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Friday, August 4, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Driver Pamela Shon shows off the new trolley yesterday
on Koko Head Avenue in Kaimuki.

trolley offers lift to
isle businesses, tourists

The daily service which goes
through Kapahulu is expected
to boost the economy
and facilitate commuting

Changes afoot for TheBus

By Russ Lynch

BUSINESSES in Kaimuki and Kapahulu have high hopes for a boost from Honolulu's first community-to-community shuttle bus, a trolley service that began Tuesday linking the areas with Waikiki.

For $1 a ride, tourists can leave Waikiki and head for the antique shops and restaurants of Kapahulu or the local-style stores and the restaurants of Kaimuki, for a more local experience.

But the service is a plus for residents of the communities too, proponents say.

Called the Kaimuki-Kapahulu-Waikiki Trolley officially but known to those who helped create it simply as "the trolley," the service enables residents of Palolo, Kaimuki and Kapahulu to get to Waikiki easily, for work or just to enjoy the tourist resort without having to bother with driving and parking.

The trolley, which runs from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day with 11 stops along the way, is labeled by city officials as "Honolulu's first community circulator."

Kaimuki residents ordinarily must make two transfers, riding three different buses, to get to Waikiki, said Ginny Meade, the Kaimuki representative of the Greater East Oahu Community Alliance, or GEHCA, the community group that pushed for the new service.

The trolley's rules differ from TheBus system. Riders who get off the trolley along the way have to pay another dollar to get back on. Everyone pays a dollar, adults and children alike. And riders cannot get free transfers for TheBus.

There are two trolleys, with 19 seats but capable of carrying 40 passengers, including standees.

The trolley is on a one-year tryout, subsidized by $450,000 from the City & County of Honolulu. GEHCA also scored a $100,000 grant under a separate city community development program. That money will be used to market the project.

The city put the operation out to bid and Trans Hawaiian Services, a major bus company that already operates the community shuttle within Mililani, won the contract.

The trolley shuttle has two aims, Meade said. "It's basically to serve the residents of all these communities, but of course to make it viable it needs lots of ridership," she said.

That, the backers hope, will come from tourists staying in Waikiki who are persuaded to look for something different, something local, by riding the trolley to local neighborhoods.

"How often do you go to Waikiki? Most don't," said Meade, citing parking hassles and costs. If you do go, "you can't have a couple of cocktails and drive home," she said.

There is another plus for local residents who live in Waikiki, said Karen Ah Mai, who represents Waikiki in the GEHCA organization.

While the shuttle should help revitalize the economy in the Kaimuki and Kapahulu, she said, "Waikiki residents also need some help. They need a way to get back into local prices, rather than Waikiki prices," she said.

For example, residents need better access to large, competitive grocery stores and other services that are hard to find in Waikiki.

Meanwhile, the $100,000 marketing grant will also be used to train and hire docents who will ride the trolley and explain local history.

Dennis Iwanaga, the Kapahulu representative on GEHCA, said it will be a good way to get tourists to try new areas. "Both Kaimuki and Kapahulu have a lot of good restaurants," he said.

But they're also different, he said. For instance, Kaimuki has a number of coffee shops, good places to relax and meet people, while Kapahulu has a number of significant antique shops, as well as sporting goods stores, Iwanaga said.

"We love the idea, definitely," said Lane Muraoka, president and general manager of the Big City Diner at 3569 Waialae Ave. in Kaimuki. "We think it'll be great to bring people from Waikiki, whether they are residents or tourists," he said.

Councilman Duke Bainum, whose district is Waikiki/Kaimuki and who first proposed the idea in 1998, refused to take credit for what has been called "Duke's Trolley."

"It's truly a community project. That's the best, when the people tell you what they need" and they end up getting it, Bainum said.

Community representatives said they hope the service will become a community-owned operation after the one-year, city-subsidized test.

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