Proposed fare hikes for TheBus and TheHandiVan killed at city council

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Two TheBus operators tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 8, according to Oahu Transit Services.

The city will not increase bus fare prices at least for now. 

KHON2 reported last month that the mayor proposed increasing fares by more than double for some riders but after looking at the proposal, the city council rejected it. 

The annual pass was going to go up for seniors by $75, and adults were going to have to pay $110 more. 
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s plan to increase fares for bus and handivan riders, to levels beyond even the recommendations adopted by the Honolulu Rate Commission, was sent back to the drawing board Thursday morning with Councilmembers Martin, Kobayashi, Fukunaga, Ozawa, and Pine voting nay on the Bill, effectively killing it. 

Councilmembers Elefante, Anderson, and Menor voted aye with reservations. 

The plan, as detailed in Bill 66 (2018), would have increased fares for many different classes of riders on both TheBus and TheHandiVan, including vulnerable populations. 

For example, under Mayor Caldwell’s proposal, seniors would have seen the cost of an annual bus pass increase by over 200%, in less than one year.
Public testimony Thursday focused on the Mayor’s fare increases, which, since they were higher than those recommended by the Rate Commission, were perceived as unjustified. “We’re not against fare increases that are justified by relevant data and findings of fact,” said Craig Gima, a representative from the AARP – Hawaii when he testified during the public discussion on Bill 66 at the Council’s hearing this morning.
The AARP Hawaii submitted written testimony “strongly urging” the Council to reject the measure. The testimony is attached below. 

Councilmembers, in discussion, focused on the Administration’s inability to justify the large increases in fares, especially when the Administration recommended fee increases beyond what its own appointed Rate Commission studied and recommended.
“It is difficult to vote for any fee increase, especially when there is no justification provided to the Council. If the mayor is not going to follow the guidelines set by the Rate Commission, he needs to justify to the Council, and to the public, why his Administration needs to raise fees beyond the Commission recommendations on seniors and other transit riders,” said Council Chair Ernie Martin.  
“We shouldn’t balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it,” said Councilmember Carol Fukunaga.
After the vote, Council Chair Ernie Martin noted that he intends to work with the Rate Commission to introduce a new bill, which reflects the recommendations made by the body charged with reviewing and recommending adjustments to bus fares, paratransit fares, rail fares, and parking fares.
The Honolulu Rate Commission was formed upon the approval of a charter amendment in 2016. 

The seven-member board has a City Charter mandate to provide recommendations through the Department of Transportation Services to the Mayor and the Council on fares, fees, rates, and other charges relating to transportation.
Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine is the Vice-Chair of the Council and represents residents of District One (Ewa, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Keaau, Makua). She is the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Zoning and Housing, and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transportation.

Click here to see Bill 66. 

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