Honolulu launches electric bus pilot project

It’s official! The first zero-emission electric bus in Hawai‘i has arrived! This Proterra bus will be tested on 23 city routes as a pilot project for The Bus. Thank you to our Honolulu county leadership for taking this important step towards 100% clean ground transportation. Photo by Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency


Above: Press Conference with Mayor Caldwell, the Department of Transportation Services, Oahu Transit Services, the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, Councilmembers Elefante, Manahan, and Fukunaga, Hawaiian Electric Company, Proterra, Blue Planet Foundation, and the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group.

Media coverage:


City unveils electric bus


City unveils new electric bus pilot project for city fleet

Hawai‘i News Now:

Hawaii’s new electric bus pilot project unveiled


Hawai‘i’s Mayors commit to shared goal of 100 percent renewable ground transportation by 2045

Today in Wai‘anae, Leaders from the City and County of Honolulu, Maui County, Hawai‘i County and Kaua‘i County came together today on the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa in committing to transform Hawai‘i’s public and private ground transportation to 100 percent renewable fuel sources by 2045.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kauaʻi County Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr. and Hawaiʻi County Managing Director Wil Okabe, representing Mayor Harry Kim, set the new target by signing their respective proclamations.

The mayors were joined by Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson in Pōkaʻī Bay on Oʻahu’s Leeward Coast to sign the proclamations on the captain’s box of the Hōkūleʻa, which promoted sustainability and resilience during its recent Mālama Honua voyage.

“The stakes are too high for Oʻahu, as well as the rest of our state.  We have to change our path,” said Mayor Caldwell.  “With this announcement we want to send a message that we welcome the next phase of Hawaiʻi’s clean energy transformation, which will not only reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel imports, but will also ensure a more resilient future.”

The four mayors recognize that this pledge is a critical next step to energy sustainability since ground transportation accounts for over one-quarter of Hawaiʻi’s imported fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  It also represents a significant financial gain for our residents as operating and maintaining an electric vehicle costs about one-third less than a comparable vehicle powered by fossil-fuel.

In their specific proclamations the City and County of Honolulu, the County of Maui, and the County of Kauaʻi pledged to lead the way by transitioning all of their fleet vehicles to 100 percent renewable power by 2035, and the County of Hawaiʻi plans to establish a goal toward the same end.

“It is vitally important that we chart a new course that steers us away from fossil fuel use and carbon emissions in our ground transportation,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.  “The goals we are setting today are not only desirable, but attainable, and help send a message that Maui County and Hawaiʻi are open for innovation to help ensure the greater health of our communities and the planet as a whole.”

The signed proclamations solidify Hawaiʻi’s role as a global renewable energy leader, with the state and all four counties becoming the first in the nation to commit to a 100 percent renewable transportation future.

“Hawai’i County is committed to the goals of this initiative, and we will do everything we can to see it fulfilled,” said Hawai’i County Mayor Harry Kim.

The proclamations also continue Hawai‘i’s progress in transitioning away from fossil fuels and builds off a 2015 state law that requires 100 percent of Hawai‘i’s electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2045.  Hawai‘i’s 2045 goal was the nation’s first such benchmark.

“It is our shared kuleana to reduce our emissions, no matter how big or small our communities may be,” stated Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.  “It is an ambitious goal, but by bringing everyone to the table to work together, we can achieve 100 percent affordable, safe, renewable transportation by 2045.”

The four Hawaiʻi mayors join leaders in France, Great Britain, India, China, Dublin, Madrid, Oslo, Milan, Paris, and Brussels who have also committed to transition their transportation systems away from fossil fuels.

“Hōkūleʻa’s voyage around the world was dangerous, but the risk of inaction outweighed the risk of the voyage,” said Nainoa Thompson.  “The call of Mālama Honua is being answered today by these four mayors who are continuing the legacy of the voyage and showing the world what local climate leadership looks like.”

Local businesses and clean energy organizations applauded the historic action by the four mayors.

“This initiative will spark innovation and entrepreneurship in our state,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi.  “We’ve seen how the renewable energy revolution in electricity has grown jobs and helped keep over $300 million every year in the local economy.”

