Former Mayor Jeremy Harris smiled in October as a hybrid bus went on a demonstration run. Current Mayor Mufi Hannemann has criticized the Harris administration for rushing the purchase of the buses.

Hybrid buses shift
to different routes

Hannemann wants to use the vehicles
on popular routes, not Bus Rapid Transit

The new hybrid gas/electric city buses are going country.

All the way to Waipahu, that is.

The 10 buses, each costing $750,000 apiece, have barely carried an average of 5,000 daily passengers on their current city route between Waikiki and Iwilei, just Ewa of Chinatown, in the past two months.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced the route change yesterday, with a couple of other surprises. It has cost $2 million to operate them since Nov. 18.

And the slick new buses have a difficult time going up hill.

"Therefore, it would limit it going over to the windward side, and this is something that I'm deeply chagrined about -- that they didn't check this out before they bought these buses," Hannemann said. "They're new buses. They're supposed to be environmentally friendly, and I buy all of that. But at the same time, we're also limited in terms of where they can go."

So beginning Tuesday, the 10 hybrid buses will be redirected to Route A, which connects Waipahu and the University of Hawaii. The Department of Transportation Services and Oahu Transit Services, the private operator of TheBus, recommended Route A.

"The only thing I said to them is, I want the buses to go out as far as it can into the countryside. So it could've gone into the Windward side, the Leeward side," Hannemann said. "They picked this (route) because it is a very popular route. It's heavy used."

The buses were originally slated to run on the controversial Bus Rapid Transit line favored by former Mayor Jeremy Harris. But that route never got off the ground. Instead, the new buses started rolling along a much shorter E route, from Iwilei to Waikiki.

But like Bus Rapid Transit, the new buses and their limited reach ran into problems and criticism. Hannemann was not a fan, and he criticized Harris' administration for rushing the purchase of the hybrid buses.

Yesterday, he emphasized he's not against new technologies, but he also said he wants to eventually eliminate the current E Route.

He also made it clear that the Bus Rapid Transit proposal is not an option for his administration.

The E Route will be eliminated, possibly as early as Tuesday, when the hybrid buses will be taken off the route. But city spokesman Bill Brennan said that if the route is still in operation, "I'm sure (the Department of Transportation Services and Oahu Transit Services) will find the buses for that route."

The new buses, Hannemann said, should help alleviate Leeward traffic.

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