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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 28, 2006

Getting on bus? Turn cell ringer off

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Attention, riders: Put your cell phones on silent mode, grab a free newspaper and feel free to call us if there's a problem. Thank you, TheBus.

City officials yesterday announced three new initiatives that they say will make riding city buses a safer and more user-friendly experience. The changes are in response to comments and initiatives proposed by riders and drivers, officials said.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday first signed into law a measure that requires cell phones and electronic devices, such as radios, stereos and electronic games, to be used with a headphone or earphone so that they can be heard only by the individual user. The measure still allows people to talk quietly on the phones during bus rides.

"The new ordinance does not repeat, does not ban cell phone use on buses," Hannemann said. "All they need to do is put the ringer on vibrate and refrain from using the speaker phone."

The law, which goes into effect immediately, was designed to prevent drivers from being distracted by loud rings and other noises, said O'ahu Transit Services bus driver Dave Verret, who first brought the issue to the attention of city officials.

It should also help riders who want to sleep, read or talk to their bus-riding neighbors without disturbance, added Roger Morton, president and general manager of OTS. "It goes a long way toward improving safety and courtesy," Morton said.

Under the new law, bus drivers will be given the authority to intervene with those whose electronic devices are creating a disturbance. Officials say they prefer to ask riders to comply with the law, but fines of $100 or more are possible for those who refuse to cooperate, Morton said.

Hannemann also announced new plans to distribute 20 free newspapers on each express bus route daily and encourage riders to tell city officials about their bus-riding experiences.

The newspapers will be provided by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin at no cost to the city, Hannemann said. In another program, the city will post signs on all city buses asking riders "How's your ride today?" and ask them to call the mayor's office (523-4141) or the Customer Services Department (523-4381) with comments.

Hannemann also said the city will spend $92,500 for a private contractor to remove part of the median strip on Lunalilo Home Road in Hawai'i Kai.

The median strip will be removed near the Koko Marina Shopping Center between Kaumakani and Anapalau streets.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.