HANALEI — The Hanalei Initiative has been working with the County of Kauai, state Department of Transportation, visitor industry partners, and the North Shore community to develop a plan for a transportation system that will help reduce North Shore vehicular congestion and provide visitor and residential transportation.
Access to Black Pot Beach Park and the Wainiha/Haena area has been restricted since April’s historic flooding, creating a significant increase to parking congestion at Hanalei’s two popular beach parks and along Weke Road.
Understanding that the issue of overcrowding in Hanalei would be exacerbated during the holiday season, the board of the Hanalei Initiative worked to establish a temporary shuttle system between Princeville and Hanalei.
“Knowing that winter break is the busiest time of the year for our island, we saw an opportunity to address a unique problem for our community,” said Joel Guy, executive director of the Hanalei Initiative. “Due to the road closures, we wanted to help create a better experience for visitors while also providing some relief for businesses and residents.”
The organization raised funds and hired a private shuttle operator to run the system from Dec. 20 through Jan. 6. While ridership was slow the first weekend, it grew each day for the remainder of the operation, averaging 40 people per day for the last nine days of the program.
“We were happy with ridership numbers and certainly learned many lessons during operation,” Guy said. “My phone rang nonstop during the last week of operation with people calling to support the shuttle and request continued service. The calls included residents who were using it to travel to work, hotel concierge whose guests loved the system, the North Shore rotary and many others asking us to keep it operating.”
He said in the end, the most common lesson was that there is a need and growing support for a community-led, government-supported shuttle on the North Shore.
“We also understand that these challenges are not unique to the North Shore, and if successful in this endeavor, we hope the north shuttle can be a model for other communities across the island,” Guy said.
The Hanalei Initiative was formed to identify and solve the immediate and long-term community and environmental needs of Hanalei and Kauai’s North Shore.
It operates under the premise of being community led and government supported.
“We recognize the importance of community engagement combined with strong governmental relationships, and will work together to seek solutions, strategy implementation and follow our projects through to completion,” Guy said.
Mayor Derek Kawakami thanked Guy and the Hanalei Initiative for getting the shuttle service off the ground.
He said a shuttle system will be critical in how the county manages traffic congestion near popular visitor destinations, such as on the North Shore.
“While we continue to work together on developing a sustainable plan for the North Shore shuttle, this pilot operation over the holidays gives us all hope and encouragement to stay the course,” Kawakami said in a prepared statement.
“When it’s ready, we are going to need everyone’s cooperation — visitors, locals, businesses, and government — to make sure we market this shuttle as a way to see the beautiful North Shore of Kauai. Furthermore, there are many local residents who have lost their vehicles in the April flood and during Hurricane Lane this past year, and this shuttle is also a means to help them and their transportation needs,” Kawakami said.