Friday, October 8, 1999

Bus slowdown
expected to end today

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
and Mary Adamski


Arriving late is an experience hundreds of city bus passengers have shared this week, but it wasn't sufficient excuse to exempt several public school students from detentions Wednesday.

"I was 10 minutes late and so were 14 students," said teacher Lucille Mohika, who asked that her school not be identified. "Some got marked tardy and got detention even though I could confirm the reason."

"The thing that made it so bad was the bus driver's attitude," said Mohika, who rides a bus through downtown Honolulu. "I understand the idea of safety, but he kept bragging about taking it slow, safety first. He was being real arrogant. This morning it was a different driver, and he apologized for being late."

Passengers at the Alapai Street bus terminal yesterday had a variety of reactions to the safety slowdown staged this week by TheBus drivers.

Mayor Jeremy Harris and Oahu Transit Services officials are calling it a misunderstanding leading to the slowdown in TheBus routes since Monday.

Service was expected to return to normal today following a meeting between Harris and Ron Kozuma, financial secretary for Teamsters Local 996, which represents the city's 800 bus drivers.

TheBus and the city have logged more than 600 complaints about buses running as much as 40 minutes late.

Union officials, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, denied ordering a slowdown and described their action as part of a "Safety First" campaign.

The campaign warned drivers not to go over the speed limit, overtake other buses or start moving until all passengers are seated. They said HPD had changed its policy and officers were ready to cite bus drivers.

Union officials cited an August memorandum from a police Traffic Division captain to patrol officers instructing them to treat TheBus drivers the same as other motorists.

HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said Deputy Chief William Clark rescinded the memorandum yesterday after learning about it.

Yu said police brass believe the memo gave a false impression to officers that they should "cite instead of warn" bus drivers.

Roger Morton, Oahu Transit Services operations vice president, said he can't recall if his drivers have had any citations this year, despite the union warnings. Typically, TheBus gets about three citations annually, he said.

Morton and Oahu Transit Services President Jim Cowan said they were bothered that union officials gave the impression that TheBus executives were to blame for the slowdown.

Cowan said he believes union leaders blamed bus administrators for the situation with police as a show of muscle before a coming Teamsters election.

Cowan said HPD requested a meeting with TheBus officials after police and the city complaint's office reported receiving a number of complaints of unsafe driving.

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