TheBus not braking for Furlough Friday


POSTED: Sunday, November 15, 2009

TheBus is keeping its schedule the same on Furlough Fridays because it's too early to tell what impact furloughs for public school teachers and state workers are having on bus ridership and whether adjustments are needed, said Oahu Transit Services President Roger Morton.

On Oct. 30, the second Furlough Friday—the only one tallied so far in terms of ridership—the change was insignificant, Morton said.

But transit officials are watching other ridership changes, such as a 2 percent drop in the number of passengers since July 1 that Morton says is linked to the weak economy.

TheBus drivers use an electronic system to count riders for one week every month. That count is averaged out to the weekday ridership for the month.

Deborah Limoz of Pearl City, who was catching a bus in downtown this weekend, said she hasn't noticed a decline in ridership on regular days or on furlough days.

“;The first Furlough Friday was really weird,”; she said. “;There was a lot of people on the bus.”;





        Ridership increased 14.7 percent from 2005 to 2009. By fiscal year, ending June 30, here are the ridership figures and percent change from the year earlier:

YearRidership% change

        Source: Oahu Transit Services


Morton said the weak economy has shrunk the largest category of bus riders—people going to work—and the fourth-largest passenger category—isle visitors. Students and senior citizens comprise the second- and third-largest customer groups, respectively.

In September, Hawaii's unemployment was 7.2 percent with about 47,000 people out of work. Those who used to catch the bus for work usually do not use the bus when they're not working, leading to a drop in ridership, Morton said.

Visitor counts this year through September were also down 5.8 percent, Morton said.

The decrease also comes after a hike in bus fares on July 1 to $2.25 from $2. Another 25-cent hike is scheduled for July 1.

Morton said the fare hike could lead to fewer riders, but added that overall the 2 percent dip is minor compared to an 18 percent increase in passengers since 2004.

Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said with the recent sag in ridership, the city is looking at shifting services to alleviate overcrowding on high-demand routes.

“;We still have routes even now that are overcrowded,”; he said.

Meanwhile, revenue for TheBus is up about 5.4 percent this fiscal year because of the fare increase. TheBus officials will continue monitoring ridership before making changes, possibly in January.

Yoshioka said Honolulu continues to have one of the nation's highest public transportation riderships per person. He said the dip in ridership may even out before next June and does not raise a concern about demand for the planned $5.3 billion rail transit system.