Need an adventure? Catch the bus

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Anyone who works in downtown knows: parking sucks.

If you’re lucky, you can find an early-bird parking rate for about as much as you’re making per hour. But if you can’t, you’ll be stuck feeding meters or, as in my case, paying $47 for eight hours in a garage.

So I decided instead of driving around, looking for cheap parking — or getting to the lots before sunrise to nab the few early-bird stalls in downtown — I would catch the bus.

Growing up in Kalihi, I caught the bus everywhere — to Kaneohe to visit my best friend, to downtown to meet my parents after school, to Ala Moana Center to eat pizza at the old Makai Market, even around the island on the weekends just for fun.

It was my only mode of transportation when I was in college, too, working at jobs that paid $5 an hour — not enough to afford the gas a car would need, let alone the car itself.

But after getting my first car in my final years at UH, I was addicted to the freedom it afforded. I could literally go anywhere, at anytime. No more waiting at bus stops. No more sitting next to smelly strangers. No more transfers.

It had been years since I caught the bus — and I’ll admit, I was a little nervous getting on one. All these thoughts ran through my head: Would I know how to pay for the fare? Would I know which stop to get off? What if I’m standing on the wrong side of the street?

I packed a light snack, grabbed a book and headed to the nearest bus stop, hoping it wasn’t obvious I hadn’t done this since “Forrest Gump” won the Oscar for Best Picture. (Let’s put it this way, it was the year Justin Bieber was born.)

The anticipation was too much. The bus was four minutes later and I was starting to panic. I kept thinking I was at the wrong bus stop, at the wrong time, or maybe I looked at the bus transit schedule for another city.

I was about 30 seconds from walking back to my house and jumping in my car when I saw it, the No. 1, approaching.

Getting on the bus wasn’t a problem. These days Honolulu buses are outfitted with every comfort imaginable on a city-run transit: air conditioning, comfortable seats, tinted windows, bike racks, even a step that lowers to help you get on more easily.

And the crowd wasn’t as, well, colorful as I had remembered. Sure, there was a young guy mumbling to himself — turned out to be a former student of mine — and another woman yapping on her cell phone. But everyone on board seemed to be like me — trying to get somewhere. Some were heading to work; others to the mall. There was a couple who looked like they were hoping to find something more magical than Walmart. It was a quiet, mindful group of commuters all hoping no one started up a conversation. My kind of crowd.

The ride to downtown turned out to be incredibly enjoyable. The bus took the same route I would have had I been driving my own car — except I didn’t have to drive. Or think, for that matter. I could read my book or play Words With Friends and not worry about which side streets to take or how bad traffic was. I could just enjoy the leisurely ride into town without any of the stress.

Despite having to walk about two blocks to the office, I got there in less than 30 minutes. It would have taken me that long to drive into town — then another 20 minutes to find parking and walk to work. In that extra time, I got a Diet Coke and contemplated a scone. Much more productive!

While I won’t be commuting to downtown much longer, I did gain a certain respect and appreciation for our bus system. I wouldn’t give up my car — I’ll be honest — but I don’t mind the alternative at all.


While interning in Downtown, I rode the bus regularly thanks to my $20 U-Pass. I thought it was great and uuber convenient - especially since parking/driving in Downtown can be a real pain. I even started a temp blog about my bus rides in paradise. Nowadays I carpool to downtown with a friend, but have no problem riding the bus when my schedule keeps be from making the carpool.


I used to love to ride the bus. I bought a bus pass every month and rode faithfully. The commute to town from Ewa was a royal pain so letting someone else do the driving was primo. When I lived Kailua same thing. After work of course I only rode from time to time. Occasionally uncomfortable moments arose with someone yelling at someone about something but that was only a once a month kind of thing. My last adventure in Honolulu I could walk to work so I never even bought a car. Sure it took a little longer to go places but in HNL traffic it was only a little while longer.


I remember a story my GF once told me... (no, not of the pervs in trench coats which she's encountered before also)... Once late at night she was running to get to a bus stop after a bus went by her on the street. The driver waited for her at the stop for about 30 seconds so she could catch up and get on. He told her he's sorry he had to make her run almost a full block to the stop instead of letting her get on earlier, but he said he recently got reprimanded. He said since he had a college aged daughter, he always tried to make sure young women aren't stranded alone at the stops at night. So once he stopped mid-block to allow a female on. Problem was that she wasn't trying to catch the bus. She reported his route and bus number. I guess she felt he was trying to "lure" her on the bus? Anyways, he had to promise never to do it again... kind of a shame that a good gesture gets punished.


good for you. mass transit and biking must figure large in Oahu's future, more so than most places.