“We commend the vision of these leaders in setting the course for Hawaiʻi’s sustainable transportation future,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of Blue Planet Foundation.  “This goal has been one of the missing pieces in our clean energy puzzle.”

“I am proud to be here today to share in this historic announcement,” said Jodi Malinoski, Sierra Club O‘ahu Group Coordinator. “This commitment to zero-emission buses and electric vehicles is integral to healthy, livable communities and will ensure a more just and equitable transition to a clean energy future.”


While imported petroleum use for electricity generation has been decreasing over the past decade, due to the success of the public-private partnership to achieve a 100 percent renewable electrical grid by 2045, gasoline and diesel use in vehicles has grown in recent years.

The proclamations signed today by the chief executives of the four counties are in alignment with the state of Hawai‘i’s recent commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

All four mayors previously joined Governor David Ige on June 5, 2017 to commit to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement just days after President Donald J. Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the international accord to address global warming.

More recently, Mayor Caldwell returned from the North American Climate Summit last week where he signed the Chicago Climate Charter and met with former President Barack Obama, who encouraged U.S. mayors and local governments to lead the country in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goals.

The City and County of Honolulu was recently selected by 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, to be part of an international cohort of cities addressing the increased stresses and shocks of the 21st century.  The city will be developing a “Resilience Strategy” in 2018 that will include how best to address climate change challenges on Oʻahu.  Nainoa Thompson serves as a member of the Mayor’s Resilience Strategy Steering Committee.


O‘ahu Group Coordinator Jodi Malinoski with Joshua Stanbro, Executive Director and Chief Resilience Officer for Honolulu’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kauaʻi County Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., Hawaiʻi County Managing Director Wil Okabe, and Honolulu Councilmember Joey Manahan, joined by Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson in Pōkaʻī Bay on Oʻahu’s Leeward Coast to make the announcement to 100% clean ground transportation by 2045.

What an amazing honor to set foot on mama Hōkūleʻa…

Additional photos from the City and County of Honolulu can be viewed here.


Star Advertiser: Bikeshare Hawaii CEO pleased by growth, says Biki is evolving

By Nina Wu
November 1, 2017

In its first three months of operation, Bikeshare Hawaii reported that Biki, the first bikeshare program in Honolulu, logged more than 180,000 rides.

Lori McCarney, CEO of Bikeshare Hawaii, said she is pleased with the results of the first-quarter report.

“We want to serve residents and visitors. We want our bikes to be used,” said McCarney, “so I think the growth in users over the period is really what we’re pleased to see. It wasn’t just (that) people came out, tried it out and said, ‘OK, that was fun,’ and went away.”

Since it first launched June 28, Biki has logged 180,272 rides, with average rides per day increasing from 1,735 in July to 2,101 rides in September.

A total of 31,743 unique individuals checked out a Biki in its first three months, according to the report released in October. Of the total, 43 percent were members, meaning they signed up for a monthly pass rather than a single $3.50 ride. The Free Spirit Pass, which offers a bank of 300 minutes for $20, was the most popular option.

With $2 million in state and city startup funds, Bikeshare Hawaii was launched as a nonprofit in June following years of preparation stemming from a feasibility study in 2014 that determined Honolulu could benefit from such a program. Bikeshare Hawaii has a contract with Singapore-­based Secure Bike Share to handle its customer service and day-to-day operations.


>> Total rides: 180,272
>> Unique users: 31,743 (43 percent members, 57 percent casual riders)
>> Most popular option: Free Spirit Pass ($20 for a bank of 300 minutes)
>> Average trip duration: 22 minutes, 25 seconds
>> Top 10 Biki stations: Waikiki (6) and Ala Moana/Kakaako (4)
>> Top three ZIP codes of Biki users: 96815 (Waikiki), 96813 (downtown/Chinatown) and 96826 (McCully/Moiliili)

* Source: Bikeshare Hawaii (as of Sept. 30)
Learn more at gobiki.org.

In June, Bikeshare Hawaii began rolling out 100 Biki stations offering 1,000 turquoise-colored bikes for rent on a combination of public and private properties stretching from Diamond Head to Chinatown. It met with initial resistance from some neighborhoods, most often over the placement of the Biki stations.

