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Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Star-Bulletin file
TheBus passes a shelter on Pali Highway
near Queen Emma Summer Palace.

TheBus officials
favor fares based
on a fixed share
of operating expenses

Some City Council members
are talking about raising
fares for adults to $1.25

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Operators of TheBus endorse plans for a fare system that would use operating costs to determine what riders pay.

About 27 percent of TheBus operations come from fares, said Roger Morton, senior vice president of Oahu Transit Services, which operates TheBus. The rest is paid from the city's operating budget, which consists primarily of property tax revenues, and other subsidies.

That fare box-to-cost ratio, known as the recovery rate, could drop to under 25 percent in the next year if fares aren't raised, Morton said. He cited rising diesel fuel costs and Mayor Jeremy Harris' plans to increase bus service as part of an expanded hub-and-spoke program.

"By any measure, fares in Honolulu are very low," Morton said. "In a comparison with more than 20 comparable systems, our TheBus fares were the lowest in the country for larger transit systems."

Duke Bainum, Council Transportation chairman, has introduced a resolution requiring the recovery rate to fall within set percentages. The resolution will be heard by his committee tomorrow.

Bainum said yesterday that he intends to amend the resolution to say the recovery rate should be in the 25 to 30 percent range. The resolution currently calls for a 30 to 35 percent rate of recovery.

Bainum said the Council would probably review finances annually to determine whether fares needed to be raised, or even dropped.

"This is a guiding policy," he said. "It's not something we have to check every week to see if we have to adjust the fares. It's just a common sense approach to just give us some guidelines."

While Bainum has refused to discuss specific fare-increase proposals, other Council members have been floating the idea of an increase in the adult fare to $1.25 from $1.

But Morton said a rise in the adult single fare to $1.25 from $1 and children fare to 60 cents from 50 cents would raise the recovery rate to only about 27 percent.

"If they want to get to 30 percent, (a) 25 cents (increase) won't get there," he said.

Morton and Jim Cowen, Oahu Transit president, both suggested that modest, across-the-board increases in all fare categories, including monthly and senior passes, would be more fair.

Bainum said that is one reason he wants a rate policy in place -- to ensure that political pressures don't allow Council members to put off gradual increases in favor of less frequent but larger increases that could hurt the disadvantaged.

Mayor Jeremy Harris has rejected previous attempts to raise bus fares, which most recently went up in 1995.

Administration officials say the mayor has not yet decided whether to support fare increases this time.

Bus fare boosts
listed from 1984

Here are when TheBus adult-fare increases took effect over the years:

Bullet 2001: $1.25 (proposed*)
Bullet 1995: $1
Bullet 1993: 85 cents
Bullet 1984: 60 cents

* Several City Council members have suggested this figure.

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