HNL has one of the best bus services in the country. the #1 is probably the most civilized. for the other end of the spectrum try the #42. not the C country. it's a riot when the Waipahu jr high kids get on like a swarm of bees or a whole kennel full of puppies.. but they are sweet and my parental nature surfaces when they pile in with backpacks bigger than they are. even the bad ass gangsta wanna be Kalihi girls get up to give me a seat.

it was the bus that taught me how to pronounce HNL place names.

there are some Rod Tam targeted odiferous riders, but i use a trick that 18th centrury London nobles used when they puddle jumped in town (and puddles then weren't just mud). i keep a bandana and small spray of whatever wallmart has that is itself not too offensive. i've had to use it a few times.

i really miss the bus boat. i knew it was too good to last. i used to take it just for the ride three days a week, on the last roundtrip run from Aloha Tower to Kalaeloa and back. a few commuters road it, but mostly it was the best kept secret tourist attraction in town. i felt like a local when everyone asked me; "what's that big pink thing up on the hill there, then, aye?"


I remember riding past the prison when the man sitting next to me stuck his head out the window, waved, and said, "Bye guys. See you next week."

Once I got my license, I vowed never to ride the bus again.

By the way, who's this Bieber guy?


I used to take the bus quite frequently as a young professional in my first few years in Honolulu... When my GF and I first got together, we'd take the bus to Waikiki from our apartment in Makiki (and later Nuuanu) to eat at Eggs-n-Things, then catch a matineé at one of the three Waikiki or Kuhio Theaters. On the way to and from, we'd be engrossed in reading our books while listening to our Sony Walkman CD players!

Good times! ...and very relaxing...

This past year I had to take my car into the shop twice. So I road the bus a couple of times. And if you need to know what bus to take and when, I have to say that nothing can be easier than typing in where you want to go on your iPhone's Map app, then having it read where you are currently, and tell you every scheduled bus option for the rest of the day. Extremely detailed information.

Cat, have you tried this option?

nonstopmari moderator

wow, u made it sound nice. made me remember the quiet downtime i used to love commuting on trains in tokyo. all that got lost in the convenience of getting around in a car, so much so that when the car's in the shop i spend time lining up rides from ppl til it's done. thnx for pointing out a pleasant, much greener alternative.


Oh wow I don't think I've been on TheBus in ages either. I used to like catching it but then again it was never to go to work, usually it would be an outing to Downtown, Waikiki, or Ala Moana for shopping/hanging out. Over the years I got familiar with routes 11,20,53 and 54, the ones that ran through my neighborhood. Also going to school in Kaimuki as a kid I used to like Route 14 which goes up Waialae Ave., around Diamond Head and through Kahala and Kaimuki and up St. Louis Heights, great sightseeing route. Sometimes while sitting in traffic I wonder whether catching TheBus would be less stressful. But then there's the other side of having to get to the stop on time, the ukumillion stops on some routes, etc. Maybe on a day off I'll catch the ol' Bus again for old time's sake. Gotta admit it does feel good not to have to worry about parking in Downtown or Waikiki, plus obviously you can take the scenery in better as a passenger.

"Sure, there was a young guy mumbling to himself — turned out to be a former student of mine —" - was he saying anything that you recited in class? :-D


Cat, just imagine what the driver and all the other riders on that bus posted about you in their blogs today.

I would much rather take a one-hour bus ride than a 30 minute drive each way to work. The bus is more relaxing, expecially when the weather or traffic challenges. The worst thing that ever happened to me on a bus was nodding off or not paying attention and missing my stop - certainly not a tragedy and sometimes a welcome change of routine.

I have used rail/subway transit enough to get very familiar with it in NY, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Rome, and it is the best way to get to and from work or school, especially if you can walk at each end, and not use a bus or car at all.


growing up, I used to take the bus all over. to baseball practice, to my grandma's house, to my mom and dad's offices. now, my public transportation experiences are limited, mostly, to travel and a few special times here in the bay area (my son loves trains, so we catch BART or CalTrain from time to time, just to do it.
cities like Tokyo and NYC and, to a lesser extent, Chicago and Boston, are made for public transportation. I can't fathom owning a car in Tokyo or New York, much less trying to navigate everyday traffic. the subway systems in those two places are so good, that they're almost a pleasure to use.


how about an article on bike commuting? also a good way to get to work, particularly if you work downtown.


my car has been in the shop for the last few days, and on Monday was the first time I've road the bus in 14 years.
I didn't know the fare was raised to $2.50.
I thought it was $2.00
Thank goodness I had 2 quarters with me
I was the only person to pay money, everyone else who got on had bus passes
I was impressed that all the stops are automatically announced and printed on a screen above the driver
Total ride time was about 15 minutes from Downtown to Ala Moana.
It was nice experience
Got my car back
It will probably be another 14 years before I ride the Bus again
Fares will be about $7.50 by then.
But by then, the rail system should be up and running, hopefully...................


@nonstopmari Tokyo trains. one of the few public conveyances where you can fall asleep on your feet and stay that way. salarymen wobble, but they don't fall down. somewhere in her archive at her website @muza-chan 「ムザちゃん」 has a great in-depth article on the history current operation of Japan Rail.