The Kapiolani Park Preservation Society did not want stations at the park, for instance, saying Biki is an equipment rental operation with ads on its bikes, which is against its rules. Others complained about the loss of metered parking stalls in increasingly congested neighborhoods like Kakaako.

Currently, Biki stations occupy 34 metered parking stalls in Honolulu, according to the city Department of Transportation Services.

The 10 most popular Biki stations are in the Waikiki, Ala Moana and Kakaako areas. One of them occupies two metered parking spaces in front of ARVO, a cafe on Auahi Street.

Casey Wiggins, co-owner of ARVO at the Salt retail complex, said the Biki station was an adjustment at first. But now she embraces it, and sometimes hops on a Biki bike to get together with friends in Chinatown.

“I think it is drawing people here,” she said. “It’s great exposure for us and part of the healthy, active lifestyle.”

Likewise, Monica Toguchi Ryan, owner of Highway Inn, a restaurant also at the Salt complex, said she rides a Biki almost daily to run errands within a 1-mile radius, whether it’s a hair appointment or a trip to Longs Drugs. She and her husband also take the Biki to get coffee at Ward Village on Sunday mornings.

“I love it,” said Ryan, who also lives in Kakaako. “It’s wonderful to have this Biki station here.”

Not everyone is pleased with Biki, which remains a point of contention in Chinatown.

Tony Nguyen, whose family owns Lin’s Lei Shop, sees both the bulb-out and Biki station at the corner of Maunakea and North King streets as contributing to a drop in customers. The Biki stop is within a bulb-out near several longtime businesses, including the lei shop, Jerry’s Jade & Gems and an antique furniture shop.

“This Maunakea strip is extra busy,” he said, “especially for a retail shop where we rely on customers coming in and out.”

Customers used to stop along the curb to purchase a lei, but now they cannot. He admits it was previously a no-parking zone, but customers were willing to take that risk. Potentially, it could be lost parking citation revenue for the city, he said.

“I get it,” said Nguyen, who is personally boycotting the Biki. “More bikes, less cars.”

He just wishes Bikeshare Hawaii would move the station elsewhere, a block farther makai, for instance.

McCarney, who is also a member of the Downtown-­Chinatown Neighborhood Board, said the city had planned the bulb-outs in advance of the bikeshare rollout and suggested the station within it. She wants to gather various constituents of Chinatown to determine where additional Biki stations could go to bring more visitors to the neighborhood.

The Biki stations that are often among the 10 least used, she said, are the ones at Beretania and Isenberg streets, Halekauwila and South streets and by Aloha Tower Marketplace (Bishop Street and Aloha Tower Drive).

McCarney said Bikeshare Hawaii is evaluating those stations but is not likely to move them any time soon.

Once residents move into Keauhou Place, she said, perhaps the adjacent Halekauwila/South streets station will get more use. As for Aloha Tower Marketplace, perhaps the station is not as visible as it could be for students at Hawaii Pacific University and could benefit from more publicity. The Beretania/Isenberg location near the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is primarily residential, so it might take longer to catch on, she said.

A few Biki stations at Ala Moana Regional Park moved due to sprinkler renovations. One at University Avenue was adjusted a few feet to improve drivers’ line of sight. McCarney said moving stations will get more difficult as time goes on.

In an effort to generate interest, Bikeshare Hawaii partnered with about 20 restaurants to offer discounts for Biki users in August and is partnering with retail businesses for its next promotion, “Biki Buys,” in November. Biki is also now offering a “Request a Biki Stop” form online.

“We’re still learning,” said McCarney. “The best thing we can do is listen to the community, our users, look at patterns and then try to build a substantial transportation system that works for the community. So we’re never going to be done making improvements.”

Support for Resolutions relating to Clean Transportation

The O‘ahu Group continues our work to encourage clean transportation for O‘ahu.

We submitted written and oral testimony in support for Resolution 17-237, which encourages an electric bus pilot program, the adoption of a comprehensive transition plan, and moving to all zero-emission electric buses: 

We also submitted written and oral testimony in support for Resolution 17-238, which urges the city to transition to an all electric vehicle motor pool and automotive fleet. The city currently has about 1,800 vehicles in use and only 2 are electric…so far.

