For many years the most reliable form of public transportation for Upcountry residents has been sticking out your thumb. But an upcoming budget proposal by Maui County’s Department of Transportation (DOT) could finally change that.
According to County Director of Transportation Kyle Ginoza, his department had developed a plan to bring bus service to Kula, Haiku, Pukalani and Paia by July, with regular daily runs three years into the proposal. Funding for the plan would be included in the fiscal year 2007 budget and be subject to County Council approval.
But residents will have to wait until the budget numbers are officially released to see how—and how much—money will be allocated and approved for making public bus service a reality. Nonetheless, Ginoza said he remains in support of expanding bus routes.
“I do feel commuter routes from various areas of upcountry are warranted,” Ginoza said. “I have been a proponent of taking the routes from Upcountry to Kahului and Wailuku, then to South and West Maui.”
County Councilman Mike Molina, whose residency area includes Makawao, Haiku and Paia, said it’s time the county makes an effort to meet the transportation needs upcountry. Aside from specialized services provided by Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO), “public transportation in the Upcountry region is non-existent,” said Molina.
Citing recent DOT studies, Molina said the need for bus service is evident, but perhaps not as great as some other areas of Maui. “Although the demands might not be as great as in other areas, we cannot continue to neglect the needs of our upcountry citizens.”
Molina said many might not think Upcountry bus service is economically feasible but he feels the county should consider subsidizing the service to get it off the ground. Once ridership has increased, the service would become self-sufficient and no longer need government funding. “If the county helps to subsidize other routes, then why not do it for all communities?” he asked.
In any case, the benefits of Upcountry bus service would be numerous, Molina added. Families could save money, reducing dependency on gasoline and wear on vehicles. Busses could also help reduce traffic congestion and “provide a consistent source of transportation for those who do not have the ability to own or drive their own car,” he said.
Should Ginoza’s plan present a sound and plausible roadmap for developing Upcountry bus service, it will likely have Molina’s approval.
“I can support such a plan,” Molina said. “It places a high priority on improving the quality of life for our community and citizens.”
Some Upcountry residents will be eagerly waiting the fate of the DOT’s budget proposal. If it works out like many hope, the bus is the only thing they’ll be waiting for in the future. MTW