Mayor Kirk Caldwell has allocated $1 million in his proposed 2015 fiscal year budget to implement enhanced bus service between Waikiki and Ala Moana Center where the most highly trafficked Honolulu rail station is expected to be located. 

City officials estimate that 22,000 people will we wanting to get to and from the Ala Moana station daily, and nearly 80 percent of them will be traveling by bus. 

Of course, there are already buses that go between Waikiki and Ala Moana Center. But statistics show they are slow, inefficient and often late.

Add the onslaught of bus riders once rail makes it to Ala Moana Center in 2019, and it could be a recipe for chaos. 

To prepare, the Caldwell administration plans to create two new bus routes through Waikiki that replace Bus 8 and directly serve Ala Moana Center. The express-like buses will have fewer stops than current routes and circulate more frequently. 

The city is also working to create dedicated bus stops, outside ticket booths so riders can pay fares before boarding and buses in which passengers can board from both the front and back. 

City officials and consultants briefed the Honolulu City Council’s Transportation Committee about the plan on Thursday. It’s based in large part on a $350,000 study initiated under former Mayor Peter Carlisle, titled the Waikiki Regional Circulator Study. The analysis was done by Weslin Consulting Services. 

The bus plan is expected to reduce the anticipated cost of operating buses between Waikiki and the Ala Moana rail station by 14 percent due to increased efficiencies, Wes Frysztacki, the study’s author, told Civil Beat. 

It’s also expected to speed up Waikiki buses, which currently crawl along at an average pace of 6.5 miles per hour. The improved buses are expected to travel at 9.5 miles per hour, said Frysztacki, with pick-ups every 3 to 10 minutes. 

The city is also working to reduce overall congestion in Waikiki and make it a more pedestrian-friendly district, said Mike Formby, director of the city’s Department of Transportation Services. 

He said residents can expect to see a reduction in the number of tourist trolleys. 

Caldwell has also allocated $50,000 to make it easier to cross Kalakaua Avenue between the Hawaii Convention Center and Ala Wai Boulevard. 

The improvement is part of goals outlined in the Waikiki Regional Circulator Study. 

All of the upgrades outlined in the study, which includes a bike and pedestrian bridge that crosses the Ala Wai Canal, would cost about $100 million, said Frysztacki. 

Currently, there is no comprehensive funding commitment for the plan. 

You can read the study here

Photo: Buses lined up outside Ala Moana Center (Waikiki Regional Circulator Study)

Sophie Cocke