Both Resolutions had support from the City Administration and passed through the Transportation and Planning Committee at the October 26, 2017 meeting. They were adopted unanimously by the full Council at the November 1, 2017 meeting.

Star Advertiser: Hawaii to get $1.45M for electric buses

By Star-Advertiser staff
September 18, 2017

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced today that the federal government will award $1.45 million to the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services for the purchase and deployment of fully electric transit buses.

“Hawai‘i has long been a leader in clean energy, and the city of Honolulu is building on that legacy by transitioning to buses that will keep our air clean,” Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a press release. “I’m glad that this funding will take our state one step closer to reaching our goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.”

Schatz’s office said a zero-emission electric bus could eliminate nearly 1,700 tons of carbon pollution over its 12-year lifespan, the equivalent of taking 27 cars off the road.

The funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation is part of Honolulu’s ongoing effort to electrify its public transit operation through public-private partnerships. Hawaiian Electric is expected to install the electric infrastructure for up to five Battery-Electric Buses while Gillig Corporation LLC, the largest all-American bus manufacturer in the United States, will produce the buses.

Support letter for Honolulu’s electric bus grant application

Below is the support letter the O‘ahu Group submitted to the Federal Transit Administration in support of the Honolulu’s Department of Transportation Services “Low-No Emission Vehicle Program” grant application, which would provide federal funding for the purchase of electric buses and infrastructure on O‘ahu. Mahalo to the Department of Transportation Services for allowing us to support your efforts to introduce electric buses in Hawai‘i. Our fingers are crossed that Honolulu is awarded the Low-No grant!

O‘ahu Group’s work on Electric Buses

One of the many campaign efforts the Sierra Club’s O‘ahu Group has been working on is researching and advocating for Honolulu to start incorporating zero-emission electric buses into their public bus fleet. Since October 2016, O‘ahu Group staff and volunteers have met with the Hawai‘i State Energy Office, the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the City’s Department of Transportation Services, Mayor Caldwell, and all nine of the Honolulu City Councilmembers to learn more about existing efforts to support electric buses, grant opportunities to help Hawai‘i pay for electric buses and infrastructure, and to gauge the interest of our local agencies and politicians. Overall, the reception we have received has been largely positive and the City’s Administration is supportive of incorporating electric buses into TheBus system. We continue to discuss with the City’s Department of Transportation Services efforts to launch an electric bus pilot project in Honolulu in Fall 2017 and are also working to pass City Council Resolution 17-166 to support sustainable transportation through zero-emission electric buses.

Below is some information we have gathered on electric buses for anyone who wants to learn more about the benefits, opportunities, and what other cities are doing to incorporate and commit to electrification of their bus systems:

Pilot projects/bills

TheBus facts

  • http://www.thebus.org/AboutTheBus/TheBustFacts14_1.pdf
  • http://www.thebus.org/AboutTheBus/TheBustFacts14_2.pdf
  • TheBus operates a fleet of 542 buses: 389 standard 40 foot buses and 115 articulated 60 foot buses
  • The average age of the buses is 9.5 years old
  • Fuel and energy costs between 2015-2016 were nearly $14 mil, or 7% of the total expenses
  • Annual ridership is 68 million passenger trips and 67,000 miles
  • Electric buses would target routes less than 125 miles
  • Initial rollout would be best on Route 5, 7, 8, 16, 31, 32, and all express routes

