Major changes take effect for several city bus routes
Several bus routes on Oahu were changed or eliminated Sunday as the city tries to meet increased fuel costs without raising fares.
One of the changes affected Route 55, one of the popular "circle island" routes. It used to leave Ala Moana Center, head up the Windward side to the North Shore, then back down through Wahiawa and return to Ala Moana Center. Its final destination now is the Wahiawa Transit Center.
Meanwhile, Route 52 also used to circle the island, but in the other direction. It has been heavily promoted in tour guides as a way for visitors to get from Waikiki to the North Shore, or even an inexpensive way to see Oahu. It now only goes as far as Wahiawa Heights before returning to town.
That means if you are in Honolulu and want to get to Haleiwa to Sunset Beach, you now have to transfer from 52 to 55 in Wahiawa.
The change doesn't just affect tourists, it's also proving disruptive for regular local riders. "This one lady was saying that she comes from Haleiwa. And she usually catches the number 52 straight to her job," said rider Linda Spink of Wahiawa. "But now, we have to jump off and catch the 55 if we wanna go North Shore, and the 52 only goes out to the heights and back out again."
The buses also will come less frequently. They used to run every half hour, but now will arrive once an hour. County Express routes C to Makaha and E to Ewa Beach also had their weekend service cut to once an hour.
"I noticed the local, the 40 (Makaha-Ala Moana Center) next to where I live in Nanakuli," said bus rider David Castellano, who was waiting for the "C" bus at the Kalihi Transit Center. "I believe that if I got on the local, I would've gotten here in just as much time."
The changes don't just affect country routes. In town, the City Express route B has been eliminated. To make up for that, the city added more buses to Route 2, which also runs between School Street and Waikiki.
Things seemed to be going as well as possible, despite the confusion. "It hasn't been too bad," said John Amano, who was driving a Route 52 bus to Wahiawa Heights. "As long as you inform them, they'll listen, and so far, so good."
The city has said it faces a $3 million increase in diesel fuel costs next year. Transportation officials had said that the service changes will be a way for them to make up that cost, without raising fares.
One route that had been targeted for change or elimination was Route 14, St. Louis Heights-Kahala. It's been left alone for now.
The real test of the new bus route changes will come Monday, when regular weekday commuters catch their bus.
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