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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 11, 2004

Hannemann says he'll change routes of 'E' buses

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann said he will probably divert new hybrid city buses from their Downtown-to-Waikiki route because few riders seem to be using them and they are competing with private bus companies.

The "Route E" buses should ply longer routes that serve outlying areas, rather than a short route through town, Hannemann said.

He said he had not made a decision about where the buses should go, but did not believe they were being used fairly or effectively.

"It's fair to say I will not operate the E buses the same way as the present administration," he said. "I'd like to have these buses be dispersed through all of O'ahu, and including the furthest points, from the North Shore, from Wai'anae, from Waimanalo."

Hannemann said private bus operators had complained that the new buses draw visitors away from their operations in Waikiki and could harm those businesses.

"I don't necessarily believe that's a prudent use of those buses," he said.

In Waikiki, the buses run down Kalakaua Avenue and return via Kuhio Avenue. Some of the buses have remained nearly empty since the route began.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said it normally takes time for ridership to build up on any new bus line, and that the E route is no different. The new buses are not meant to primarily serve tourists or to compete with private bus companies, she said.

Mayor Jeremy Harris launched the route last month as part of the controversial Bus Rapid Transit system he had planned. The 75-passenger, hybrid diesel-electric buses will be cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient than conventional diesel buses, Harris said.

Hannemann had long opposed the BRT plan, which includes traffic lanes reserved solely for buses, and said he will not expand it after he takes office next month.

The city bought 10 of the buses, which cost $749,000 each.

Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.