Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.
Q: I live in Makawao, a mile from the school where I teach. If the bus routes Upcountry could be adjusted slightly, so that one could travel from Makawao to Pukalani without going through Kahului, I would sell my car! Three hours to buy groceries just doesn't work for me or anybody else in Makawao. If a third route could make frequent loops in the Makawao-Pukalani area (including, say, Haliimaile, Pukalani Terrace, Pukalani Longs and downtown Makawao), then the No. 39 could stop at Longs and the No. 40 could stop at Pukalani Terrace. Or, perhaps the No. 39 and the loop could somehow be combined.
A: We are always looking at ways to expand our Maui Bus service to meet the needs of our ridership. Right now, the county Department of Transportation is in the process of examining some of the routes in the Upcountry area. The county has only recently been granted a right of entry into Kulamalu near Longs, and is working on schedule changes to address some of the requests being made by riders and area residents. Funding to add additional routes and services is not available at this time, but the department is in the process of exploring timing and routing adjustments that can be accomplished within its existing budget. If route expansion or additional services are desired, members of the community are urged to attend upcoming budget hearings in September and October so that their requests may be considered. A schedule for those budget meetings will be sent out by my office shortly.
Q: What is the policy regarding public buses stopping and blocking roads when passengers get on and off, even when it is possible for the bus to pull off the road? About two weeks ago, I was in a line of cars that got stuck behind a Kahului-bound bus at the Hana Highway in front of the Kuau Store. There was room for the bus to pull off the road. I thought this might be because the area it could pull off is private property, part of the store's parking lot. Then last week an inbound bus blocked Haliimaile Road for several minutes as someone loaded a bicycle onto it. It the past I had always seen the buses pull into the area next to Haliimaile Park so they didn't block the road. The loop of road that goes in and out of the parking lot makes it very easy for a bus to pull off of the main road, unless the area is very wet and muddy, which was not the case. Why didn't this bus do so? The bus is a great service for Maui residents and visitors, and I fully understand that there may be times when blocking traffic is necessary to provide this service. However, it seems to me that the buses should pull off the road to load and unload passengers when it is safe and easy for the bus to do so.
A: We've answered this question before, most recently regarding some women that were left behind at the Kahului Shopping Center. But I'll be happy to repeat the answer here because it seems to be a popular question. The standard Maui Bus driver operating procedure in servicing bus stops is to pull parallel to the curb, preferably within 6 to 12 inches from the curb. If there is a dedicated paved pull-off lane, the bus should then load and unload passengers. Drivers have been advised not to pull off on unimproved shoulders to service bus stops. This is due to the safety of riders getting on and off of surfaces that are not level, especially the elderly and disabled. Sometimes it is necessary to deploy a lift or ramp to service disabled riders and this requires a level and paved surface. The infrastructure at each bus stop is different and Maui's rural roads are often narrow and unimproved. However, it is the goal of the department that when able, the installation of a dedicated pull-off will be considered. If you are following a Maui Bus, it's best to stop unless the bus has pulled completely out of the lane.
Q: I work for a tour bus company and am wondering why wasn't the road closure to Iao Valley on the Maui County road closure list one recent morning?
A: Unfortunately, those road closure notifications are for road closures that involve our Maui Police Department personnel. In the case of that gate located along Iao Valley Road, it is controlled by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. My staff has spoken to DLNR personnel, and they confirmed that they did send out a news release the July 18 prior, to say that they would be closing their Maui forest reserves as well as Iao Valley State Park until July 21 due to the storm that was expected over the weekend.
Because DLNR staff had to clear debris from the park, that gate was not reopened until noon. However, you are correct in pointing this out, because we should be doing a better job coordinating scheduled road closures between the state and our Police Department. DLNR has said it will speak to the Police Department to discuss how to get its closures on our notifications.
* Want to Ask the Mayor? Submit your Maui County related questions to Mayor Alan Arakawa by email at email@example.com, by phone at 270-7855 or by mail at 200 S. High St., ninth floor, Wailuku 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the "Ask the Mayor" column; to request a personal response to a concern, email firstname.lastname@example.org.