LAHAINA - To improve safety for bus riders, traffic flow on Luakini Street between Prison and Dickenson streets will be reversed from northbound to southbound effective Monday, Dec. 19.
The switch is slated to occur at 10:15 a.m.
"We wanted to make certain that we did it between bus arrivals and to give police and Public Works enough time to set up everything, to ensure that the signage and safety measures are in place for the protection of the public," noted county Transportation Director Jo Anne Johnson-Winer.
The County Council on Oct. 7 passed Bill 55 to redirect traffic on that portion of Luakini Street.
Johnson-Winer said the county took up the matter when Arsene "Blackie" Gadarian and other Luakini residents asked officials to relocate the bus stop behind The Wharf Cinema Center.
The Luakini homeowners complained that riders waited for the bus on their properties, smoked and left behind litter.
And, as everyone involved soon discovered, buses heading down the narrow one-way street were, Johnson-Winer said, "dropping off passengers in the middle of the roadway!"
Maui Police Department checked the situation in February and supported changing the traffic flow on Luakini to address pedestrian safety concerns.
Officers saw people standing on Luakini waiting for the Maui Bus and debarking from the bus directly onto the street.
They also viewed motorists waiting behind the bus for pedestrians to clear the roadway.
Chief of Police Gary Yabuta wrote, "Having the traffic flow in the opposite direction would create a much safer loading and unloading zone for the bus passengers. They would be out of the elements and off the roadway.
"In addition, this would more than likely eliminate the complaints we are getting from the residents and businesses that waiting bus passengers are trespassing, littering and smoking on their properties."
Next up was the Traffic Safety Commission, which voted unanimously to reverse traffic on Luakini Street in May.
The transportation director's husband, Larry Winer, is a member of the commission. Winer, who served as lead chaplain on the Miramar Police Department in Florida for 16 years, visited the Luakini bus stop in the spring and was shocked to see cars rolling up as riders - including people with disabilities - exited the bus in the middle of an active roadway.
The County Council's Infrastructure Management Committee headed by West Maui Councilwoman Elle Cochran rode the Maui Bus to The Wharf on Aug. 1, paving the way for Bill 55.
Johnson-Winer said the county is still evaluating locations for a new bus "transit hub."
Once sites are identified, a meeting will be held in West Maui to hear residents' comments.
For now, since the bus stop behind The Wharf is active, passenger safety is the chief concern," she added.
The county didn't want buses coming down busy Lahainaluna Road and making tight turns onto Luakini, so they will access Luakini from Dickenson Street.
Johnson-Winer noted that years ago, the Wharf was serviced by trolley-like buses with exits on both sides, so loading wasn't an issue then.
With the traffic change, riders can gather under The Wharf Cinema Center's canopy before boarding the bus.