Hotel workers union Local 5 members protested in front of City Hall yesterday in support of bus workers. While the protest was going on, the City Council was discussing a possible bus fare hike. Kanani Brown, whose mother is in Local 5, showed her support for bus workers.

Council moves
to increase bus fees

On June 30, 2001, it cost an adult $1 to ride the bus, and on July 1 it cost $1.75. Now, City Council members are talking about increasing the adult fare to $2 a ride.

Council Chairman Gary Okino said the Council is also considering increasing the adult bus pass to $40. On June 30, 2001, it cost $25, and on July 1, $30.

Council members are looking at various fare hikes that would generate an additional $6.8 million in bus fares to head off bus employee layoffs and service cuts.

"Nobody likes to increase fares," said Councilman Charles Djou. "I'm sad we're stuck in the position that we're in, but this was the least worst choice for us."

Council members passed Bill 53 on the second of three votes yesterday to try to head off a strike by Local 996 of the Teamsters Union, which represents 1,400 TheBus employees.

A final vote on the bill is expected at the next Council meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 24.

But Okino said a special meeting may be held sooner if Council members could agree to a fair bus fare structure to offset a shortfall in the bus system's operating budget.

"I think they made it very clear that they were going to restore the $6.8 million, so there will be absolutely no need to cut bus service, which means no bus drivers will have to be laid off," said Mayor Jeremy Harris.

The mayor and some Council members said they believe that a strike would not be necessary after their decision to move forward to find ways to make up the shortfall facing Oahu Transit Services, the private company that runs the bus system for the city.

"With the City Council action today making it clear that they were going to restore all the moneys for the services that needed to be cut, I don't see any real rationale for the union to go out on strike tomorrow," Harris said.

Okino added: "A call for a strike is unnecessary. The community needs this bus service. It will be an injustice to the community."

"The City Council has given as much as they can give," said Djou. "At this stage, if the Teamsters decide to strike, it's not because the Council did not bend over backwards."

Bill 53, originally proposed by the administration, would:

>> Raise youth single fares to 85 cents from 75 cents.

Okino said other proposals that are being discussed include raising youth single bus fares to $1 and increasing their monthly bus passes to $20 from $13.50.

>> Make transfer fees that are now free cost 25 cents.
>> Bring additional bus fares of 25 cents for the express bus.
>> Eliminate the two-year senior citizen bus pass costing $25 -- under which seniors rode the bus for free. Proposed is a $10-a-year identification card that would entitle a senior to ride the bus for 25 cents a ride.

Further proposals include charging monthly bus passes for seniors for either $3, $5 or $7.50, Okino said.

"It will probably increase in all categories. There will be definitely be some type of increase for seniors," said Okino.

More than 20 people testified yesterday before the City Council.

Some bus drivers also told the Council about the abuse of bus passes and transfer slips by passengers, while some riders who are on a fixed income emphasized their dependence on the bus.

"The ability to have independence is very important in my life," said Laie resident LindaAnn Watson, who uses a wheelchair. Watson, who lives on a fixed income, said she rides the bus to attend classes at the University of Hawaii.

More than 40 members of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union picketed in front of Honolulu Hale yesterday to show support for bus drivers.


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