City-state effort can ease school-bus woes
The hard fact is there is $12 million less available to cover the existing school-bus service than it costs, so some reduction in service, in addition to the already approved fare hike, is unavoidable. That much is sure to become clear to everyone today when state Department of Education officials present their proposed elimination of some routes to the school board.
What needs to happen now is for the city and state to cooperate on an adjustment to city bus service to at least mitigate the effect on families when some of the contract school-bus routes, under 10 percent, are eliminated.
At the moment, unfortunately, there's little sign of an accord. City Department of Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka wrote a Dec. 14 letter citing objections to planned route cancellations in areas served by city buses. Yoshioka said buses in those areas — 'Ewa, Kapolei, Waipahu, Pearl City and Kahuku — "are already overloaded and have little capacity to accept additional passengers."
But DOE Assistant Superintendent Randolph Moore said that in some of these areas students would be traveling opposite to the rush-hour traffic flow and generally at a later hour than many work commuters.
Certainly there will be some strain on city bus capacity, but Moore rightly points out that the city has long made adjustments to its schedule to accommodate student needs, pointing out changes in city bus services in Mililani, Päpäkölea and other areas to fit school needs.
Surely there's room for similar adjustments now. In addition, parents trying to make alternative plans might consider ways to use the Vanpool Hawaii service or arrange their own carpools to compensate.
Opponents to the plan, led by the Hawaii School Bus Association, have told parents, incorrectly, that the plan "paves the way to eliminate the school bus transportation system" when no such proposal is before the Board of Education.
When budgetary constraints are as tight as they are in these recessionary times, it's not serving any public purpose to raise a panic unnecessarily.
Instead, all the parties need to collaborate to find a workable solution to make the current funding shortfall easier to bear for the families whose tax money supports the system.