Kauai Traffic Gridlock: Dubious New Data Intelligence Announced

Kauai Traffic Gridlock: Dubious New Data Intelligence Announced

Can data intelligence vs. actual mitigation efforts reduce traffic problems on Kauai’s only mostly two-lane highway? In a press release today, the County of Kauai and Near Intelligence announced the results of a partnership for “real-world insights to inform transportation planning on the island.”

“Near was thrilled to partner with the country by providing our data intelligence platform to inform recommendations for improving Kauai’s transportation system. The insights from our real-world data will help them understand resident and visitor travel patterns, identify intuitive solutions for reducing traffic congestion, and contribute to planning for a more sustainable Kauai.” — Anil Mathews, CEO of Near.

While we await their specific recommendations, here are some initial thoughts to launch the discussion.

Kauai handles 1,000,000 annual visitors plus residents on its roads.

With more than one million annual visitors and up to 12,000 added rental cars on the island any day, the only island highway suffers sunrise-to-sunset congestion that can resemble Southern California traffic on a smaller scale.

Two areas are especially prone to gridlock. Those areas are known as the “Kapaa Crawl” and the corridor from Lihue heading west towards Poipu via the Tree Tunnel. The “Kapaa Crawl” makes it a nightmare sometimes to travel between the North and South Shore. You have to go through Kapaa; there’s no other way. And once you clear Kapaa, you have the congestion after Lihue to get to Poipu.

Sleeping Giant Trail Kauai

Expanding the island’s only highway and other roads is years away if ever.

We recently mentioned that the idea of a bypass road inland of Lihue is again being discussed. Should that ever happen, it would be to improve southwest and eastbound traffic to flow away from Lihue. In addition, it should reduce the “Kapaa Crawl” and the entire situation between Kauai’s east side and its southwest tourist area.

Traffic on Kauai is now considered a significant safety hazard due to the inability of emergency vehicles to pass.

Another study is being proposed, which is awaiting funding. The County Council unanimously approved it, although one member estimated that such an addition would be no less than ten years away.

With limited public transportation too, the county turned to data.

Kauai County and Near used data from the long-troubled Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state Department of Transportation (the same people responsible for the indefinite runway closure at Honolulu Airport), and what they termed “anecdotal information about congestion.”

Near’s job is to provide “a deeper understanding of actual residential and tourism travel patterns to reveal origins and destinations; distance traveled, and variations across time of day, day of the week, and seasonality.”

The county said the partnership is a “key source of data to drive Kauai’s study forward. The Near data provides critical insights and validation around travel patterns on the island. Plus, data visualizations the researchers created are incredibly helpful as we work on making the case to key stakeholders to evolve our transportation offerings.”
The issues looked at include:
  • Where are the island’s hotspots?
  • Where are common origin and destination points for visitors and residents?
  • What are the main travel corridors based on the time of day?
  • How far do tourists typically drive in a day?
  • What do transportation patterns look like at different times of the year?

Kauai travel pattern analysis report.

“This report provides insights and recommendations to consider for how to reimagine travel on the island by potentially:

  • Creating mobility hubs around the island where tourists can access transportation services.

BOH: Can the current archaic bus system be upgraded to provide meaningful transport for visitors and residents and help eliminate car trips on Kauai?

  • Introducing shuttles and first/last mile micro-transit solutions.

BOH: Shuttles have been tried before and are in limited use now. They have had limited success.

  • Increasing the availability of micro transportation offerings like bikes and scooters.

BOH: Bikes and scooters are extremely problematic on Kauai. There isn’t adequate infrastructure (lanes) for them to operate safely, and accidents involving them are frequent and sometimes deadly.

  • Setting up a public electric charging station network around the island.

BOH: There are no level three fast chargers for electric vehicles on Kauai, and the level two charges are few and far between and sometimes inoperative. We’ve tried using them with limited success.

  • Encouraging the use of car share.

BOH: This is an interesting idea that hasn’t been tried widely on Kauai before. Car-sharing online platforms are rapidly increasing in popularity. This is similar to car rental but is designed to be convenient for those renting cars for shorter periods (like a few hours to a day). Visitors pay for how long they have a vehicle and the distance they drive.

  • Establishing satellite car rental locations around the island.

