After hearing hundreds of complaints from bus riders facing longer waits to catch overcrowded buses, city leaders unveiled today a plan to reverse many of last year’s cost-saving service changes to TheBus.
The reversals outlined by Mayor Kirk Caldwell will roll out in phases this year, in March, May and August. They mostly consist of restoring how often buses pass. But they also restore some original routes and extend another one that helped replace Route B. That route, a popular option for commuters to Waikiki, was eliminated last year but won’t be restored under today’s announced plan.
The unveiling follows outcry from city bus passengers across Honolulu – including many senior and disabled riders – who say the changes make it more difficult to get to appointments, work, school and other destinations around town, even as they spend more of their day waiting for the bus.
“It throws off a lot of working people, a lot of school kids that live in our area, a lot of senior citizens with doctor’s appointments,” Manoa resident Donald Au said earlier this month. Au, whose family relies on Route 5, was one of several residents to circulate petitions last year that garnered hundreds of signatures in support of overturning the changes.
Caldwell’s plan will restore Route 5’s original schedule in May. He pledged to reverse the changes during his campaign last year, and after he was elected the city’s Department of Transportation Services started weighing options. Last month, Caldwell and his DTS director, Michael Formby, met with concerned residents for more input. Many riders have kept the issue alive by testifying at public meetings.
Here’s a summary of the proposed reversals:
» Restore weekend and holiday service to every 30 minutes along Route C, which runs from Makaha to Kapolei to Ala Moana Center
» For Route 14, which runs from St. Louis Heights to Waialae Avenue to Maunalani Heights, restore peak-hour service to every 40 minutes, and off-peak and weekend service to every hour. The original Diamond Head route will be restored for off-peak and weekend service.
» For Route C, restore weekday service to every 30 minutes
» For Route 55, which runs from Ala Moana Center to Kaneohe to Haleiwa, restore mid-day service to every 45 minutes.
» Extend Route 1L, which runs from Kalihi to Hawaii Kai, to the School Street Corridor. That route used to be served by Route B, which was cut and is not listed to be reinstated.
» Add weekday peak-hour trips on 2L, which also travels the former Route B
» For Route 5, which runs from Manoa to Ala Moana, morning peak-hour service to every 30 minutes.
» For Route 13, which runs from Liliha to Waikiki to University of Hawaii, Manoa restore service to every 15 minutes.
The bus cuts and other service changes began this past June. They aimed to save up to $7 million a year by adjusting 21 bus routes. Even with those savings, the city expects that fuel costs for bus service will increase by about $3 million this year.
City policy requires that fares paid by riders cover between 27 percent and 33 percent of the cost of operating TheBus, with city taxpayers subsidizing the system by paying most of the rest of the cost. That taxpayer subsidy for TheBus operations will be about $135 million this fiscal year.
Today’s unveiling doesn’t address all the issues residents have raised. For example, it doesn’t propose reversing the changes to Route E, which last year saw its leg to Waikiki eliminated. In August, Ewa Beach resident Geri Padilla, a desk clerk at a Waikiki hotel, presented the City Council with 639 signatures urging the city to restore the full service.