Bus fares will rise

City Council members hope
to raise $6.8 million to help
settle the strike; more increases
may be on the way

City Council members voted yesterday to increase bus fares by a total of $6.8 million and predicted more increases may be en route.

The increases are the second the Council has passed this year, this time to boost revenue and help settle the monthlong bus strike.

"I believe that the time to end this strike is now," Councilman Charles Djou said before voting. "This Council has done everything it can do to make sure we get these buses rolling again. This is a step I take reluctantly."

But Council members said they cringed at the possibility that they may have to revisit raising fares again if the additional revenue doesn't materialize because of a loss in ridership stemming from the strike and fare increase.

"We're going to be back here. We know we are," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said.

City officials said the additional revenue the new fares are projected to bring will help restore service cuts and proposed cuts. The bus service reductions are related to the strike because bus employees were slated to be laid off as a result of those cuts. Layoffs had been a major issue at the bargaining table.

The Council approved:

>> A $2-per-ride fare for adults.

>> A $1-per-ride fare for youths, senior citizens and the disabled.

>> Monthly passes costing $40 for adults and $20 for youths.

>> A new monthly pass for seniors and the disabled costing $5. Both groups will also have the option of paying $30 for an annual pass.

>> Bus riders can use a free transfer once.

>> Qualified low-income adult and youth riders will get a break and pay the current monthly bus rates.

Transportation Chairman Nestor Garcia said the fare hike was necessary to raise needed funds. "Is this a perfect plan? No," he said.

But bus riders weren't happy with the strike and having to pay higher fares.

"I am angry, frustrated and marooned at home," testified Leila Hubbard, who suggested senior citizens could pay more.

Skye White testified she lost her job in Kahala because she couldn't walk from downtown after the strike. She said the fares don't take into account working people.

"A $40 fare when I'm living on a $7 (per hour) budget," White said. "You need to understand, you need to open your eyes, you need to wake up to what you're doing to our pockets, our wallets."

David Bohn, a member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board, called yesterday's meeting "shibai" because the Council was already set to raise fares.

"I hope all of you are enjoying the ride in your air-conditioned cars while your constituents are walking in the heat," Bohn said. "In other words, the public is mad as hell."

Some riders aren't convinced that this is the last of the fare hikes -- and Council members agreed.

"It is very difficult to estimate how much revenue we're going to raise from this," Council Chairman Gary Okino said. "I suspect we will be back revisiting this, but at this point, this is our best estimate."

On July 1, adult cash fares went up 25 cents to $1.75 and the adult monthly pass increased by $3 to $30.

But the number of riders went down after the last fare increase, leading to less revenue. More ridership loss is expected because of the strike.

"We saw back earlier this year impacts that raising bus fares might have had on ridership," Garcia said. "There are variables that we need to keep our eyes on."

Once the bill becomes law, city Transportation Director Cheryl Soon said fares could go into effect Wednesday.

"We have a lot of transition issues that we're going to have to be putting in place," Soon said. "For example, if you have one type of pass, are we going be refunding you? We're going to be looking for how to make things as customer-friendly as possible, as easy as possible during this transition period."


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --