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.

6 Comments so far

  1. Glen Miyashiro (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2004 @ 2:31 pm

    Their paint jobs may be ugly as hell, but it sounds like the route is a good route. Let’s see how it is in a month or so, once people have gotten used to it.

  2. Commuter (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2004 @ 5:34 pm

    How many supporters within government regularly use the mass transit options we now have (namely The Bus)? These are the same people who are the power brokers, union heads, contractors, etc. who drive to and from town just like 90% of the rest of us taxpayers. The BRT and other transit schemes are very costly government ideas that will not get rid of the traffic problem. People will bitch and moan about traffic commute times, high gas prices and everything else, but the bottom line is that we are married to our vehicles and only if gasoline completely dried up would we abandon them in great numbers. Despite all the hardships motorists face, the fact of the matter is that the automobile, SUV and other similar vehicles allow us to commute back and forth when we please, where we please and at the most convenience possible. We don’t have to share our personal space with total strangers, homeless people, rowdy and incosiderate kids like we would have to using public transit. Our vehicles are the extensions of our homes and business. We won’t go!

  3. Mr. Wendell (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2004 @ 7:27 pm

    I used to think that taking the bus was a drag when I was younger. Now I’m seriously considering taking the bus on a regular basis. Of course, the iPod helps.

  4. M1EK (unregistered) on November 24th, 2004 @ 6:01 am

    BRT is a bum deal for everybody – the roadway space required to make it competitive with light rail was NEVER going to happen in Honolulu or any other city in the USA (everybody holds up Curitaba, but they don’t have the kind of driver entitlement psychosis that we do in the USA).

    As implemented, BRT always ends up being bigger buses with the doohickeys to hold the lights green a bit longer – which is about ten bucks short and a week late when trying to compete with the private car. Much better to shoot for light rail and actually stand a chance of getting something that the suburbanites will use.

  5. Ryan (unregistered) on November 24th, 2004 @ 3:40 pm

    “BRT… lost funding and rapidly lost support…” What support? Well, I’m certain there were some, but that disaster had its critics as soon as it was born.

    We need mass transit, but we can’t do it half-assedly and, given how slowly people are going to warm to it, we can’t take surface lanes away to simply add more wheels and weight.

    I knew we needed rail transit when I was in 7th grade, and when we finally bite the bullet and do it – at much greater cost and greater inconvenience and with much less federal support than we had the last two times we seriously considered it – I’ll be too disgusted to cry.

  6. commuter (unregistered) on December 8th, 2004 @ 12:51 pm

    There is an excellent article in Honlulu Magazine, December 2004 edition “BRT: The City’s $50 Million Mistake.” It outlines all of the stupid decisions that went into the creation of this fiscally irresponsible blunder that less than 10% of the commuter population will use.

    Yesterday KITV 4 News reporter Keoki Kerr actually rode on the E-Transit route. The huge 2 segment busses are driving through downtown and Waikiki mostly empty. Each of those new transit busses cost taxpayers a whopping $750,000. There are 10 of them. Waste of money.

    The bus drivers joke that the E-Transit route stands for “empty.”

    Enough of this crap already. Sell the busses or reallocate them to busier, standard bus routes.

    This BRT is one of the worst legacies outgoing Mayor Jeremy Harris has left to the taxpayers.

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