City plans no fare increase for TheBus
There's good news for residents riding the bus to avoid higher fuel prices: Fares for TheBus set five years ago won't be changing any time soon, a city official said yesterday.
"We're hoping to look at ways of accommodating some of the fuel cost increases within the overall operating structure," said Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services. "Right now we don't have any discussions going on with regards to adjusting the rate."
The city budgets for an expected increase in the cost of fuel every year, but this year has been especially steep.
Gas prices have continually risen since the beginning of the year and hit another record in Honolulu yesterday at $4.30 a gallon, according to AAA's fuel gauge report.
The city, however, buys its diesel fuel at a lower rate, purchasing it at the average price of the previous month. The price for July appears to be about $4.44, a 67 percent jump compared with last July, when it was $2.75.
Yoshioka said he did not know what the point would be when the city would have to raise fares.
The last bus fare hike was in 2003, when the City Council raised the single-ride fare to $2 from $1.75 and a monthly bus pass to $40 from $30.
Other ways the city can offset the rising cost of fuel is using money budgeted for new bus routes toward fuel or requesting money in a supplemental budget, Yoshioka said.
"A lot of it depends on what happens in the future," he said.
Federal and city subsidies pay for the operation of TheBus, with about 30 percent of the cost paid by money from the fare box. The city tries to recoup a range of 27 to 30 percent of operating costs from the fare box.
A City Council resolution requires the city to alert the Council when the fare box return ratio drops below 27 percent, Yoshioka said. So far, the ratio has not fallen below that range.
Bus ridership hit a new record in February, James Burke, chief of the city's Public Transit Division, said yesterday in a presentation to the Citizen's Advisory Committee.
Since 2003, ridership has steadily risen every year, growing at about 2.5 percent in a month-to month comparison, Yoshioka said.
Ridership has grown because of the growing congestion in urban Honolulu and residents finding TheBus a viable alternative, Yoshioka said. The city also readjusted routes to better fit the community's needs, he said.
There was a noticeable impact on bus ridership when gas prices spiked this year in the urban corridor. Route 1, the backbone of the bus system, between Kalihi and Hawaii Kai, saw more riders, while ridership in the urban corridor jumped 3 to 5 percent, he said.
The city also replaces buses in its 525-bus fleet with hybrid buses whenever one goes out of service.
To improve the bus system, the city is considering route improvements in two areas: an express bus from Windward Oahu to Kapolei and a route from Central Oahu to Kapolei.