Mayor Proposes Extension of Free, County-wide Bus Service

Media Release:

County of Hawai’i Mayor Billy Kenoi is proposing to extend the “Kokua Zone” program to provide free, island-wide bus service on the Island of Hawai’i for another year.

“The free county bus fares are helping our residents to weather these challenging economic times, and are also providing a benefit to the business community by helping to connect workers with employers,” Mayor Kenoi said.

“This program helps our youth by providing them with transportation to sports and other healthy activities, and helps our elderly by connecting them with medical care and other services,” Mayor Kenoi said. “This program should be continued.”

The free bus fares will expire on Dec. 31, 2009 unless the Hawai’i County Council takes action to extend the program. The mayor’s proposal, which was sent to the Council last week, would extend the Kokua Zone program until Dec. 31, 2010.

“This program reduces traffic congestion by getting cars off the road, and improves mobility for people who may not have a means of transportation,” said Mass Transit Administrator Tom Brown. “Because of the vast distances our island residents must travel to get work, school, shopping and health care, the transportation needs are tremendous.”

The bus system has broken one ridership record after another since the fares were waived. Bus ridership was the highest ever in the fiscal year that ended June 30 at about 800,000 passenger trips, and the overall ridership for the mass transit system topped 1 million that year including the county’s shared-ride taxi service and disabled transportation network.

Bus ridership is expected to grow to about 900,000 in this fiscal year, and has been increasing each month. Bus ridership last month set an all-time record with more than 81,000 passenger trips.

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