Riders weigh in on The Kauai Bus

PUHI — Catharina Arabellah has been taking The Kauai Bus ever since she moved to Kauai from Sedona, Arizona several years and relies on it to get around the island.

“I’m looking to buy a car right now, but I’m not in a hurry because I don’t need to be in a hurry for anything, so in the meantime, I definitely take the bus,” Arabellah said as she waited at the Kukui Grove Center bus stop on Tuesday.

Still, there are some improvements that the Lihue resident would like to see.

Better visibility of bus schedules in tourism guides, more frequent service, and increased bus routes to areas like Lydgate Beach Park and Anini are among the suggestions that she had for Kauai Transportation Agency officials, who oversee The Kauai Bus operations.

“I’m a very impatient person — I don’t like waiting forever,” Arabellah said with a laugh. “I used to have two cars in my garage, so I always owned a car — this is the first time I’ve had to take the bus.”

But instituting those changes do not come without some costs, said Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

“We cannot have some moneys one year and less monies the next year,” Yukimura said. “If we’re going to provide a service, we have to keep providing it. I think the first thing to ask is, ‘Is it important for us to expand The Kauai Bus system?’ Is it important for us as a community? That’s the question. If it’s important, what are we willing to do to make that happen?”

Yukimura will ask the council today to support a .75 percent county surcharge on the state’s general excise tax, currently set at 4 percent.

The proposal is estimated to raise about $8 million a year to fund bus system improvements and expansion.

Kauai Transportation Agency officials declined to answer The Garden Island inquiries about new buses, the number of bus stops on Kauai, plans for future bus shelters, and the costs for them until a formal presentation about it is made before the Kauai County Council during their meeting today in the Historic County Building.

“Construction on the shelters has not yet begun, but we anticipate that to happen in the next few weeks,” County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka wrote in an email.

Daily bus passes cost about $2 a trip for the main line, and 50 cents for shuttles. A monthly pass is $35.

Certain routes like the Lihue Shuttle, she suggested, could be raised slightly from 50 cents to $1 to help pay for future improvements.

Kalaheo resident John Fruhmann said he doesn’t take the bus often but acknowledged that it has been there when he needed it.

It was county service that came in handy on Tuesday after he took his bike into a Puhi shop for repairs.

“I lost my keys in the ocean once and I had to ride the bus for two weeks,” Fruhmann said as he waited for his bus to arrive at Kauai Community College in Puhi. “It was horrible.”

Raising bus fare for residents, Arabellah said, may not be a viable option.

“The locals and the people are already griping because it’s $2,” Arabellah said. “I already hear people say they don’t want to pay any more.”

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