'The Boat' Begins Service Mid-September

Carmela Vigue
Carmela Vigue

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The city unveiled its new commuter ferry service Friday.  It's called "The Boat" and it will start September 17. The ferry is expected to take up to 400 cars off the road during rush hour. This is one of two city ferries. They sail from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower Marketplace in the morning, and reverse the route in the afternoon.

It's integrated with the city's bus system, so the schedules and routes are compatible. It'll cost you 2 dollars to ride either the bus or the boat, and that includes two free transfers. Even if you're not riding it, you could be positively affected.

Carmela Vigue, who lives in Makakilo and works in Diamond Head, "I'm thinking if they take it, I can just get in my car and drive to work."

The boat ride is 1 hour, not including the bus ride to and from the harbor. You can also get breakfast and snacks on the boat. If you want to check it out, it's open for public viewing on September 16 at Aloha Tower.

The Department of Transportation Services (DTS) for the City and County of Honolulu working with Hornblower Marine Services (HMS) of New Albany, Indiana has undertaken an Intra-Island Passenger Ferry Demonstration Project.

The project illustrates, on a test basis, how an Oahu based water transit service consisting of two 149-passenger vessels helps mitigate the growing commute problems for West Oahu area residents. HMS will act as the operating entity for the project and partner with the Oahu Transit Services group (TheBus) to provide connective bus transportation to and from the ferry locations. During the work week, this new "commuter-centric" ferry service will offer three morning and afternoon commute-time round trips originating from Kalaeloa / Barbers Point Harbor ferry dock near Kapolei to Pier 9 / Aloha Tower Marketplace.

This Intra-Island Passenger Ferry Demonstration Project works toward achieving Mayor Hannemann's goal to manage traffic and transportation issues impacting outlying communities. Future expansion of the planned passenger ferry service could further increase value over time. For example, the addition of weekend service and more vessels could support historical, cultural and environmental activities for various user groups including Island visitors.

Two ferry vessels will be chartered by the DTS and operated by HMS for the duration of the demonstration project - which is anticipated to last up to 12-months.

The ferries represent fast and efficient passenger vessels that can enhance the existing West Oahu bus transit service. Given the vessels' planned itineraries, frequency and capacity, up to 600 daily (round-trip) commuters can be accommodated. The areas most likely to benefit from the service are between the Waianae, Makakilo and Kapolei neighborhoods at the west end of Oahu and downtown Honolulu. Seamless inter-modal connectivity between the bus and vessels is critical to the project's success. Project planning includes developing schedules and routes that can be expanded with increased demand and funding.

Growth projections call for more than 2,600 new housing units to be built in the West Oahu region of Kalaeloa by 2012. Residents who work east of the region, including Honolulu and Waikiki, rank traffic among their greatest concerns. HMS has found that the ferries it operates in other U.S. cities have proven to be an environmentally sound and economically affordable public policy option. Further, per seat operating costs and subsidies per passenger, given adequate ridership, can compare to those of a community's bus services.

Initially, three scheduled morning departures will be provided from Kalaeloa Harbor and three departures in the afternoon from Pier 9 / Aloha Tower at Honolulu Harbor. The transit time between the two terminal points is scheduled to be one hour in each direction. New shuttle bus routes are being established to support the City and County of Honolulu and will provide commuter services to each of the ferry terminals at no additional cost to transit riders who have purchased bus tickets. Dedicated bus routes are planned for both the West and East ends. For the Kalaeloa / Barbers Point terminal, coordinated bus service will operate to Waianae Coast, Makakilo and Kapolei. For the Pier 9 / Aloha Tower terminal, coordinated bus service will operate to downtown Honolulu, Kalihi, Ala Moana, Waikiki and the University of Hawaii. customer support and operations personnel will be present at each terminal location to assist in the smooth transfer of passengers between buses and vessels.

The management and staff at TheBoat have committed their support to operation in three important areas:

Circulator Buses - TheBus will operate circulator buses from transit centers along prescribed routes and collect ferry riders from various residential, downtown and Waikiki locations and deliver them to the respective terminals.

Communications Services and Call Center Support - TheBus will provide a dedicated inbound call line for the purpose of providing ferry schedules, updates, changes and general customer assistance information for this service.

Consultation and Collaboration - TheBus will provide input to the demonstration project's management and staff regarding operations. TheBus will also provide training to its assigned drivers regarding the demonstration project and operations.