Author’s note: this is a review of the bus system on Oahu named “The Bus.” If you are planning a trip to the other islands, such as Kauai or the Big Island, please look at their respective transit systems. Most tourists feel that a rental car on outer islands is necessary.
Most of my life, I have used The Bus in Hawaii. I used the bus to go to school and to work everyday until I was 19. So what do I think of The Bus, as a long-time veteran passenger? It sucks.
Despite having been awarded twice by the American Public Transportation Association as having the nation’s best public transit system (source), people in Hawaii could never live life without their cars. Here are 5 reasons why I don’t like The Bus.
1. Bus stops are very uncomfortable
I have never met a bus stop that I liked.
Bus stops are one of the loneliest places in Hawaii. Outside of shopping areas or downtown, you will rarely see people at the bus stop. Most people here have a car or live with someone who has a car or catches a ride with a friend who has a car.
My advice to you is this: bring a music player or a friend with you to the bus stop. Without those, there’s nothing to do at a bus stop except look at oncoming cars driving by 5 feet away from your face.
Most bus stops have no cover, so be sure to bring an umbrella with you if it’s raining. Alternatively, you can walking to another bus stop that might have cover.
Lastly, watch out for homeless people sleeping on the bus stop.
2. Long wait times
If you work in downtown Honolulu or Waikiki, buses are frequent and there are many routes that will take you there and take you home. If you’re riding the bus to or from a more remote location however, The Bus in Hawaii is inadequate.
When I was in high school, I lived in a little area in Kailua where The Bus would come once an hour. If I missed that one bus, it meant a 35-minute walk home. The last bus also came at 7:30pm, so I would be walking home everytime I had a function or practice that ran late.
On holidays and weekends, buses are less frequent and you can expect a wait time of at least 20 minutes for most routes. The Bus schedules are broken down into 3 different schedules:
- Monday to Friday schedule (regular frequency)
- Saturday schedule (less frequent)
- Sunday/Holiday schedule (even less frequent)
3. The Bus runs on “Hawaiian time”
The Bus is never on time.
The Bus has a schedule for all it’s routes, but it’s not reliable, as traffic and unexpected pickups (such as loading handicapped passengers) can slow The Bus down greatly. None of this is The Bus’ fault, but it still makes The Bus unreliable.
If you have important appointments and need to use The Bus, I strongly suggest that you aim to arrive at your destination 30-40 minutes early.
4. You “need” a car in Hawaii
Hawaii is a very low-density place, population-wise. An entire community usually only has one shopping center with a grocery store, ATM, and restaurants. The walk to the shopping center is too far for most, so having a car is almost a necessity. Without a car, a simple task like picking up milk from the store would turn into a 1-hour journey on the bus. Couple this with the fact that taxis are outrageously expensive here, and you can see how we locals feel that we “need” a car here.
5. Offensive odor
Local people without a car or personal vehicle in Hawaii usually fall in 1 of 3 categories:
- poor people and young people
- homeless people
The above are most of people who you will find on the bus. No one minds the first two types of people, but everyone minds the last one.
Honolulu has a very large homeless population. It’s to the point where the homeless are so many that the police allow them to pitch tents on sidewalks (even though it’s illegal). I understand that homeless people need transportation too, but they generally smell awful and ruin the bus-riding experience for whomever is sitting in their vicinity on the bus.
Even without homeless people, there are still many people who have a bad body odor. Our buses are becoming more congested, so during busy hours, you’ll find yourself exposed to many smells.
Info for riders
Don’t misunderstand me, The Bus can be useful in certain situations, like going from Waikiki to Ala Moana or commuting into downtown. If you do plan to use the bus on Oahu, please visit their website at www.thebus.org for schedules. I also recommend using Google Maps to help you with coordinating your travels by bus. They will automatically suggest routes and estimate your travel time (see picture below).
Buyer, One Ride, Monthly Pass
Adult, $2.50, $60.00
Youth, $1.25, $30.00
Senior, $1.00, $5.00
4 day pass, [attr colspan=”2″]$25.00
I really did not enjoy riding The Bus in my youth, so I do have a bias towards it. If you would like to hear more reviews of The Bus, check out Travel Advisor’s reviews of The Bus system on Oahu.
Have you ridden The Bus before? How was it? Hopefully your experience was better than mine. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.