HANALEI — For Kira Hawkins, the North Shore Shuttle was a way to get to and from work.
“Sometimes I have to hitchhike to work. The shuttle was a good thing to have because there was security knowing it was definitely going to make a stop there,” she said.
Hawkins, who lives in Haena, works at Hanalei Bay Pizzeria at Ching Young Village. The shopping center was one of the first stops for the North Shore Shuttle.
During her 20-minute commute, Hawkins said the bus was always full, and she noticed a lot of hikers returning to their cars from the Kalalau Trail.
“It helped a lot with parking,” she said.
Monday was the last day of the North Shore Shuttle, which launched Aug. 15. The $160,000 program was funded through a grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. For the past three months, the shuttle operated from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
The one-way fare was $4 per person for visitors and $2 for residents.
George Costa, director of the Office of Economic Development, said he will continue seeking long-term funding sources from private sector partners and other grant funding opportunities for the shuttle service.
A possible funding opportunity comes from North Shore hotels, who Costa hopes will include the shuttle in resort fees.
Billie Harris, manager of Blue Tiki Tattoo, also in the Ching Young Village, said the shuttle is a good addition to the North Shore community.
“I saw a lot of people using it, and my clients would ask me about the bus route; which seems more consistent with the regular bus route,” she said.
Since the North Shore Shuttle started, Harris said she’s also seen a decrease in the number of people hitchhiking along Kuhio Highway.
Kirill Babenko, owner of Banandi Creperie, which has two locations — a food truck along Kuhio Highway and a location at Ching Young Village — said he didn’t notice a lot of people using the bus.
Babenko doesn’t think the lack of the shuttle will have a major negative impact on the North Shore.
“It seems to me that they were empty a lot; I just saw a couple of guys waiting for it,” he said.
Ridership numbers were not available from the county.
But Hawkins said she hopes the shuttle will become a permanent fixture. Until then, she will go back to borrowing her roommate’s car or hitchhiking.
The shuttle program was originally rolled out November 2014 after the Kauai County Council approved spending $200,000 to fund a six-month program.
The Kauai County Council voted 4-2 against funding the service in May 2015, citing hard financial times, and saying it wasn’t fair to the taxpayers to pay for the service.