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City and County of Honolulu Donates Buses to Hawai’i County Mass Transit

Hawai’i County Mass Transit will soon take delivery of seven buses donated by the City and County of Honolulu, a much-needed boost to the Big Island’s beleaguered bus fleet.

The seven buses, built in 1997, have been retired from service on O‘ahu, but are still in working condition. According to a press release from Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office, similar buses have a typical lifespan of a million miles, and are still used in TheBus operations.

Pictured (left to right): Hawai‘i County Mass Transit Administrator Curtis Sharp, Mayor Caldwell, O‘ahu Transit Services General Manager Roger Morton, Honolulu Transportation Services Deputy Director Jon Nouchi.

Honolulu has regularly donated retired buses to Hawai’i, Maui and Kaua‘i Counties. The most recent donation to the Big Island was five buses in 2014. This year’s entire allotment of seven buses to the Neighbor Islands went to the Big Island due to its urgent needs.

The donated buses this time are expected to go into service here during the week of July 10.

Mass Transit consultant Curtis Sharp said that the donation was sorely-needed, with many of the HeleOn fleet sidelined. Five of the seven donated buses will replace five vehicles needing maintenance; repairs will proceed with an eye to getting a total of 10 buses on the road.

“We’re shooting for the end of July to have 10 buses running effectively,” Sharp said. “The two remaining donated buses will serve as back-ups.”

O‘ahu Transit Services maintenance personnel have kept thorough maintenance records of these vehicles and are turning over these records, preventative maintenance schedules, and service manuals to ensure Hele-On’s maintenance team a successful transition into their fleet.

“We sincerely appreciate the hand that Honolulu has offered us,” Sharp said. He thanked Young Brothers for waiving shipment charges for the buses.

Bus Service to Waikoloa Village Resorts and Waimea Begin

Aloha,

Mass Transit has just informed us that the new Waikoloa Village Bus Routes to the Resorts and Waimea have started.

HPP Bus Picture

So now in the morning you can catch the bus from Waikoloa Village down to the Waikoloa Resorts, use a transfer to go the other Resorts and return in the afternoon.

Also you can use it to go to Waimea at 8:15 in the morning and return to Waikoloa village at 1:05 in the afternoon.

We apologize for any inconvenience the delayed start might have caused,

Council Member Margaret Wille

Bus Fares Increases on Monday

Effective Monday, July 1, 2013, bus fares will increase on all Hele-On bus routes.

HPP Bus Picture
The increases will be as follows:

  • Cash fare for all rides will be $2.00
  • Cash fares for students, individuals 60 years and older, and certified disabled individuals will be $1.00 with proper identification.
  • No charge for children under five years old.

Monthly passes will be $45 for seniors, students and disabled individuals. Monthly passes will be $60 for all others.

For more detailed information on the new fare structure please contact:

Hawaii County Transit Agency
1266 Kamehameha Avenue, Room A-2
Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Phone:  (808) 961-8744
Website:  www.heleonbus.org

Council Member Ilagan – “I voted to support the Mass Transit System with the goal of…”

“I voted to support the Mass Transit system with the goal of further development of bus routes in Pahoa,” said Hawai’i County Council Member Greggor Ilagan. In a 7-1 vote, one absent, the Hawai’i County Council approved the bus fare increase discussed in Bill 86.

From L-R: June Conant, Council Member Ilagan, Jeanne Seimer

From L-R: June Conant, Council Member Ilagan, Jeanne Seimer

“I can’t ignore the needs of this community. That hitchhiking mother walking down Maku’u with the child strapped to her back will continue to have bus service,” said Council Member Greggor Ilagan, District 4.

Last year Mass Transit provided an astounding 1.2 million rides island-wide. According to Mass Transit Administrator Tiffany Kai, the Puna area accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the ridership. “We have great challenges to face. We are the fastest growing area on the Big Island and the largest county in the state,” said Council Member Ilagan.

“I want keiki to get to school, people to get to their jobs and appointments, and the elderly to go grocery shopping, get to their doctor and visit with family. We need our existing bus routes. But more than that, we need to have even more transportation available for our under-served population,” he said.

Council Member Ilagan wants to increase the number of bus shelters and include more bus routes in Pahoa, specifically Kaloli and Shower Drive, Hawaiian Paradise Park and Ainaloa. The council member would also like to evaluate and assist with getting more accurate bus times for pick up and drop off, in and out of Puna. “I’d like to be able to have a bus leave Hilo later, so that those that work in town can return home on a pau hana bus,” said the councilman.

