Hele-On hub coming to Kona

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo Passengers exit the Hele-On bus from Hilo.

Eleven Kailua-Kona locations are in the running for a centralized Hele-On bus hub, and the county wants to hear which one the public likes best, or if other sites would be better.

The county Mass Transit Agency plans a live online session March 29 to explain the sites under consideration. The public can start commenting on the plans Saturday, through April 24. Property descriptions and maps are available at https://konahub.info .

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Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas is enthusiastic about an expanded bus system for West Hawaii. The public has complained for years about limited bus routes and long rides in the fast-growing region, which is also a destination for hospitality workers who live on the east side of the island.

“I believe Kona would benefit greatly from a user-friendly, efficient and strategically located bus service and hub,” Villegas said Tuesday. “I am excited to learn more about the Kona hub locations under consideration at the virtual open house.”

The 11 sites are Old Airport, back of Kona Commons, back of KTA Super Store, back of West Hawaii Today building, park-and-ride lot near King Kamehameha Hotel, between Kuakini Highway and Likana Lane across from Olohi Road, within proposed Niumalu Marketplace development, across from Niumalu Marketplace east of Henry Street, Kmart and an empty lot across from Huggo’s on Alii Drive.

The Kona hub is one of four hub-and-spoke locations in the planning stage for the island. Others are Hilo, Pahoa and Waimea.

The program is expected to cost $35 million over the next six years, with funding coming from general obligation bonds.

A hub-and-spoke system allows smaller buses to circulate through communities, picking up passengers and dropping them off at a hub, where the larger, longer-haul buses will take them longer distances.

Consultants SSFM International, which is working with the county to implement its mass transit master plan, said bus hubs should be in a central location, close to businesses, schools and shops and have utility connections. The hubs may include shelters and benches, multiple pullouts for the buses to wait and load, proper signage and lighting, places for passengers to be dropped off, locations for taxi or ride-share pickups, possible park-and-ride spaces and possibly restroom facilities.

“Ultimately, it will be the county’s decision; however, we have found that decision could weigh heavily on the public input,” said SSFM vice president Jo-Anna Herkes.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, chairwoman of the Public Works and Mass Transit Committee, said it’s especially important for disabled individuals and kupuna to provide input.

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“Community input is critical. It drives form and is used as guiding principle of design and development for all users,” Lee Loy said, “So I really hope those from our aging and disability community come and provide their voice.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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