This could provide limited relief, such as having rental locations based in Poipu. Therein visitors could theoretically shuttle to Poipu and later acquire a rental vehicle, thus eliminating some traffic in one of the two busiest corridors.

What’s not mentioned?

The ideas of enhanced carpooling, ride-sharing, and ride-hailing are not included. There remains limited access to Uber, for example, on Kauai. Sometimes they are available, and at other times they are not.

Carpooling may have significant potential on neighbor-friendly Kauai. Google-owned Waze provided Waze Carpool; however, its service designed to connect drivers and commuters was recently shuttered after six years.

Peer-to-peer ridesharing. This seems to be another worthwhile but not mentioned avenue to pursue. That is where a rider and a driver agree to share a ride, usually via a smartphone app. The driver offers the ride, and the rider pays a share of the cost. The charge covers fuel, maintenance, insurance, etc.

Who is Near?

Near, a global, full-stack data intelligence software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) platform curates one of the world’s largest sources of intelligence on people, places, and products.”

What are your ideas for improving the traffic problems on Kauai?


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52 thoughts on “Kauai Traffic Gridlock: Dubious New Data Intelligence Announced”

  1. I couldn’t believe the massive amount of traffic on Kauai. It was so bad, I honestly wouldn’t go back there, nor suggest anyone go there due to the major problem there. They really need to improve the roads to be 4-lane highways (2 lanes in each direction). I stayed in Kapaa and couldn’t even turn left onto the highway at 6am because it was a constant flow of vehicles. And I noticed most of the vehicles driven at that time were locals. It was always a constant and steady flow of cars once on the highway. With all the locals and tourists, something needs to be done to address this bad situation on the island.

  2. Simply the size and geographical structure of an Island will determine the amount of people capable to live and visit there before it become a nuisance to everyone. Limiting the access is the only viable long range solution.

  3. I think it would have to be a combination of the already mentioned idea of introducing shuttles and first/last mile micro-transit solutions, while virtually eliminating almost all of the island’s rental car services. By switching over to an all electric shuttle service, with shuttles running every 15 minutes, coupled with another final destination “personal use” electric “golf cart” type of vehicles for extremely short-range travel within that specific area where they’ve arrived, and are wanting to explore. The jobs taken away from locals by eliminating the rental car companies could be replaced by the new job openings needed to be filled within the new shuttle service, as well as the micro-transit golf cart type of service I mentioned.

  4. Businesses and government offices expand (or change)their hours of operation to create new windows of access. Flex scheduling for employee staff to reduce “the going to work and leaving work”mass migrations.
    Put a cap on number of rental cars (public and private)

  5. If I remember correctly all the work in adding extra lanes on kauai should have started in 2010.That never happened. If it was started back then we would not have this problem . So keep on improving the airport so the Marriotts and Hyatts can keep on making $$$$$ but don’t worry about the roads and the locals. Take advantage of our culture of not complaining. You will change the culture and people will stop coming. Don’t you wonder why Aloha Is Dying. Well people can just take soo much. When Aloha dies so does the travel industry. By then there will be no difference in any other warm destination for travelers. You reap what you sow. If I made any mistakes in spelling or grammar it doesn’t matter cause I know you got .y point

  6. Data to solve these issues. Please give us an AI mayor to go along with the data. Data and uberasation has caused these problems in the fist place.

  7. Apparently the traffic has gotten much worse since our last visit to Kauai. My only comment is that tourists want to rent a car and they want to sightsee, including a few trips from the North Shore to the South shore, and back. It might be best to inform them of the busiest times of the day/evening on that highway. That said, we must protect the infrastructure of this beautiful island!!

  8. Princeville should have direct shuttle to the airport for all guests as well as the Hilton Hyatt should all shuttle their guests get rid of rental cars they ruin the island create traffic and mayhem that’s not what Kauai is all about they should have some type of restrictions from tourist driving in school zones during certain hours mahalo

  9. As a former representative of HVB I lived in Kauai years ago and saw the steady degradation of the quality of life. The structure of the island simply cannot accommodates so many people and cars at the same time. Visitors have to be limited with a permit access fluctuating according to the months of the year. Too harsh you think? the alternative is chaos…..


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