County looks to bolster use of The Kauai Bus

LIHUE — The County Council is scheduled to review transportation plans at its Wednesday meeting, including a resolution accepting and endorsing the Short-Range Transit Plan.

The plan two years in the works seeks to improve The Kauai Bus to better serve the mobility needs of both residents and visitors and improve the convenience, reliability and cost-effectiveness of transit service, says a report. It also seeks funding strategies for the county.

“A significant challenge facing Kauai is the fact that tourism growth and resident quality of life is impacted by the need for infrastructure improvements to handle traffic and congestion during peak visitor season,” the report said. “Traffic has become an increasingly important issue for locals and visitors alike.”

The report states that by 2035, the resident population is projected to increase by 31 percent and the number of visitors to the island is expected to grow by 28 percent.

The plan says “Kauai cannot build enough roadway infrastructure to address the traffic issues that are present today. While some spot improvements may be possible, the larger picture is that large infrastructure projects are neither environmentally or financially feasible,” the report states.

“Reasonable options must be well presented and available, and transit is an important part of those options,” the plan says.

In 2014, traffic and roads were cited as aspects of Kauai that visitors liked least, the report said.

In 2015, there were nearly 800,000 passenger trips for fixed-route service on The Kauai Bus. Hanalei received the most usage of weekday routes with an average of 874 daily boardings.

“With a shift in travel patterns, Kauai will struggle to maintain the rural character and high quality of life that are so highly valued by residents and visitors alike,” the report said.

Immediate no-cost changes to fixed-route operations include eliminating the Haraguchi Farm stop, serving Waimea Canyon Park for inbound trips, and making stops consistent for Wailua and Kapahi/Kapaa routes. Changes are also planned to make Lihue and Koloa Shuttle stops more consistent in both directions.

The Kauai Bus will continue working with businesses and resorts to establish shuttles on the North Shore, Eastside and South Shore.

“Engaging the local business community will be critical for developing a sustainable funding plan,” the report said.

Short-term priorities include providing hourly service on weekends, extending weekend times, adding more weekday trips, and providing 30-minute service between Kalaheo and Kilauea during peak and midday service. A new Westside shuttle would connect Waimea, Hanapepe and Eleele.

Current bus fares are $40 for a monthly pass and $400 for an annual pass. However, three different scenarios are being considered to simplify fares.

The plan analysis lays out goals to eliminate the annual pass, increase the price of a monthly pass, and offer a discounted fixed-route monthly pass. Other concepts include creating a one-day pass, a 10-ride paratransit pass, and reduced fixed-rate fare for ADA-eligible riders.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Historic County Building.

Kauai’s continued appeal hinges on maintaining its character, according to the Kauai Short-Range Transit Plan.

Following are some key points of the Kauai Short Range Transit Plan:

• Kauai cannot rely solely on building new roads

• Aloha for visitors should begin immediately upon arrival

• Increasing numbers of visitors to North Shore sites poses a challenge to maintaining the quality of culture and ecological resources.

• Congestion on the Eastside creates a bottleneck for the entire island

• The Kauai Bus should engage in long-range transit planning

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