WEST MAUI - The Maui Bus has been transporting residents and visitors since 2005, with routes servicing Haiku, Makawao, Kula, Pukalani, Kahului, Kihei, Wailea, Wailuku, Maalaea, Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua.
Ridership, according to Maui County Transportation Director Jo Anne Johnson Winer, exceeds 2.7 million boardings per year.
Is the bus more convenient? How much money can you save, and what about comfort?
All busses are operated by Roberts of Hawaii, are ADA accessible and equipped with bike racks and seat belts.
The vehicles are clean, colorfully upholstered, comfortable and air-conditioned. The seating is roomier than a 747 (coach class, of course).
Fares on all routes are $2 per boarding, with the cost of a daily pass $4, cash only.
Monthly passes are offered as well: General Boarding, $45; Student Pass, $30; Senior Pass (55 and older), $25; Senior ADA Paratransit Pass (55 and older), $30; and Disability Pass, $30.
Commuter service is available. Schedules are posted online and distributed on the bus.
The Lahaina News took the early morning service from Napili Plaza (5:37 a.m.) to Queen Ka'ahumanu Center for the cost of a daily pass. There were two transfers - one at Whalers Village and the other at The Wharf Cinema Center. Arrival in Kahului was at 7:30 a.m.
The bus was on schedule; it was very efficient.
Palani caught the bus on Lower Honoapiilani Road at a stop next to Honokowai Park at 5:49 a.m.
He's a tile setter at the Four Seasons Resort in Wailea, working for a contractor.
"It's six busses there, and six busses back, but it takes me right to the front door - super convenient. The money is good, so it's worth the trip," he added.
"I just get to sit back and let somebody else do the driving. For four bucks (a day), it's worth it. It was $20 every other day to drive, when I had a car. I can make a straight shot in the car in 45 minutes. It might take me two hours on the bus, but it is 25 percent the cost. It kind of evens out," he reasoned.
"We are a single-car family. I have two stepsons. My girlfriend works on the West Side. It is just not feasible for me to take away the car from three people," he added.
A Lahaina commuter boarded the bus at The Wharf. He was interviewed but asked to remain anonymous.
He and his wife live a short distance from the stop. She's a second grade teacher at Princess Nahi'ena'ena Elementary School up Lahainaluna Road. He works at the tech park in Kihei. They are a single-car family as well.
The wife gets the car. "It's such a tall hill that I feel bad making her walk when I don't walk that far or steep," he said.
"When I started riding the bus, it all came out of a discussion I was having at work about how it was irrational to drive back and forth to work when there was a bus available. I was wasting gas; I was polluting the environment, so I started riding the bus. Then our car broke down; we just got rid of it instead of fixing it. So I've been riding the bus ever since, the last two years or so. I make one transfer; it takes me an hour on the bus. It is very convenient," the tech park worker described.
Tim is a Kihei resident, riding the bus to his job in Wailuku at the County Building on a Senior Pass weekdays.
He was succinct in detailing the benefits he gains utilizing public transportation.
When asked if he is saving money, with no hesitation he responded, "Oh yeah. Eighty-eight rides for $25, that's 28 cents per ride; my car will not start for 28 cents."
Additionally, "I just don't want to spend money on oil, pollute the environment and all the rest of that stuff," he added.
Tongue-in-cheek, he doesn't recommend public transportation to everyone.
"No, we got enough people who take the bus," he observed and added as an afterthought, "It is better than what people think."
Maui Public Bus Transit System schedules are posted on the Maui County website.