Council explores option to offer bus fares for free
The City Council is considering a proposal that gives it the power to suspend fares for public transportation for a year to help alleviate traffic congestion, drawing concerns from the administration over the potential revenue loss of about $40 million.
Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said the city shouldn't wait while the fixed guideway system is under way to take action on alleviating traffic.
"I'm really anxious to get more traffic solutions out there," she said at a committee hearing last week.
The bill would allow the City Council to suspend fares, such as for TheBus, for up to one year beginning July 1, the beginning of a fiscal year. The Council has the right to suspend fares for a one-week promotional offer, which some members say isn't long enough to entice more passengers.
But representatives from Charley's Taxi and E Noa Corp., which runs the Waikiki Trolley, said free bus fares could have a negative impact on their businesses.
Melvin Kaku, the city transportation director, said he also had some reservations because the city would then subsidize the entire bus operation, which could mean a revenue loss of $40 million to $45 million.
The city would have to also increase operational costs and buy more buses to accommodate the higher ridership, which is estimated at 225,000 a day currently, Kaku said.
Councilman Todd Apo pushed the bill forward, saying it deserves more discussion.
"This is just the mechanism to give us the ability to suspend fares," Apo said. "It's not a permanent suspension. It's not even a definite suspension."