Get on the bus for profit and pleasure

There are loftier reasons to ride the bus than to save money. But when the price per gallon leapt over $4, environmentally conscious reasons like less traffic and cleaner air, tumble to the bottom of the list. A blow to the money belt is a powerful motivator for some, and for others, the bus ride is one more illustration of Kaua‘i’s ‘ohana.

For two years Diean Kamauoha has ridden the bus from Kekaha to Lihu‘e five days a week to work. Kamauoha is all the richer for it, but this Westside resident and mother of six doesn’t consider the monetary gain nearly as worthwhile as the friends she’s made on her daily commute.

“I love my bus,” she said and referred to her companion riders as her bus buddies. “Whenever we introduce each other to friends we say, ‘this is my bus buddy.’”

Kamauoha’s bus buddies come with her to work and ride home with her at the end of the day.

“Last Christmas this lady made printouts of Christmas carols,” she said. “The entire bus would sing all the way to Lihu‘e — even the bus driver was singing. It was nice. I’d come in to work humming.”

A round-trip ride on the main line that runs from Kekaha to Hanalei is $3. If the average round-trip commute to work is 28 miles, that’s $4 a day in fuel, $20 a week and $80 a month. Or for $15, buy a monthly bus pass. For a full return on your $15 investment, ride the bus five times round-trip and it’s paid for itself.

Kapahi resident David Ellis rides the bus every day and hails it for both efficiency and comfort.

“It’s prompt and never too crowded — everybody gets a seat,” he said. “And I save about $65 a month.”

Princeville resident Katherine Nally is no stranger to public transit having grown up in New York City and living on O‘ahu where she was also a regular rider.

“When I was driving, I spent $40 a week on gas — and that was before the prices rose,” she said. “Now I can read the newspaper — if I have a pen, I do the crossword puzzle.”

This week Kamauoha noticed a change in her morning commute from the Westside, her usual small bus had been replaced by a larger one.

“It was packed,” she said. “There were even people standing in the aisle.”

Executive of transportation for the Department of Transportation, Janine Rapozo said the Westside routes have become increasingly popular. That’s why the larger bus was added to the morning commute this week for both the Kekaha and Hanalei routes.

While the county is still deliberating over the budget, Rapozo is optimistic about expanded bus routes all over the island. In fact, on May 1, three routes were added to the Monday through Friday Hanalei/Lihu‘e run.

Rapozo said there’s a plan to add more routes during commuter hours. Once the mayor’s budget is finalized, the DOT will have a transit advisory committee consider options for expansion.

“Another idea is to go from one hour between buses to 30 minutes,” Rapozo said.

The affordability of riding the bus will remain constant even with the added service.

“There’s no plan to raise the price,” she said. “We’re trying to encourage people to ride the bus. We want to create an annual and six-month pass to even further discount it.”

One more benefit on the table is creating alternative vendors for the monthly pass. Presently the pass can only be purchased at Lihu‘e Civic Center’s Treasury Department or requested through the mail.

Rapozo said they are looking for merchants to sell the bus pass in their stores as well as have vendors offer discounts on their services to those who purchase the pass from them.

Bus passes can be purchased at the Lihu‘e Civic Center, Treasury Division 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Or send a check for $15 and a SASE to Treasury Division, County of Kaua‘i, 4444 Rice St., Ste. 466, Lihu‘e, 96766-1326.

• Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or pwoolway@kauaipubco.com

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