Aina Haina’s elderly hurt by reduced bus service
On Dec. 2, the bus service to East Honolulu was substantially reduced. Aina Haina, in particular, will be hard hit. Bus service has been reduced from three trips an hour to one!
Our community learned of these changes only a few weeks ago. Neither the city Department of Transportation Services nor our City Council member contacted the Aina Haina Community Association or Neighborhood Board No. 2 concerning this drastic reduction. (Although DTS says it sent a letter to the neighborhood board, no one on the board received it.) DTS did brief the City Council regarding the new plan. It also held seven informational community meetings from April through July. Interestingly, no meeting was held in Aina Haina, the area most affected in East Honolulu.
After we became aware of the plan to reduce bus service to our community, we made every effort to address the changes, including phone calls to DTS, the mayor's office and our council member, testimony submitted at the Oct. 31 public hearing, a petition and finally a meeting of the community association board of directors with DTS representatives on Nov. 14. At that meeting, we were finally given the new schedules and told that there would be no changes to the new plan.
More recently we have proposed an alternative plan that would serve the community better while meeting TheBus' need to make its route more efficient. Routing the Aina Haina bus via the Hawaii Loa Ridge jug handle rather than Kahala Mall would provide additional service and preclude the need for riders to cross the highway.
Many of the bus users in our neighborhood are elderly. Others are physically or mentally challenged. Adequate bus service is vital to their existence. The proposed changes will necessitate residents walking the length of the valley should they miss the planned hourly bus. If headed in the Hawaii Kai direction, they will be forced to cross congested Kalanianaole Highway in order to transfer buses. On Nov. 15 a senior citizen was hit and killed in a crosswalk on the highway by a car driven by another senior citizen. Diminished bus service means more elderly drivers and pedestrians, with more potential for accidents.
In addition, riders who used to make one transfer to reach their destination will now have to make two and pay an extra fare for the second transfer.
Our fragile residents, along with other bus-riding citizens in our valley, were excluded from the planning process. Believe me, the plan would be far different had we been allowed to participate. Rather, we are being told to accept an unacceptable plan and a great deal of frustration that our efforts have come to naught. This reduced service, although saving money, will result in a decrease in bus ridership and an increase in the use of Handi-Vans and personal vehicles, leading to more traffic on Kalanianaole Highway.
We have done all that we can to promote the mayor's commitment to a more efficient and environmentally friendly public transportation system. We do not understand why TheBus is moving in the opposite direction. We have ideas that would address the problems of this plan, but we are not being listened to.
We therefore ask the mayor to become personally involved. Will he help us?
Art Mori is a member of the Aina Haina Community Association.