Honolulu Councilwoman Kymberly Marcos Pine welcomed Mayor Kirk Caldwell‘s announcement last month about restoring and improving bus routes.

Pine, whose District 1 includes Ewa, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Keaau and Makua, said in a press release, “Many of the bus service cuts were ruthless and showed a lack of understanding of the devastating effects it would have on people’s daily lives.”

She continued: “The people of the Leeward Coast have the longest commute times on the island and these cuts hit us hard. I am especially pleased that the Mayor has committed to improving services for the residents of Makaha who have been suffering from up to four hour commutes.”

Anyone who lives along the Leeward Coast or has traveled to and from the area during rush hour would readily agree that traffic can be awful, especially when there is bad weather or an accident. Honolulu’s planned rail system is intended to alleviate that situation.

But, do Leeward Coast folks really have the longest commutes on Oahu?

Bottlenecks

We checked with Pine’s office for clarification.

Chief of Staff Kiran Polk said via email that Pine’s statement “is factored on traffic conditions from Makaha to town that compound drive times.

“For example, there are 3 consistent ‘bottleneck’ areas that Leeward Coast residents contend with consistently: the stretch from Nanakuli to Ko Olina, the stretch of H-1 prior to the H-2 merge and the Middle Street merge bottleneck. With these three bottleneck traffic conditions Leeward Coast residents can experience commute times up to 2-3 hours+. If you have data sources that in fact show otherwise, please let Councilmember Pine know.”

Kym Pine

Polk added, “Pine’s statement is not based solely on Makaha, but … simply provides an example. The statement is reflective of Leeward Coast commutes overall.”

Here it is important to note that there is some dispute as to what constitutes the “Leeward Coast.” Technically, leeward Oahu runs from Kaena Point to Koko Head. Makaha is the last major town on the west side.

Closer to town, traffic can be lousy in Ewa Beach, too, especially when things jam up on Fort Weaver Road.

But folks living on the North Shore also encounter the same H-1 and H-2 merge and Middle Street merge as Leeward commuters. During surf season in the winter months — or when there is an accident, rockslide or bad weather — Kamehameha Highway can be a nightmare. (See the photo on this page.)

Commutes into town from the Windward Side can be lengthy, too, such as from Hauula, Kaaawa and Kahaluu.

Computer Model

The city’s Department of Transportation Services didn’t return our call asking about commute times. The state Department of Transportation said it didn’t have commute-time data, though it’s something officials are working on and may have later this year.

So, we called Brian Gibson, executive director of the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Bingo.

OMPO, said Gibson via email, has “some first-hand data on travel times and we also have a computer model that estimates travel times based on that data.”

The data — and answers to our Fact Check — are contained in the Oahu Regional Transportation Plan 2035 — specifically, in Appendix A.

According to a 2007 estimate, the longest morning commutes to downtown are from the Waianae Coast (Kaena Point to Nanakuli) and from the Ewa area but also from the North Shore, stretching from Kaena Point through Wailua and Haleiwa to just past Pupukea and Sunset Beach.1

According to OMPO, commute times ranged between two hours and two hours and 40 minutes.

That’s based on a 2007 analysis; arguably, things have worsened since then for folks out on the west side.

BOTTOM LINE: Regarding Pine’s remarks, the facts do support the claim: People on the Leeward Coast have the longest commute times on the island. But that burden is shared by others on Oahu, demonstrating that what Pine said is missing important information or is slightly misleading. Therefore, this Fact Check is MOSTLY TRUE.

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