PRINCEVILLE — When it comes to traffic on the North Shore, Story Balcum feels like she’s in Honolulu.
“Parking in Hanalei and at The Dolphin is ridiculous,” she said.
Balcum believes the North Shore Shuttle launched Monday will help alleviate congestion.
“It’ll definitely work, especially for the tourists,” said the Anahola resident who works at Beauty Bar Kauai in the Princeville Shopping Center.
Roberto Villarreal, employee at Walking in Paradise in Princeville, agreed.
“Something needs to be done about the congestion,” he said. “The shuttle will encourage visitors not to use rental cars.”
The Wailua man takes the bus to work. He said he would take the shuttle to get to Haena, Ke‘e, or any of its other stops.
“I’d rather take it than have to struggle with parking,” he said.
To honor the relaunch of the shuttle, a blessing was held Monday.
The North Shore Shuttle, which will operate for three months, will be based at the Princeville Airport and run between resorts and visitor destinations.
Funding is provided through a $300,000 grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, with $160,000 going toward the shuttle and $140,000 for cultural restoration projects in Haena.
The shuttle was first launched in 2014 and ran for six months. The $200,000 project was funded by the Kauai County Council, which after the six months was up, voted to discontinue the service.
So George Costa, director of the Office of Economic Development, along with Fred Atkins, Kauai representative for HTA, and several others worked for over a year to get the shuttle reinstated.
“Really, the goal is to reduce the number of cars going down into Hanalei and Haena. The congestion really affects the community there,” Costa said. “It’s one of the most photographed places on the planet. Yet, any day when you’re down there, it’s really impacted by our visitors.”
Hawaii Executive Transportation will operate the shuttle utilizing two looped routes. One will begin at the Princeville Airport with stops at seven resorts including the Westin Princeville, Wyndham Resorts’ Ka Eo Kai, Shearwater and Bali Hai Villas, The Cliffs at Princeville, The St. Regis Princeville Resort and Hanalei Bay Resort.
The shuttle will also stop at the Princeville Center and Ching Young Village in Hanalei before returning to the Princeville Airport.
The second route will start at Ching Young Village with stops at the Wainiha General Store, Wainiha Road, Hanalei Colony Resort, Haena Beach Park, and Ke‘e Beach before returning to Ching Young Village.
Hours of operation will be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
One-way fare per person will be $4 for visitors and $2 for residents.
A transfer ticket will be issued to passengers wanting to transfer from the Princeville shuttle to the Haena shuttle or vice versa.
HET hired nine new employees to run the shuttle, said Richard Armijo, president.
“I’m in transportation, so if the numbers are right, I’m going to do it,” he said. “It’s a good service, and people seem estatic about it.”
Makaala Kaaumoana, a Hanalei resident, said the shuttle is as much for North Shore residents as it is for tourists.
Kaaumoana, who used the shuttle when it ran for six months in 2014, plans to use it again.
“We need to get the cars out of Haena,” she said.
Developer Jeff Stone said he supports the North Shore Shuttle because it will alleviate strain on the infrastructure on Kauai’s North Shore.
“We’ve all been working with the county and even the state to take pressure off the bridge and parking,” he said. “We love Hanalei, and we want to preserve it.”
The shuttles have the capacity to carry up to 14 passengers with limited storage for beach chairs, boogie boards, mats and small coolers.
By 5 p.m. Monday, 12 people — six visitors and six residents — had taken the shuttle.
Because the HTA funding will run out in October, the next step is meeting with North Shore hotel managers to ask them to cover the cost of the shuttle, Costa said.
Money could come from increased service and maintenance fees, he said.
While discussions are ongoing, Laura Richards, general manager of the Hanalei Colony Resort, said she is considering doing just that.
“I hope every North Shore resort understands the importance of the shuttle and their responsibility to financially support it,” she said.
The shuttle will open Haena back up to its residents, she added.
“It will allow them to walk and bike again,” she said.