchbowl Street. Other stops are at Pali Highway near Bishop Street and at River Street.
The remaining five stops from the Liliha Street/Dillingham Boulevard stop back to Kalihi are in the same locations but on opposite sides of the street.
Transportation Services, which began planning the project nine months ago, is considering allowing CityExpress to use a bus-activated traffic signal priority system that would allow drivers to travel through congested areas more efficiently, Soon said.
The adult price for CityExpress, as well as normal service, is $1 for a single ride and $25 for a monthly pass. Riders can also transfer to and from CityExpress buses.
Forty thousand residents who live along the Phase One route were mailed notices about CityExpress, Soon said. During the first two weeks of service, bus personnel were at CityExpress stops notifying riders of the new service.