Community group says “no fair” to TheBus price hikes

Last week’s kickoff to a petition campaign against TheBus’ fare hike–which went into effect July 1–not only highlighted the community’s aggravation with cost increases but also brought to the fore some deep discrepancies between the city’s rationale and the perception of community groups.

Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), an interfaith organization that strives to develop leadership within its congregations and contribute to community building, is hosting the month-long petition drive.

To launch the campaign on Tuesday, July 6, FACE leaders and members of the Boys and Girls Club sought bus rider signatures for the petition–which demands that Mayor Mufi Hannemann reconsider the fare increases–at Ala Moana’s Kona Street depot and then across the street on Kapiolani Blvd.

“We want to ask the mayor and his administration to reconsider the bus hike,” said Jun Yang, FACE organizer. “A lot of the families are on the edge right now, and all of us are feeling the squeeze. This would be a very difficult time to ask people to pay more to get to work.”

FACE’s objection to the increases is rooted in an apparent discrepancy between the fare hikes–up 25 cents for a one-way adult fare and 10 dollars for an adult monthly pass–and the fact that TheBus experienced a substantial surge in revenue over the past fiscal year.

“At this point, they’ve collection a million dollars more than they did last year,” said Yang. “So in our organization’s opinion, why, then, do you have to go through with this hike? Is there a reason for this?”

Yang suspects that revenue from the fare increases will be diverted to the rail budget.

“Are they moving money traditionally meant for the bus system to budgets for the rail? If they’re trying to balance their budget in some way, this is not the way to do it. They shouldn’t be targeting the bus services.”

While FACE supports rail, Yang asserts that rail development is too far in the future to be considered a beneficiary of funds allotted for TheBus.

Wayne Yoshioka, director of the Transportation Services Department, says the fare increases are necessary to keep up with the rising costs of the materials and services that maintain bus operations. In response to FACE’s assertion that revenue from increased fares might be allotted for the rail budget, Yoshioka said that such assertions are “falsities.”

“I think it was misinterpreted,” Yoshioka said of a financial outline for the rail, which listed dipping into bus revenues for the rail budget as a worst-case scenario.

“We’re trying to look out for the community as much as possible,” said Yoshioka, who emphasized that the fare increases did not apply to seniors or the disabled. Before this set of fare increases–the first increase occurred at the start of the last fiscal year–TheBus fares hadn’t gone up since 2003.

But regardless of whether FACE is unclear as to where revenue from fare hikes will go, the issue remains that the increases are already taking a toll on bus riders.

“This is not the time to do this,” said Yang. “We’re asking [Hannemann] to reconsider this bus hike because, right now, all the people that we’ve been talking to along the bus routes have been telling us that it’s hard for them already. Two dollars and fifty cents may not mean much to some people, but you’re talking about $2.50 each ride, every day.”

Public Bus Adult One-way Fare Seniors/Disabled/Medicare one-way Fare Adult Monthly Pass
Honolulu $2.50 $1 $60
Seattle $2.00-$2.75* 75¢ n/a
Los Angeles $1.50 25¢-55¢* $75
Phoenix $1.75 85¢ $55
Miami $2.00 $1 $100
Raleigh, N.C. $1.00 50¢ $36
Minneapolis $1.75-$2.25* 75¢-$2.25* $59-$85*
Tulsa, Okla. $1.50 Free-75¢ $40
Pittsburgh Free-$2.75* Free-$1.35* $80-$105*
Boston, $1.50 40¢ $40
Portland, Ore. $2.30 95¢ $86
Memphis $1.50 75¢ $50
Baltimore $1.60 55¢ $64
Milwaukee, $2.25 $1.10 $64
Indianapolis, $1.75 85¢ $60

*Depends on time of day and/or what zone passenger is traveling in.