Monday, December 31, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Bus operator Oahu Transit Services said the drop in visitor arrivals and tourism-related layoffs has hurt ridership. Tourists boarded a city bus yesterday on Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki.

Bus ridership
slowly gaining
after Sept. 11

Waikiki routes were especially
hit, with a 12 percent drop on
the area's main line

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The operators of TheBus were seeing the beginnings of a banner year despite the system's first fare increase since 1995.

But that was before Sept. 11.

Since the terrorist attacks and resulting economic downturn, Oahu Transit Services has seen its ridership drop -- most significantly along its Waikiki routes.

Roger Morton, OTS vice president and director of operations, said ridership has been back on the rise since early December. The company is hoping that the numbers for the full fiscal year, ending June 30, will total at least as much as those of a year ago.

On July 1 the standard adult fare went to $1.50 from $1 while monthly passes increased to $27 from $25.

Despite the fare increase, ridership was up 4 percent through Sept. 11, Morton said.

The only significant pre-Sept. 11 trend, he said, was that more people were taking advantage of the savings offered by switching to monthly passes. The company saw the number of passes issued rise to 43,024 for September from 38,381 in September 2000, a 12 percent jump.

Overall, those using monthly passes outnumber cash fare riders by about 5-to-2.

TheBus was having some of its largest ridership days in several years in early September, he said.

But the post-Sept. 11 slowdown in visitor arrivals hurt ridership. Tourists comprise only about 12 percent of TheBus ridership, Morton said.

"But if that goes down 30 percent, you end up with about 4 or 5 percent overall," he said.

The No. 8 bus, the main route through Waikiki, saw a 12 percent drop since Sept. 11. Visitor industry-related layoffs may also have affected ridership along Waikiki routes, he said, noting that 60 percent of No. 8 riders are locals.

The good news for TheBus officials is that ridership has been back on the rise since the week of the Honolulu Marathon earlier this month.

TheBus officials hope the number of passengers will return nearly to normal by February so that the company can finish the year with about the same ridership numbers as last year, Morton said.

There were about 70.6 million riders last year. Prior to Sept. 11, the company was projecting an increase to 72.6 million riders for the current year. Forecasts now call for finishing the year at between 69.2 million and 71.2 million.

"We're forecasting a fairly good winter season," he said. "But I don't have a crystal ball to tell us what's going to happen to our economy in the next six months or so."

Oahu Transit operates the bus system under contract with the city through the Department of Transportation Services. The Honolulu City Council determines fares.

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