Expanded bus system will never work on Kauai

The Garden Island’s Oct. 23 article, “Bus system expansion a good idea but funding concerns remain,” is troublesome because it offers only a limited perspective of the issues involved.

Under careful examination it is apparent that more is involved than just bus expansion and funding.

The article states, “Kauai needs to expand its bus system. It needs more buses, bigger buses, bus routes and bus stops. It needs bus shelters. When you consider the traffic trouble on this island, when you consider how much it costs to add roads and lanes, how expensive it is to repair roads because of so may vehicles on them, one of the least costly ways to address this long-standing problem would be an improved bus system.”

Flooding our roads with buses and presuming that the mass of people will abandon their vehicles and use buses is a great sound bite but in the real world is not practical nor will it ever happen.

In the 21 years that the Kauai Bus has been operating, over $16 million dollars of losses have been incurred (tax dollars subsidizing the system) but it has not been demonstrated that any vehicles have been taken off our roads. Every time ridership increases so does the loss to be borne by taxpayers.

Each year traffic has worsened on Kauai, proving that buses and bikes (bikes also being trumpeted as a means of lessening traffic) are not the answer to alleviating traffic. The county did a pilot program for its 1,500 employees, giving them free bus transportation for 30 days. A total of 50 people used this “freebie,” proving what a failure buses are for the needs of those who can drive.

And, the primary factor that this article fails to address is that 95 percent or more of people who use their vehicles for transportation will never abandon them for a bus or any other alternate means of travel.

We do need public transportation for ADA people and those who cannot drive, but there are sufficient numbers of buses to take care of these people if scheduling is properly done. The lack of population density on Kauai prevents it from ever providing mass transportation for a broad segment of our people.

Or, even far more efficient, why not use a contracted taxi service using electric and hybrid vehicles to transport non-drivers from their homes to their destinations and back?

The county already has electric and hybrid vehicles that could be used for a pilot program. This system is used in other municipalities and works well, so why not try it here? When a huge bus is used to pick up one passenger, how cost-inefficient is that over a hybrid vehicle?

Statistics have shown that in major cities like Portland, Oregon, where rapid transit was put in use, construction of new roads and alternate routes were stopped. And with population increases, far more people were using their vehicles than the rapid transit and traffic has worsened more than before there was no alternate transportation.

New and better vehicles — electric, hydrogen and diesel are being made and the multi-billion-dollar auto industry is booming. This once again proves that the mass of the population will never abandon their vehicles and our goal should be to make commuting better and more convenient for them.

It is hypocrisy that more bus service reduces vehicle use when prime advocates of the continuing expansion of the service is a case of “do as I say not do,” as I do because they continue to ride in their cars and not the bus.

The main purpose of this article is disputing the theory that more buses here on Kauai will solve our traffic problems.

Ridership on the buses may have increased but population and the use of 90,000 registered vehicles has far surpassed those bus riders.

The GI article does realistically address the fact that adding a 3/4 percent increase to our GET costing tax payers $8 million a year (as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura proposes) would be unwise at a time when tax payers are already overburdened with taxes and fees.

An article in TGI of Sept. 18 said that Hawaii has the worst highways in the nation so we need more funding for fixing our roads and for making more bypasses, not more millions for buses.

For convenience, for necessity or for whatever reason a person or persons might have, they WILL NOT ABANDON THEIR VEHICLE.


Glenn Mickens is a resident of Kapaa.


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