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Wednesday, August 6, 2003



City & County of Honolulu

City eyes
higher bus fares

The administration says greater
revenue is needed to help
avert a strike by employees

Proposed fee increases


Youths, adult monthly-pass holders and many senior citizens would pay more to ride TheBus under a city administration bill aimed at raising more revenue to avert a bus strike.

The proposal includes increased fares for those riding express runs and riders needing transfers. It also would eliminate the popular two-year pass for seniors 65 and older that lets them ride for free; seniors with proper ID would have to pay 25 cents a ride.

City Transportation Director Cheryl Soon said the fare changes should offset a $6 million shortfall in the bus budget.

"The real purpose here is to make sure that there are no reductions in service," Soon said. "And because some of the reductions in service would've resulted in layoffs, that had become issue in the (contract) negotiations and hopefully that issue gets resolved in this manner."

Unionized bus employees have set an Aug. 26 strike deadline. Local 996 of the Teamsters Union represents 1,300 drivers, mechanics and clerks at Oahu Transit Services, the private company that runs the bus system for the city.

Bus fares last went up on July 1, when the adult single fare rose by 25 cents to $1.75 and the monthly bus pass went up by $3 to $30.

The new fare proposals include:

>> Monthly adult passes going up again to $37.

>> Youths, those 6 through 17, seeing their per-trip price go up by a dime to 85 cents and the youth monthly pass rising by $5 to $18.50.

>> Express bus riders paying 25 cents a ride as part of a new differential fare.

>> A new 25-cent fee for transfers, which currently allow bus riders to catch a connecting bus for free.

The fare changes also call for changes to senior fares.

Gone will be the two-year $25 senior bus pass, which Soon said is very popular.

"It's almost like getting a Social Security card or a license to some people -- it's what you do," Soon said.

She said the senior bus pass cost too little and officials were "looking at a scenario that would a little bit more reflect the amount of usage they have and, again, that was not insurmountable."

Seniors with proper ID but without the senior pass would be allowed to catch the bus at a lower per-ride fare of 25 cents vs. the current 75 cents. Buying the identification card each year, however, would cost $10. Currently, the identification card is $6 and is renewed every four years.

The City Council is expected to take up the bill that sets the new fares at its meeting today

Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said late yesterday that she had not seen the proposed fare changes but she is concerned about the impact it will have on seniors.

"Seniors are on a fixed income," she said.

Kobayashi said the Budget and Transportation committees are planning a joint hearing for Tuesday on the bus budget and the proposed fare hikes.

If the bill goes through its normal course, the fares won't take effect until November.

Kobayashi said the Council could hold a special meeting this month to move the process along.

"At this point in time, it's in the Council's lap, to be quite honest. I am prepared to do the service reductions in August," Soon said. "If they send signals that they're really not going to do it, then I'll go forward with the service reductions. I don't mean that as a threat, I just mean that as a practical necessity."

Soon said the new transfer fee was meant to curb abuses.

"It isn't to say that everybody is abusing it, but there's enough indication that people are passing them around or people are using them in ways they weren't intended to be used," Soon said.

"Putting 25 cents on it, for one thing, may just kill all that behavior and, No. 2, it's indicative that it is an additional ride and that you're paying it."

Soon said the express differential is intended to recoup more of the cost of running the express routes at the fare box.

"We're trying to do a little more balancing to bring them closer in line to the average of trying to get a 30 percent fare box recovery."

Express bus routes and their riders are an important segment, especially in taking commuters out of cars in morning and afternoon rush hour, Soon said.

"But when you look at the cold facts of it as an efficiency ... it does less to pay for itself than many of the other services," she said.




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Proposed bus
fee increases


>> Adult fare would remain at $1.75 a ride, but the monthly pass would increase to $37 from $30.

>> Youth fare (ages 6-17) would increase to 85 cents a ride from 75 cents, and the monthly pass would increase to $18.50 from $13.50.

>> Senior citizen (65 and older) fare would increase to 25 cents a ride from nothing for those with senior bus passes. The $25 fee for a senior pass -- good for two years -- would be eliminated. The senior identification card -- needed for the pass -- would go up to $10 a year from $6 every four years. Thus, over a four-year period, an eligible person would pay $40 in ID card fees and 25 cents per bus ride, while currently that person pays $56 for a card and pass but pays nothing per bus ride.

>> An Express Bus differential of 25 cents per ride would be added to single ride fares.

>> A person would have to pay 25 cents for a transfer.


Star-Bulletin staff

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