Whether you are for or against Honolulu rail transit, I think we can all agree that we need to reduce traffic and reduce parking hassles today.
Let’s focus on what we have already: TheBus, which offers 100 fixed routes across Oahu, with an average weekday ridership of 236,000 people and 72,500,00 people each year, according to TheBus Facts. It’s effective, it’s flexible, and it’s affordable for riders.
Note: TheBus is already being subsidized by Hawaii taxpayers – it cost $175.2 million to operate in 2009 (Honolulu Operating Budget FY2009, page 17) but recovered only $43.8 million in passenger fares (Honolulu Comprehensive Annual Financial Report FY2009, page 46).
How can we improve TheBus? Here are some suggestions:
1. Local celebrities on TheBus. We could partner with local news and entertainment celebrities to ride TheBus on random days and random routes. There could be a “Spot the Celebrity” game, with small giveaways or coupons. Celebrities might give an impromptu performance or just get people talking with each other and creating a sense of community.
2. Add WiFi on TheBus. To encourage riders, we could expand Honolulu Hotzones and offer free WiFi service on TheBus. This would benefit riders with longer commutes.
2. Build more TheBus park-and-ride facilities. There are currently only five park-and-ride facilities, in Hawaii Kai, Mililani, Royal Kunia, Wahiawa, and Haleiwa. We should build new parking facilities near bus routes.
3. Expand TheBus special event routes. There are five Oahu venues that could really benefit from special bus routes: Aloha Stadium (for swap meets, football games, carnivals); Magic Island (for carnivals and fireworks); the North Shore (for surfing competitions); the State Capitol, Civic Fairgrounds, and Honolulu Hale (for special events and rallies); and Waikiki (for parades, fireworks, and block parties).
5. Offer TV news programming on TheBus. Partnering with private companies, buses could have one or two TV screens showing muted, closed caption TV programming, with local news, information (such as the weather, traffic, or public service announcements), and limited paid advertising.
What else can we do to make the most of the mass transit and traffic solutions we already have?