Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 |
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PUHI — The most heavily traveled areas on Kauai are from the Kukui Grove Shopping Center to the Lihue Airport, and from Wailua to Kapaa, according to the results of the Kauai Transit Feasibility Study.
The study’s results were presented to the Housing and Transportation Committee Wednesday by Lee Steinmetz, transportation planner, and Tim Payne, principal with the transportation planning firm Nelson/Nygaard.
“This study will set priorities for funding,” said County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, chairwoman of the housing and transportation committee. “We have limited funding and we have to use that strategically.”
Payne said the study found that there are too many cars on the road, and that visitors would consider using transit if it were more accessible.
Council Chairman Mel Rapozo disagreed.
“Overwhelmingly, from the people I’ve been asking, people want to drive, not take the shuttle, so they can explore,” Rapozo said. “I guess it depends on who you ask.”
For residents who use the bus system, their primary destinations are work and school, the study showed.
“We readily recognize this is only part of the solution. Not everyone, everywhere is going to get on a bus,” Payne said. “We’ve found there’s demand on Kauai for transit service improvements.”
Steinmetz said in order to face the challenges in the county’s bus system, the approach is going to have to be an “all of the above” strategy to address congestion.
He said the goal is to have a short-range transit plan completed by the end of the year. That plan, combined with the transit feasibility study, would become the 10-year transit plan. The outcome will be a “menu” of solution choices.
That strategy looks at improving auto capacity, the roadway network, transit, and pedestrian and bicycle options.
The goal by 2035, when it comes to transit, is to increase transit trips from today’s 1 percent of travel to 4 percent, and to update fare collection technology and structures.
Other goals include information and service planning improvement, the conversion of the fleet to sustainable energy resources, and bus stop facility improvements.
On the South Shore, the study looks at connecting Koloa to Kalaheo and Lihue, as well as connecting Poipu to Koloa. One specific goal is to connect Poipu and Koloa to Lihue with a route that doesn’t backtrack to Kalaheo.
“Now, riders have to go west to go to Lihue,” Payne said.
On the North Shore, the goal would be to implement the North Shore Shuttle, from Kilauea to Kee Beach. Eastside improvements would be to connect Kapahi and Wailua to Kapaa and mainline transit service.
“Lydgate Park is popular with residents on that side of the island, and an option is to connect the (Wailua) Homesteads and Houselots to Lydgate Park,” Payne said.
Kauai resident Matt Bernabe said increased connectivity, especially to places like Lydgate Park, is a great idea.
“I actually would get out of my vehicle and ride the bus, but it isn’t convenient for me,” he said.
But other island residents, such as Joe Rosa and Glenn Mickens, think amping up transit is a waste of resources.
“People won’t abandon their vehicles for any other means of transportation,” Mickens said. “That’s a dream for another community.”
Budget is limited
Payne said he’s visited Kauai four times during the study, and each time he met with the county’s economic development director, George Costa, as well as with the Kauai Visitor’s Bureau and with various resorts.
“We are constantly working with them to mesh things together and keep communications open,” Payne said.
The plan would be to work with the resort industry, entrepreneurs and places such as the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on transit services that would better connect the island and reduce congestion.
Ross Kagawa, ex-officio member of the committee, said he doesn’t believe anything can be solved with Steinmetz’s “all of the above” strategy, and that a more targeted approach is necessary to make real change.
“When you have limited funding, you have to set priorities,” Kagawa said.
He cited the improvements to Lihue’s Hardy and Rice streets, as well as the crosswalk project on Rice Street, as examples of wrong priorities.
“There are glaring needs (on the island). Mean traffic on the North Shore, and we’re pouring our resources into Lihue,” Kagawa said. “Let’s fix this because it’s not functioning, instead of fixing what is functioning.”
Kagawa reminded the committee that the GET surcharge, which would be a 1/2 percent increase of the tax and is currently on the table at the County Council, may not pass. The surcharge would add $5 million annually to the bus system for 10 years.
County Councilman Mason Chock, the committee’s vice chair, said he is also looking at the limited budget and sees a need to prioritize projects.
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