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Friday, September 5, 2003



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Councilmembers
come up with an
alternative bus plan


Unhappy with a bus fare hike proposal put out earlier this week, two Honolulu City Council members are floating their own plan as a possible alternative.

"Donovan (Dela Cruz) and I had serious concerns along the same lines, and so we decided that rather than just criticize what was out there, we tried to come up with what we thought was better," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said.

Under their proposal, adults would pay $2 per ride while youths, senior citizens and the disabled would pay $1.

Monthly passes for adults would cost $40, and for youths, $20. Seniors and the disabled would pay a monthly rate of $5 but would have the option of buying an annual pass for $25. Currently, they pay $25 every two years.

Express bus riders would pay the same rates.

Their approach was to raise fares across the board by about 25 percent except for the 100 percent increase to senior fares.

The goal of the fare proposals is to generate an additional $6.8 million in revenue to prevent bus service cuts and layoffs, which have been a bone of contention in bus worker contract talks.

Marshall said she could not accept some of the fare changes in the plan proposed earlier this week, including charging seniors $60 a year, which is five times as much as they pay now. The earlier proposal dropped single-ride fares to $1 from $1.75 but eliminated transfers. Seniors would pay 50 cents a ride.

"People have to be able to afford to ride the bus," Councilman Dela Cruz said. "We can't make it so expensive where we're now hurting segments of the population who depend on this service."

Both councilmembers are also concerned the $80 monthly pass for express buses in the earlier proposal would be burdensome to those who commute to work. Currently, express bus riders pay $30 a month.

"People who have to ride the bus to work -- the low- to moderate-income worker who takes the bus every day -- what we were hearing from our constituents is that many of those people ride the express buses by necessity," Marshall said. "That's a huge increase from $30."

Dela Cruz said that he heard complaints from people catching Leeward Oahu Transportation Management Association buses as an alternative during the strike. LOTMA charges $85 a month and $3.50 per ride.

"It's definitely taking a toll on them," Dela Cruz said.

Their proposal includes a low-income pass for riders who meet federal poverty guidelines. They would pay the current fares.

While their proposal does not include a transfer system -- riders would have to pay per ride -- Dela Cruz and Marshall differ on whether a transfer system is needed.

"My opinion is that we need transfers, especially when you live in the rural parts of Oahu," Dela Cruz said.

The bus fare hike proposals will be heard 9 a.m. Monday before the Council's Transportation and Budget committees.



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