Ads call for end
to bus strike

OTS begins a radio and TV
campaign urging union members
to forgo pay raises

As talks aimed at ending the two-week old bus strike resume at 2 p.m. tomorrow, the company that operates TheBus for the city is running television and radio ads aimed at pressuring union members to settle.

The TV ads ask bus employees to return to work and request pay raises when financial times are brighter. The ads praise the bus workers, but note they make a good salary.

Oahu Transit Services spokeswoman Marilyn Dicus said the TV ad campaign began yesterday and will continue through Wednesday. A radio ad campaign is expected to start tomorrow morning in time for rush-hour traffic.

Dicus said the $46,400 radio and television campaign was launched to prompt an end to the strike. "We want the contract to be settled," she said.

Christopher Boucher, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 996, was unaware of the ads yesterday. He said the union, which has run a few print ads already, will start its own print campaign Tuesday morning. He did not have any details.

Union members walking the picket lines at the Middle Street bus facility yesterday afternoon did not want to speak on the record to reporters because they said they've been negatively portrayed in the media.

Meanwhile, Oahu residents affected by the strike got some weekend relief yesterday when the city offered limited islandwide Saturday bus service using school buses.

Mayor Jeremy Harris said the service was aimed at helping people who need to get to town or around their communities for work or shopping.

City shuttles drew large crowds to the service's main pick-up and drop-off point at Chinatown Merchant Plaza.

Former City Councilman Steve Holmes, who was helping coordinate bus service for the city yesterday, said the 64-seat buses on routes through Waikiki and downtown Honolulu were virtually full.

Most of those taking advantage of the service were "older compared to the rest of the population," he said.

Mabel Chee waited for a shuttle bus to her home near Foster Gardens yesterday afternoon after doing some shopping in Chinatown. The 92-year-old proudly said that without TheBus to take her shopping, she's been walking almost an hour a day to the Safeway and Longs Drugs on Beretania Street.

"I've been walking every day," she said. "It's hard, but I have to do it."

The elderly, who make up about 30 percent of bus riders, have been among those hardest hit by the strike.

Officials who provide services for Oahu's elderly say they've seen less people participating in programs that require travel.

More than 60 seniors who are part of the on-site components of the Lanakila Meals on Wheels program have been unable to get to where the meals are served because of the strike, said group dining coordinator Eric Saunders. The program serves about 850 meals during the work week at 35 sites around the island.

But "it's not just getting to the meal sites," Saunders said.

"Picture yourself at home without a car. How are you going to get around (if) you can't walk very far or carry much?"

Alice Broderick, a geriatric care manager at Options for Elders, said the strike has left some senior citizens without their regular caregivers because the helpers ride the bus.

Many of the more than 50 senior citizens at Hausten Gardens retirement home in Moiliili rely on the city bus, regularly using the service to go to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor's office.

"We have to depend on the bus," said 71-year-old resident Ann Shiroma, who was forced to cancel four doctors' appointments at Kuakini Medical Center because of the strike.

Yoshiko Yameuchi has been left relatively immobile since the start of the strike. The 88-year-old, who has been taking the city bus for more than 50 years, takes short walks around the premises of her Hausten Gardens' apartment building instead of her usual daily trip to Ala Moana Center.

"I cannot go exercise," she said. "I'm stuck in the house. My daughter brings me groceries."

Venancia Vea, 79, used to take the city bus to Chinatown three times a week for bargains on groceries. Without transportation, she's had to shop at supermarkets that are closer to her seniors' home -- a difference that has nibbled away at her low, fixed income.

"I eat less because it's expensive," she said.

Meanwhile, the Honolulu City Council's Transportation and Budget committees will hear bus fare hike proposals at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Current proposals include an increase on yearly passes for senior citizens and a flat rate for all riders with no discounted monthly or yearly passes.

Star-Bulletin reporter Sally Apgar contributed to this report.


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