Donald Sakamoto has been advocating for Handi-Van riders since 2010, and he’s been a rider himself for the last 17 years.
Sakamoto and numerous others stood in front of the city council today asking lawmakers to find money in the budget to keep fares low.
“Right now two dollars is high enough. I have people that come to our quarterly meetings for transportation just to testify that they have a hard time getting two dollars for each way,” Sakamoto said.
Jon Nouchi, Deputy Director of the city’s Department of Transportation Services, says with no increase in fares in over 15 years and usage projected to go up, the city can no longer absorb the cost.
“We want to provide them a quality service and if we hold the line on fares at this point, we don’t believe we are going to be able to improve our service and to meet their demands in terms of what is expected of a quality paratransit service and Honolulu,” Nouchi said.
Sakamoto says he and other riders he’s spoken with strongly oppose the fare increase, which would go up in 50 cent increments, and ultimately double from 2 dollars to 4 dollars by the year 2020.
“That would even be harder for people just to scrape up enough for that fare,” Sakamoto said.
The bill to raise fares narrowly passed second reading today. Some council members had questions about whether or not money could be found elsewhere in the budget to keep fares where they are today.
Sakamoto and other Handi-Van riders are staying cautiously optimistic.
“Right now I believe that we have all our confidence in the city DTS, Oahu Transit [Services], the city council, and even the mayor if he can be change his policy of increasing the fares,” Sakamoto said.