LIHUE — The Kauai County Council Wednesday voted down a proposed $475,000 infusion into The Kauai Bus to expand weekend services.
The proposal was to take the money from the $12.5 million in General Excise Tax revenues set aside for land transportation to expand weekend bus services at the same time the county works on resurfacing, bridge and road repairs.
Currently, The Kauai Bus makes stops at bus stops every two hours on the weekends, and service ends at 4 p.m.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who introduced the bill, was also its sole supporter when it came time for the council to vote.
“This year we are getting $12.5 million and only $160,000 was put in the budget for bus expansion,” Yukimura said. “We’re not talking about the bus to the exclusion of roads.”
She said the current administration “is not really understanding the urgency of the need for expanded service,” but other councilmembers said the Transportation Agency needs time to get the bus system in order before expanding it.
The agency is working with a consultant to identify ways to make the system more efficient, like streamlining routes and drivers and identifying weaknesses in the system.
The money saved from correcting those inefficiencies can be used for expanded weekend service, said some councilmembers.
“People say follow the plan and we are,” said Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro. “We are looking at inefficiencies first and then look at expanding services.”
Council Chair Mel Rapozo said the council heard from the administration recently on the subject and funded a study to be done to correct inefficiencies.
“This is a wonderful idea, but if the administration isn’t ready, why put half a million into the fund that isn’t going to get used?” Rapozo asked.
Celia Mahikoa, transportation executive, said nothing has changed since the last time the subject was addressed and it is still the plan to use the money saved by making the system more efficient to expand weekend services.
“We’re fully committed to wanting to identify efficiencies and proceeding in the most responsible way,” Mahikoa said. “Weekend service (expansion) is dependent on the money coming from the efficiency study.”
Kauai resident Lonnie Sykos asked about a plan for maintenance and upkeep of potential expanded weekend service, saying he’s not necessarily opposed to increased services if they have support.
“How much of this money is going to administrative costs versus bringing it to the streets? I want to hear about maintenance,” he said.
Bridget Hammerquist pointed out the GET money is dedicated to land transportation, which includes the bus, and there should be an emphasis on expanded weekend transportation.
Bruce Hart said he’s not in favor of switching money over from road repair and dedicating it to weekend bus service, but Eileen Kechloian said she’s for the idea.
“More people riding the bus means less impact on the roads,” she said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.