Council to consider TheBus, TheHandi-Van fare hikes
Costs to ride TheBus and TheHandi-Van would go up in most categories under a proposal now before the Honolulu City Council.
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The costs to ride TheBus and TheHandi-Van would go up in most categories under a proposal now before the Honolulu City Council.
The plan, submitted by city Transportation Services Director Wes Frysztacki on Aug. 10, includes a portion of the recommendations made by the City Charter- mandated Rate Commission but also proposes some variations, including some that have raised concerns from at least one commission member and the head of a group that advocates for transportation options for those with disabilities.
Chief among the concerns raised are the department’s proposal to increase the annual bus pass for seniors and persons with disabilities, which would rise to $110 annually (214 percent) from $35 annually, and the single-ride fare for TheHandi-Van to $2.50 from $2 (25 percent).
“Although the Rate Commission accepted several recommendations presented by DTS (Department of Transportation Services), we still believe there are issues that should be considered by the City Council,” Frysztacki said in his letter. “The DTS proposed ordinance change will increase the revenues for both TheBus and TheHandi-Van, ensure compliance with the farebox recovery ratio, and help to ensure the sustainability of TheHandi-Van.”
The full Council is expected to take up Bill 66 for the first time at its Sept. 12 meeting, and the Budget Committee likely will get its first airing on the proposal Sept. 19.
Keslie Hui, Rate Commission vice chairman, said his panel was briefed by Frysztacki and DTS Mass Transit Administrator Eileen Mark on the new DTS plan Aug. 14. Several commissioners asked for details on why DTS chose to propose rates different from the commission’s plan and were told by the officials they would have to get back to them, Hui said.
“I would’ve preferred they stick to what we had proposed,” Hui said Monday.
In the 2016 general election, Oahu voters elected to approve an amendment to the City Charter that established the Rate Commission tasked with studying and recommending fares for the various public transit modes offered by the city. It began meeting in July 2017, and the recommendations it submitted in May were its first.
Donald Sakamoto, head of Citizens for a Fair Americans With Disabilities Act Ride (CFADAR), said Monday most TheHandi-Van riders he knows buy annual or biennial TheBus passes for $35 or $70, respectively. The proposed 214 percent increase is “kinda steep,” he said.
Sakamoto said he’s not sure why the city wants to institute the new fares Jan. 1 when funds already have been appropriated for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Andrew Pereira, city communications director, noted that in many of the rate categories, DTS is actually proposing lower fares than the commission recommended. For instance, DTS is proposing that the senior monthly bus pass go to $10 and the senior annual pass go to $110, both less than the $12 a month and $120 a year proposed by the Rate Commission, he said.
On the other hand, DTS is proposing the youth cash fare go to $1.50 (from $1.25) and the monthly pass go to $40 (from $35) when the Rate Commission recommended no increases for those riders ages 6 to 17.
Fryzstacki, in his letter to the Council, said DTS wanted to ensure there are “consistent relationships between the fare categories.” The proposed cash fares for youth riders are priced at half those of adult riders, he said. He noted that when the adult fare went to $2.75 a ride on Jan. 1 (from $2.50), the youth fare stayed at $1.25, “which means that our proposed youth cash fare increase (now) is proportionately greater than the proposed adult cash fare increase,” he said.
Most other TheBus fares and passes also went up Jan. 1 for the first time since 2009.
Increases for TheHandi-Van fares were considered initially but eventually dropped by the Council. Fares for TheHandi-Van were last raised in 2001.
Fryzstacki, in his letter, said that “in the absence of fare increases, TheHandi-Van will face constraints such as an insufficient number of vans and support facilities to accommodate the growing number of riders.”
He added that while TheBus riders pay 27-33 percent of the cost of their rides, TheHandi-Van riders pay only about 4 percent on rides that average $45. The current $2 fare is also less than the $3 average mainland paratransit fare, he said.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s 2017 rate plan actually called for three years of increases for both TheBus and TheHandi-Van, but Council members chose to do away with the second- and third-year increases amid outcry from passengers and their advocates who argued that the increases would hurt most those least able to absorb paying more.
Frysztacki, however, warned Council members that additional increases would need to occur for the city to keep with a guideline that farebox recovery from transit operations comprise 27 to 33 percent of actual operational cost. On TheHandi-Van fares, the Rate Commission called for an increase to $2.25, while the DTS plan proposes it stay at $2.
bus fares worksheet by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd