The Mayor’s new eTransit began service Thursday. I checked it out Sunday.
As you know, this thing is the skeletal remains of the Bus Rapid Transit system which is now dead, thanks to poor planning and weak support from the local government. The BRT, which would have added a mass-transit option for Honolulu’s beleaguered commuters, lost funding and rapidly lost support, due in large part to grouchy drivers whose drives through Waikiki were inconvenienced.
Hellllllooo! What the heck are you doing driving through Waikiki on Kuhio Avenue anyway?
So anyway, I checked it out. I live in Kalihi, so this involved riding a bus from School Street to A`ala park and transfering to the new eTransit, which doesn’t make a lot of sense on a practical level; the two routes that run down School Street, the B Express and the 2 Waikiki, go right into Waikiki anyway without a transfer. This trip was purely experimental, though, so what the heck.
The schedule for Sunday evenings calls for one of the new hybrids to leave the park every fifteen minutes. When I arrived at the stop, there were actually two buses waiting their turn to make the trip; I found this refreshing.
The first thing I noticed was that the bus isn’t nearly as quiet as everyone keeps saying its supposed to be; the hybrid engine might be running quietly, but the air conditioner makes as much noise as ever; I wonder what it sounds like from outside the bus.
The route is rather serpentine, but with fewer stops it covers more ground in less time. A huge plus is the stop at Bishop and Hotel, which is a major transfer point and a common stop with the 2, meaning that the 2, which is always packed, should be lightened somewhat because passengers who’d normally catch the 2 there will often take the E instead. This will make life a lot nicer for (a) the riders on the 2 who board in Kalihi and (b) the folks who get on the 2 on King Street, anywhere between Punchbowl and Kalakaua.
Another nice thing about the route is that it rolls right past Victoria Ward Centers. If you’re not familar with the bus routes in town, you don’t know how nice it is to be able to get on a bus downtown and get off of it right in front of Ward Warehouse, but trust me. The fact that it rolls as frequently as it does is major.
I got off near the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in what was only a slightly shorter trip than if I’d riidden the B. Clearly, this route is not meant for Kalihi riders, though as I say, if people ride it, it will help Kalihi riders enormously.
What ticks me off the most is that the BRT was a solid plan opposed mainly by people who refuse to get out of their cars for any reason anyway. These people are short-sighted and don’t understand that we’re going to reach saturation, if we haven’t already, and the answer is not more roads unless we’re willing to sacrifice the beauty that makes Honolulu life unique. Drivers want it both ways; they don’t want elevated rail because it will wreck the view but they want traffic to move more quickly. They want solutions that will involve getting everyone but them off the roads, but don’t want to make a few sacrifices that will make that possible. The dedicated lane the BRT would have had sounds like a contradiction in that it would have taken a lane of traffic away from drivers, but there are people–thousands of them, I am convinced–who would gladly give up their commuting and parking headaches if a convenient alternative were put in place. That convenient alternative would have meant fewer cars on the roads and therefore less traffic for those who can’t or won’t abandon the SUVs they drive ALONE into town every morning.
Now we’ll never know.