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Big changes for Hele-on: Bus routes will be added, altered under ‘hub-and-spoke model’

Early next month, the county will begin a broad restructuring of the island’s bus system in an effort to make mass transit easier to use.

At a Tuesday meeting of the Hawaii County Council’s Committee on Public Works and Mass Transit, interim mass transit director John Andoh told council members the county’s Hele-On bus network will switch to a hub-and-spoke model beginning Sept. 5, which will involve the creation of new bus routes and alterations to existing ones.

Andoh said the new model, which is based on the county’s 2018 Transit and Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan, is intended to maximize bus availability until such time as a larger bus fleet can be obtained.

“The master plan … lays out a foundation by which we will eliminate trip-by-trip variability,” Andoh said. “So people can depend on Route 1 always doing everything on Route 1, and Route 80 always does the same on Route 80.”

In the Hilo, Kailua-Kona and Pahoa areas, Andoh said the hub-and-spoke model should allow for a “60-minute headway,” whereby passengers can count on a bus coming by every hour. To facilitate this, buses will be equipped with electronic pass readers and payment systems, automated voice announcements and Wi-Fi.

Andoh said he ultimately hopes to impose consistent branding and design across the county’s bus fleet and make improvements to the Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal to improve the public’s perception about the bus service.

Although the hub-and-spoke system is launching in September, a long-planned physical bus hub in Pahoa is still several years out, Andoh said.

Previously, the hub was intended to be built at the intersection of Pahoa Bypass Road and Pahoa-Kapoho Road on property that would be purchased by the county. But Planning Director Zendo Kern said Tuesday that the location is being reconsidered, based on the need for potential expansions.

Kern said the Planning Department will instead conduct environmental assessments on several sites in the area to determine an ideal site. Those assessments could be completed by early next year, Andoh said.

An interim bus hub will be in place at the Puna Kai Shopping Center in Pahoa, Andoh said.

Andoh said the county eventually will need to replace its current bus fleet, which is currently in a state of disarray. As of Tuesday, Andoh said 28 of the county’s 56 buses are out of service for one reason or another, and the average age of a Hele-On bus is 16 years old.

Of those inoperable buses, 21 cannot be retired yet without potentially having to repay the the state or federal departments of transportation, Andoh said.

In a bus replacement plan Andoh presented at Tuesday’s meeting, he said the county has plans to purchase 47 replacement buses, 11 of which have already been delivered or are on order.

Andoh said he is discussing financial options with the county Department of Finance, and will continue to pursue grants from organizations such as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Department of Homeland Security and more.

The changes to Hele-On routes that will take effect Sept. 5 are as follows:

New Routes

• Route 2, “Blue Line,” an express route between Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal, Aupuni Center and Kona Commons via Saddle Road, South Kohala Resorts and West Hawaii Civic Center. Four round trips a day from 4:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., seven days a week.

• Route 76, “Green Line,” a route between Honokaa and Kona Commons via Waikoloa Village, Kona International Airport and Route 19, Monday-Friday. School day trips to Waimea operate on this route.

• Route 104, Intra-Hilo/Mohouli, a route on Mohouli Street to St. Joseph School and Kamana Senior Center. Hourly service from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

• Route 201, Kona Trolley: the Intra-Kona Shuttle will cease operations Sept. 4, with the Kona Trolley replacing its service between the Kona Commons Target to the Sheraton Resort via Alii Drive. The trolley operates hourly service seven days a week between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

• Route 202, North and Central Kailua-Kona, replaces the Intra-Kona Shuttle service between the Kona Commons Target and Kona International Airport via Ane Keokohakalole Highway. Provides hourly service seven days a week between 6:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.

• Route 204, South Kona/Captain Cook/Honaunau, replaces the Intra-Kona Shuttle service between the Kona Commons Target and Honaunau via Highway 11 and Kuakini Highway. Service every two hours between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week.

• Route 301, the Waimea Shuttle, began in July and is operated as a flex route, allowing passengers to schedule a shuttle within Waimea between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. weekends and holidays. First and last trips in the day overlap with Route 60.

• Route 401, Hawaiian Beaches, a route between the Keaau-Pahoa Road and Kahakai Boulevard intersection and Hawaiian Beaches, Seaview and Kalapana, with timed connections to Route 40. Service from 5:15 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday every 1-2 hours.

• Route 402, Hawaiian Paradise Park, a route between the Keaau-Pahoa Road and Kahakai Boulevard intersection and Keaau, Ainaloa and Hawaiian Paradise park. Service from 6:25 a.m. to 6:25 p.m. Monday-Saturday every 1-2 hours.

• Route 403, Fern Acres, a route between Keaau and Fern Acres. Hourly service from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

• Paratransit service will also be available within a one-mile radius of Routes 40, 401, 402, and 403, at the same hours as those routes. Only those eligible for paratransit service will be allowed on board.

Altered Routes

• Route 11, “Red Line,” continues to operate between Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal and the Keaau-Pahoa Road and Kahakai Boulevard Intersection from 5:15 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. The route has new Sunday and holiday service at the same hours as Saturdays. The route no longer services Hawaiian Beaches, Seaview, Kalapana, Ainaloa, Fern Acres or Hawaiian Paradise Park — passengers traveling to those locations should use Routes 401, 402 or 403.

• Route 40, Hilo/Pahoa, continues to operate between Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal and the Keaau-Pahoa Road and Kahakai Boulevard Intersection from 5:15 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. The route has new Sunday and Holiday service at the same hours as Saturdays. The route no longer services Hawaiian Beaches, Seaview, Kalapana, Ainaloa, or Hawaiian Paradise Park — passengers traveling to those locations should use Routes 401, or 402.

• Route 60, Hilo/Waimea, will extend all trips that previously ended in Honokaa to Waimea. It will continue to operate four daily round trips between Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal and Puukalani Road in Waimea between 5:50 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. The first and last routes in the day overlap with Route 301.

• Route 70, North Kohala/South Kohala, continues same schedule, but now extended to Kona International Airport. Service now available Sundays and holidays on the same schedule.

• Route 75, North Kohala/Waimea/South Kohala/Kailua-Kona, continues same schedule, with new weekend and holiday service.

• Route 80, Hilo/South Kohala, no changes, although passengers are advised that the Blue Line may have faster service. The 3:35 a.m. South Kohala trip will end at Marriott and become a Green Line bus to Honokaa, where it will become Route 60.

• Route 90, Pahala/South Kohala, will now run seven days a week, with trips before 9:40 a.m. and after 3:15 p.m. being extended to include the Kona International Airport.

• Route 101, Intra-Hilo/Keaukaha, offers consistent hourly service between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, with service from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays and holidays.

• Route 102, Intra-Hilo/Kaumana, hourly service between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

• Route 103, Intra-Hilo/Waiakea Uka, hourly service between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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