Bus fare proposal revised
Seniors and disabled bus riders would pay more than twice the amount they now shell out for an annual bus pass under a revised fare hike under consideration by the City Council.
The latest version of Bill 53, designed to stave off up to 1,000 hours of bus service cuts, will be the subject of a council hearing 10 a.m. Monday. The public is invited to attend and testify.
Mayor Jeremy Harris said the new proposal did not do enough toward easing a $6.8 million shortfall.
"We appreciate that the council is moving forward on this," Harris said yesterday. "However, the tentative draft as it now stands is not enough to meet the needs of TheBus."
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said the cuts would most affect those who can least afford them. "To someone on a fixed income, the difference between $25 and $60 every two years is a lot of money," she said.
Families with several children who take the bus to school might also suffer financial hardships, she said.
"Police, fire now the bus," she said. "We consider these core services."
Harris said passengers need to pay more of the $1.72 the city spends per ride, and the City Council should aim at collecting 33 percent of the cost of operation.
"On average," Harris said, "adult monthly pass holders pay only 51 cents per ride. Student pass holders pay an average 36 cents per ride.
"Seniors," he said, "pay on average just 4 cents per ride. Therefore, the remaining $1.68 of cost for a senior ride must be paid by property tax payers and motorists through their gas tax."
Council Chairman Gary Okino said the revised proposal would net about $3.5 million, Okino said. "It's only half of what we need, but I don't think it's the end," he said. "I hope the union doesn't look at it as this is as far as we're going to go."
Some bus service cuts were to take effect Sunday, but on Wednesday Harris said they would be postponed 30 days.
In the council's latest proposed rate increases, seniors would pay $30 per year, up from $25 every two years. An additional 25 cents per ride, considered under the previous version of the bill, would not be charged to seniors or anyone else in possession of a pass, said Darrell Young a staff member in Councilman Nestor Garcia's office.
Seniors would still be required to possess an identification card as proof of age, and that ID would cost $10, Young said.
The amount of money adult bus passengers who do not qualify for the senior rate pay at the door of the bus will remain $1.75, the same amount they have paid since the last rate increase in July.
Adult monthly passes were to have increased from $30 to $37 under the last proposal. Under the new proposal, they will increase to only $35.
Annual passes for adults under the previous proposal would not have increased from the $360 adults now pay. Under the new proposal, annual passes would increase to $390.
"I pity the senior citizens," said Roz Rivera of Nanakuli, a 51-year-old bus rider who said she is considering driving to work if bus fares increase too much.
Primary school and high school students will also pay more than previously anticipated. The per ride cost was to have increased from 75 cents to 85 cent under the first proposal. Under the new proposal, the rate will increase to $1. Monthly passes, which were to have increased from $13.50 to $18.50 would increase to $20 under the latest proposal.
In the Honolulu area, most public school students who require transportation to and from school rely on the city's bus service, said Greg Knudsen, a spokesman for the Department of Education.
"It does seem unfair to have a disproportionate increase born by the students," Knudsen said.
The latest proposal also includes increased rates for express bus services and offers riders the option of buying day passes.
The service cuts and potential layoffs have been issues in union negotiations between the Hawai'i Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996, the union that represents 1,300 bus company employees, and the company that provides bus service for the city, Oahu Transit Services.
Talks between the Teamsters and OTS are to resume Monday. Bus employees have authorized the Teamsters to call a strike if a settlement is not reached by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Staff Writer Sara Lin contributed to this report.