- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) - An experimental shuttle on Kauai’s north shore has been attracting passengers.

The Experience Kauai shuttle - which goes to resorts and popular visitor spots in Princeville, Hanalei and other popular sites - had more than 1,000 passengers in November, its first month, The Garden Island newspaper (https://bit.ly/1Ch7sKA) reported.

More than 1,500 rode the shuttle in December, and it’s on course to carry even more passengers this month.

“We’re doing awesome,” Experience Kauai owner James Reis said Tuesday. Ridership is split between residents and tourists, he said.

“It’s a pleasant surprise,” he said. “I really didn’t think we would have this response.”

The shuttle charged introductory fares of $2 each way for visitors and $1 each way for residents during its first two weeks. The fares have since been raised to $4 and $2, respectively.

George Cost, the director of the county’s Office of Economic Development, said the primary goal is to reduce the number of cars that travel to the Hanalei and Haena area and park at Kee Beach.

The shuttle received a $75,000 grant from the county that is covering operational costs through Feb. 1. Costa said he and other county officials are in the process of identifying additional funding, both inside and outside the county, for an extended pilot period.

“The goal is still to bring the service to self-sustainability,” Costa wrote in an email.

Local taxi companies, however, say the new service has come at their own expense.

“The word is ‘lost,’ not ‘losing,’” said Princeville Taxi owner Jeff Allen, when asked how the shuttle was affecting business. “He’s pretty much taken over.”

Allen said his biggest hit has been in calls for rides up the hill between Hanalei and Princeville. Before the shuttle, Allen said he was making an average of $100 per evening. Now, he said he’s lucky to have two calls per week.

Sue Mahelona, owner of Sue’s Northside Taxi & Tours, said that while her business has taken a hit, she doesn’t have anything against the shuttle - except that those behind it made it seem as if there was no other option to get around.

“We’ve been out here for years,” she said of her company.

Both Mahelona and Janice Smolenski, owner of North Shore Cab Company, said the shuttle has done nothing to reduce congestion at Kee Beach. And unlike Experience Kauai, Smolenski said she and other cab companies aren’t asking store owners and resorts for the money to run their businesses.

“Why should the people of Kauai be paying for the tourists to be riding around on the North Shore?” she asked.

___

Information from: The Garden Island, https://thegardenisland.com/

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