City modifies bus stop to prevent use as a bed


POSTED: Sunday, May 31, 2009

An effort to prevent homeless people from using a Kaneohe bus stop bench for sleeping may have riled those who use the bench for its intended purpose.


“;I think it's a nuisance,”; said Scott Fujioka, 30, a bus rider from Kaneohe.

“;Yeah, I think there's no need,”; added Diamond Jardine, 21, also of Kaneohe.

The bus stop is on Kamehameha Highway between Likelike Highway and Luluku Road, fronting Kaiser Permanente Koolau Clinic. What once was an open wooden bench was retrofitted by the city in April with a wooden contraption to create individual seats separated by armrests.

The new “;seats”; make it virtually impossible for anyone to sleep on the bench, but some riders say the wooden beams leave little space to sit.

“;Sometimes there's big people,”; Jardine said. “;How are they going to fit in this? They're like, 'Oh, my God, I've got to stand up.'”;

City officials say the retrofit is not uncommon to address concerns about homeless people sleeping at bus stops.

“;On selected bus stops, where we get a lot of complaints, we replace the benches,”; said Wayne Yoshioka, the city director of transportation services. “;In this case, this retrofit, it actually tries to deter people from using this as a bed.”;

Roy Yanagihara, the chairman of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board, said he noticed the change last month.

“;That's been modified because there's one individual that used to sleep there on a regular basis,”; Yanagihara said.

Homeless issues do not come before the neighborhood board often, he added.

“;We're all aware of them, but they're not in overwhelming numbers,”; Yanagihara said. “;Part of the problem in Kaneohe for the homeless is services for them are very limited, so there's nothing to keep them in our community.”;

Yoshioka said that renovations and retrofitting at bus stops occur “;only where we get a high volume of complaints with regard to people either sleeping or using it inappropriately.”;

The wooden devices used at the Kaneohe stop were needed because it is an older station where the bench is part of the shelter structure, Yoshioka said. At newer stops, benches are typically replaced with concrete stools that discourage sleeping by homeless.

“;This was kind of like a test to see if this would work (at the older stop), in terms of breaking up the surface enough so that it would be difficult to sleep,”; Yoshioka said.

He said there are no immediate plans to retrofit other stops with the wooden devices.

“;Typically what we look at is if the bus stop is being unusable, clearly the interests of our bus riders are not being fulfilled there,”; Yoshioka said. “;That's when we would move in and do something about it.”;