Old commuting idea gains a new following

Lokana Keli'ikoa-Pua
Lokana Keli'ikoa-Pua

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - As gas prices continue to climb, Hawaii drivers continue to look for more ways to cut commuting costs.  Those who drive in from the leeward coast are some of the hardest hit at the pump, but an old idea is gaining a new following.

Most of us know all too well how congested the H-1 is, especially during rush hour traffic.  One way to combat that is with the Hawaii Vanpool Program, which has been around for 14 years.  But recently, it's seen a steady increase, and more people are expected to join as gas prices continue to climb.

Lokana Keli'ikoa-Pua is a pioneer of sorts.  She's been vanpooling for 12 years, way before record gas prices forced commuters to rethink their driving habits.

"I live in Waianae, and we're talking a lot of miles," she said.  "And with the vanpool, it offers you a shared rider, where you have shared cost."

The monthly cost for a vanpool van is $385.  If you have seven riders, that's only $55 per person, plus the shared cost of paying for gas.

And the vanpool service pays for insurance and the cost to maintain the van.  That means insurance and maintenance costs are included with the monthly fee. That translates to more money in your pocket.

As an average driver, you could save between $500 to $1,000 a month on car-related expenses.  The vanpool service has seen greater interest, adding more than 300 participants in the past nine months.

And as the Department of Transportation changes its zipper lane occupancy from two to three people, van pool ridership is expected to increase.

"I think it will impact it greatly," said Vicki Harris, the vanpool executive director.  "You got people who now say, 'Gee, the only way I can get in the fast lane, I'm going to change my habits.'"

Changing habits to save time and money.

"But as they find with the high escalating gas costs, they may start reconsidering, giving up some luxuries for the ability of just riding in, sleeping, reading, or whatever," said Keli'ikoa-Pua.  "They're not behind the wheel anymore. They don't have to be frustrated with traffic anymore."

"How much less expensive could it be?" asked Harris.  "Please consider it. It's like putting a vacation in your pocket."

The interest in vanpooling is so great, 15 people are waiting for vans right now.  Vanpool ridership is up to 1,600 riders statewide.

To learn more about it, click here or the link on this page.  Vanpool Hawaii can also be reached at 596-VANS (or 596-8267).