Funding Opportunities

  • U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) allocated $211 M in 2016 in grants for buses and bus facilities projects. Eligible projects include those that replace, rehabilitate, lease, and purchase buses and related equipment as well as projects to purchase, rehabilitate, construct or lease bus-related facilities, such as buildings for bus storage and maintenance.   https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/us-department-transportation-announces-266-million-funding-opportunity-improve-bus
  • U.S. DOT granted $55 M to twenty transit providers in 2016 through the “Low or No-Emission Bus Competitive Grant Program”. Hawaii was eligible to participate for the first time in 2016 because the “non-attainment” language was dropped. Federal funding is very competitive and this grant received over 100 applications. https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/us-department-transportation-announces-55-million-grants-transit-agencies-deploy-clean
  • U.S. DOT granted $500 M to 40 transit providers in 2016 through the “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” Grant Program. This grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states since 2009. Demand for the TIGER grant program continued to far exceed available funds; the DOT received 585 eligible applications from all 50 States in 2016 alone. https://www.transportation.gov/tiger
  • TheBus partnered with HECO and applied for a $25 M TIGER grant for 18 electric buses (federal funds covered 80%)- unsuccessful, was targeted towards route 7 in Kalihi Valley
  • The Federal share for the cost of acquiring a zero emission vehicle is 85%, 90% of the net project costs for bus-related equipment and facilities

Economic benefits

  • BYD electric buses were found to have an efficiency of about 19 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and the 40 foot Proterra bus efficiency was measured at 22 MPGe. http://altoonabustest.psu.edu/buses
  • Initial cost of electric is +$300k, but the difference in local share cost is only about $38,000 for diesel vs. e-bus (40’ bus)
  • With advantageous rate schedule for off-peak consumption of electricity, annual energy costs for battery buses should be about ⅓ the cost of diesel
  • Maintenance costs for e-buses are lower than diesel or diesel-hybrid: predicted for 2020: $27,200 diesel or hybrid  vs $25,600 electric. No oil changes, no transmissions, no exotic EPA driven emissions reducing systems
  • Annual energy costs for electric are lower than diesel: predicted for 2020: $24k diesel vs $14k ebus
  • Estimated cost savings per year is $15k (energy + maintenance costs)
  • Although Electric buses cost about $300,000 more per bus than diesel, over a 14-year life, the savings in fuel cost, maintenance costs, and the benefits of Greenhouse Gas reduction results in a mildly more costly life-cycle cost (about 2.5% more per bus and additional cost of 10% based on a 3% discount rate).
  • If only local costs are considered, ebus have a 25% lower life cycle cost than other buses, assuming an off-peak TOU rate schedule from Hawaiian Electric

Environmental benefits

Health benefits

  • Diesel exhaust contains more than forty toxic air contaminants that in some cases can cause and/or worsen diseases such as asthma and cancer, disproportionately harming low-income neighborhoods.
  • Short term exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust/diesel particulate matter can cause headache, dizziness, and irritation of the eye, nose and throat severe enough to distract or disable miners and other workers. Prolonged exposure can increase the risk of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease and lung cancer. https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/diesel_exhaust_hazard_alert.html
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies diesel engine exhaust as “carcinogenic to humans” and the US EPA classifies diesel exhaust as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/pollution/diesel-exhaust-and-cancer

We believe that as Hawai‘i moves towards its commitment to producing 100% renewable energy and reducing our dependence on expensive, imported fossil fuels, investing in electric buses is a smart move economically, environmentally, and socially for O‘ahu. We will continue to advocate for zero-emission electric buses on behalf of our members and supporters and will keep you updated on our efforts.

Bill 67 related to Bike Facilities signed into law

Success! Bill 67 (2016), CD1, relating to bicycling facilities, was passed unanimously by the council and signed into law by Mayor Caldwell on Friday, May 26, 2017. The Sierra Club O‘ahu Group and Hawai‘i Bicycling League supported this measure, which requires certain new or converted office buildings located near rail stops in the Transit Oriented Development zone to include showers to accommodate bicycle commuters.

“This law will make it possible for commuters to bike to their neighborhood rail stop on their way to the office, with shower facilities available at work in new buildings,” said Mayor Caldwell.

The idea of providing bicycling facilities for office employees was originally introduced by O‘ahu’s Group’s Gary Gill when he was a Councilmember (nearly 25 years ago) and was re-invented by Councilmember Carol Fukunaga in Bill 67.

“We are thrilled that Honolulu is making great progress in transforming our city into a more bike and pedestrian friendly place to live,” wrote Gary Gill.

Sierra Club’s policy intern and avid biker Will Giese giving testimony in support of Bill 67 related to bike facilities