WAILUKU - Take the Maui Bus - it's greener for the pocketbook and less costly to the world.
According to an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) "Transit Savings Report," the average public transportation rider can save up to $9,242 a year, taking into account insurance, parking, maintenance and fuel costs (calculated at just $2.75 per gallon).
Additionally, an APTA scientific study indicates, "By taking existing public transportation instead of driving a car, a single person saves 4,800 pounds of CO2 per year."
The Maui Bus service officially commenced operations under the first Mayor Alan Arakawa administration in 2005. It is a division of the County of Maui Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Jo Anne Johnson Winer has served as the MDOT director of transportation for the past two years.
In an interview with the Lahaina News, Winer updated West Siders on ridership stats.
"When I came on board, it was just approaching two million; then it went to 2.3 million, and now it is at 2.8 million boardings per year," she said, adding "that's combined with fixed route, commuter route and our paratransit services.
"It's just growing in leaps and bounds," she said.
There are 12 bus routes all operated by Roberts of Hawaii offering service in and between the Central, South, West, Haiku and Upcountry Maui communities, including four West Side regular routes: Lahaina Islander #20, Lahaina Villager #23, Kaanapali Islander #25 and Napili Islander Route #30.
Hours of operation, depending on the route, are from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, including holidays. For a full schedule, visit www.mauicounty.gov/documents/21/MB_Web_092112_201210041254252796.pdf.
There are four commuter service routes: Haiku-Wailea, Makawao-Kapalua, Wailuku-Kapalua and Kihei-Kapalua.
The Maui Bus Commuter routes benefit the early morning and evening riders, augmenting the existing service.
"Commuter boardings were 193,163 just this last fiscal year," Winer specified, "and that has really helped, I think, tremendously to take the commuter cars off the road. Many of the hotels have been very supportive of their employees using those services, because it then also means it's fewer vehicles in their lots."
Lori Sablas, director of Po'okela at the Kaaanpali Beach Hotel (KBH), has been a Kihei-Kaanapali commuter "off and on for about the last three-and-a-half years.
"For me, it's a ten-minute walk to my bus stop; so I get my morning exercise. I catch the bus at 6:22 and arrive at KBH at 7:25 a.m.
"Going home, I catch the bus at 4:30 and reach home about 5:50 p.m. after my walk up the hill to my home, another form of exercise," Sablas detailed.
She is a public transit advocate, noting the multiple benefits: "One less car on the road; saves money; good for the environment; allows 'nap time' to/from work; get to meet interesting people; get to enjoy Maui's scenic beauty; and, for me, catch-up reading time (especially when I served on the Maui Planning Commission)."
ADA Paratransit door-to-door service is available to persons with doctor certification.
"If you cannot access a bus stop, but you live within three-quarters-of-a-mile of an existing stop or on a route you make a reservation a minimum of 24 hours in advance, then the bus comes and picks you up at your residence and then drops you off at the place where you need to go," Winer explained.
Fares are reasonable. General boarding fares one-way are $2 for all routes, including commuter and ADA paratransit service. Daily passes are $4.
Monthly passes are $45, all routes; student pass with valid identification, $30; senior pass (55 and older for fixed routes only), $25; and Senior ADA paratransit pass (55 and older), $30.
The principal mission of the MDOT, Winer said, is "to oversee and support transportation systems that facilitate the movement of people throughout Maui County, including public transit, commuter, paratransit, human services (Maui Economic Opportunity) transit and air ambulance in a safe, efficient and cost-effective manner," she advised.
As director, her quest is to keep "as many vehicles off the road as possible."
She considers public transit an alternative solution to more blacktop.
"Well, I think that it's really in our best interests to not go down the path that Oahu went down when they just simply responded to traffic by adding more roadways. I think it's better for us to actually avoid those kinds of costs and those kinds of problems that come with that by making public transit more attractive," she cautioned.
The pragmatic director recommended ways to make public transit more appealing: "by expanding the routes, extending the hours and then increasing the frequency with which we make the runs."
In the not-too-distant future, high-tech will become part of the Maui Bus experience, she continued, with riders able to track the bus by SmartPhone.
"Individuals will be able to go to their SmartPhone and actually see where the bus is. Is it stuck in traffic, is it just delayed or did I just miss it?" Johnson explained.
Sablas was more down-to-earth with her advice:
"All of us who call Maui home have to take up the kuleana of doing whatever we can - big or small - to keep our island home the special place it is. Making the commitment to ride the bus and leaving your car at home is a small start," she said.
Next week: West Maui's water demand and resources.