Since the last fare increase in 2011, bus routes have increased in Hilo, Kona, Waikoloa Village and Hawaiian Paradise Park (HPP). While services increased, the fleet of working buses decreased. Gasoline prices skyrocketed, and overworked mechanics continued to battle with aged and outdated equipment.

Three mechanics struggled to keep routes open, get people to work on time, and kids to school. This continues to be a huge undertaking given the shortfall of funds and the costs associated with providing transport. It costs approximately $7 to provide a ride to a single individual. Bill 86 asks for an increase of $1 to $2 for applicable passengers.

“The bus fare increase will help to maintain services…it is our goal to expand and enhance transportation,” said Kai. Approximately $637,500 will be generated for the General Fund from this increase.

In a few months, Mass Transit will be re-evaluating existing routes. “I want to do whatever I can to ensure continued service and expansion of bus service in Puna,” said Council Member Ilagan.

Please contact Council Member Ilagan with questions, concerns and comments at 808-965-2712, or via e-mail at gilagan@hawaiicounty.gov.

Big Island Will Purchase Three New Buses with Federal Grant Money

I mentioned the other day that the State of Hawaii was going to receive $8.44 Million in Federal funding for new buses and that $1.2 million of it would be going to the Big Island.

Mayor Kenoi announced the following today how Hawaii County would allot that funding:

The County of Hawai‘i will receive $1.2 million in grant money to purchase three new buses for its Hele-On fleet.

The money comes from the Federal Transit Administration State of Good Repair grant program. The modern buses will replace three older ones being retired from the Hele-On fleet, which features 51 buses carrying 1.2 million passengers a year all around Hawai‘i Island.

Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi said the county plans to purchase 49-passenger motor coaches to improve and expand upon its island-wide bus service. The new buses will be wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned, and equipped with bicycle racks.

“These funds will go a long way in helping us improve our transportation services,” said Mayor Kenoi. “They will replace buses that are over 17 years old.” Mayor Kenoi said U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye was instrumental in securing this grant.

“The buses we will purchase will provide a more comfortable and enjoyable riding experience for our residents,” said Mayor Kenoi. “We would like to thank Senator Inouye for his assistance in obtaining the funds for this project.”

A key strategic goal of the federal Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration is to assist municipalities with the improvement and maintenance of America’s buses and bus facilities. About $650 million has been made available by the Federal Transit Administration to improve the condition of transit equipment across the nation.

Man Robbed of Hashish After Getting Off Bus

Media Release:

Big Island police are looking for witnesses who were riding a Hele-On bus shortly before one of the riders was robbed after exiting.

A 35-year-old Kailua-Kona man reported that he boarded a southbound bus on Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. He got off on Hawaii Belt Road just north of Haukapila Street.

Three men reportedly followed him off the bus, pushed him to the ground, stole his backpack containing the drug hashish and fled on foot. The victim sustained abrasions to his legs from the struggle.

Police want to question Hele-On passengers who witnessed the actions of any of the four men before they exited the bus. Passengers are asked to call Detective Sharlotte Bird at 326-4646, extension 228, or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

The Bus Will Probably Start Charging Soon

In October, I asked the transportation director how long the buses would be free:

…We had the opportunity to ask questions and I asked how long the buses would remain free.  And the Counties reply was that the free rides were funded until the end of 2009. He didn’t expand on anything past that…

Today’s Hawaii Tribune, Jason Armstrong reports:

The Finance Committee also is scheduled to take up a proposal to charge passengers $1 apiece to ride the county’s free Hele-On buses.

Instituting the one-way fare would raise $700,000 a year, Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong recently told the Tribune-Herald in floating the idea

Between the Transportation director and the County Council… to me it seems like it’s going to be a no-brainer for them.

However, I see this backfiring big time!

Many people that ride the bus, well at least in Puna, ride it as a means to get basic services that they don’t have.  Many folks simply don’t have a $1.00 at times here in this district and are riding the free bus… just to pick up free food or other basic necessities.

In case people missed it

Emily Naeole was able to divert some of the Geothermal Funds to get another route through the areas affected by the geothermal plant.

I say we should keep the buses free! When the transportation director was initially talking about this… the cost of gas was skyrocketing. It has since stabilized.

By the way… anyone seen the Maui Buses:

maui-bus_05_45_11_080730

Also curious about how many people know about this little program the county is running:

…In addition, the Transit Agency offers a Shared Ride Taxi program which provides door to door transportation for as little as $2.00 within the urbanized area of Hilo.

And whatever happened to those cute little sampans that were running around Hilo?

sampan1