Cruising Along is an ongoing weekly blog series by Bianca Sewake examining Hawai’i’s alternative modes of transportation.
Recently, I woke up and thought to myself, “Today is the day. You are getting on that bus.” I was excited to explore one of my curiosities and mysteries—Hawai‘i’s mass transit—but dread formed at the pit of my stomach as I lay awake in bed preparing myself for what seemed to be a lengthy and uncomfortable journey from Wahiawa to Chinatown, a somewhat long commute that would give me an idea of what many go through daily. I knew I wouldn’t be alone; in 2012, there were approximately 76, 296, 482 bus riders, as reported by the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Transportation Services.
Earlier, to prepare for my ride, I researched. And by researched, I mean I plugged in my destination and my current location and searched for bus directions on Google Maps—a last-resort option after failing to decipher the online PDF bus schedule and routes. Were these the arrival or departure cross streets? Were these west-bound or east-bound? What’s the difference between two bus numbers if the end location is the same? Downloading the bus app didn’t help much either. It would all probably make more sense after a few bus rides, I figured. I did, however, find and save the customer service number just in case.
I arrived five minutes early for bus 52. Two other people were at the stop. One man, who sat at the edge of the concrete bench, had his back toward me, with an open folder, resume inside, in his hands. The bus arrived two minutes late, which isn’t bad timing at all. After inserting $2.50 (a 50 cent increase since 2009), I asked for a bus transfer, which would let me catch two more rides within a two-hour limit. The bus wasn’t crowded, and I found a seat in the middle next to a window. Then I felt some air blowing on me—air conditioning, a pleasant surprise. I tried keeping track of the stops in my head, but stopped because the bus halted at places I didn’t notice had them, places I typically would go and that were familiar. I thought this wouldn’t be so bad if I caught the bus some days. Throughout the ride, families, shoppers, teenagers, and workers shuffled in and out. I began to breathe easier and felt like I had entered a whole new world, a whole new way of being.
Before long, I was in Chinatown. It took about an hour. I hopped off the bus, happy to not have to worry about parking or even paying for parking. In my head, I had made the bus out to be some sort of monster to be endured, but it turned out that the bus was just a bus taking me where I needed to go. In fact, if I had done more research prior to this bus ride, I would have found that Hawai‘i made the top 10 for public transportation according to U.S. news based on combinations of investment, ridership, and safety. But for me, just one ride changed the way I felt about this alternative mode of transportation.
Cruise along next week to hear thoughts from frequent bus riders.