POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 12, 2011
Question: Route 65 to Temple Valley just received brand-new buses and now it seems the front seats facing the driver have all been blocked off permanently with no explanation. The fold-up footrests were removed and large metal bars are attached to poles across the seats. Did the city buy defective vehicles or does TheBus not want anyone to sit across from the driver to see what they are doing?
Answer: It turns out that the city’s entire new Nova Bus fleet does not meet minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act for entrance width standards when the front-seat folding steps are in the down position.
The city Department of Transportation Services has ordered the manufacturer “to take the necessary corrective action to bring the entire 24-bus fleet into compliance,” said Michelle Kennedy, spokeswoman for Oahu Transit Services, which operates the city’s buses.
Nova Bus requires “several weeks’ turnaround time” to get the necessary parts to retrofit the seats, she said. If all goes according to schedule, all 24 Nova buses should have the front passenger seats available by mid-June.
In the meantime, Nova Bus has removed the front-seat folding steps and temporarily blocked off three passenger seats with horizontal stanchion bars, Kennedy said.
Decals on the bars indicate “temporarily out of order.”
Question: Regarding your April 29 column on electric cars: Can you let your readers know that both the parking provisions and the HOV provisions of Act 290 are still in effect? And, it’s not just parking in metered spaces that’s free — it’s parking in any state or county parking facility.
Answer: You are correct on both counts.
The state Department of Transportation had told us there never was a “perk” regarding electric vehicles using high-occupancy-vehicle lanes and pointed out the failed attempt in the Legislature this year to allow “EVs” that could go at least 55 mph to use those HOV lanes.
However, state Rep. K. Mark Takai, who drives an electric vehicle, said the “law is very clear” on the HOV use, as well as the “total access” to parking at state and county facilities, not just at metered stalls. The intent of Act 290 is that there should be free parking in all those facilities, including the airport and convention center, he said.
Asked again about the HOV exemption, the DOT’s Highways Division acknowledged that electric vehicles are allowed to use HOV lanes without any restriction.
“Only Section 5 (dealing with a waiver of vehicle registration and license plate fees) was sunsetted in 2002,” a DOT spokesman said.
However, “It’s important to note that Act 290 only applies to 100 percent electric vehicles that have a special ‘Electric Vehicle’ license plate attached to it … but does not apply to gas-electric hybrids or alternative-fuel vehicles,” he said.
With this special license plate, electric vehicles are allowed to use HOV lanes, as well as park for free in all state and county facilities, he said. The free parking does not extend to federal facilities.
At the end of 2010, there were 271 electric vehicles registered in the state: 152 in the City and County of Honolulu, 41 in Hawaii County, 12 in Kauai County and 66 in Maui County, according to the DOT.
To a female driver in a convertible Mustang eating her breakfast, with bowl and spoon in hand, as she was getting on the H-3 freeway from Kaneohe on the morning of April 21. She drove through the H-3 tunnel at times swerving to the side of the lane. Does she not know how dangerous this is? — Rachel R. Shimamoto
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