According to the city, bus use dropped by about 40% after the COVID pandemic. When school starts again in a few weeks, it will target young drivers to reduce traffic. TheBus users can ride for free for five days from Aug. 22-26, when the fall semester begins at the University of Hawaii.
“Our intent as we know that during return to school we’ve all got used to this very light traffic during the summer even during the COVID period but we know that’s not gonna last forever,” Honolulu Department of Transportation Services director Roger Morton said.
The cost of the $2 Holo Card will also be temporarily suspended by the city, 39 express bus routes that were canceled due to COVID will be reinstated, and a new route will be established to connect express busses to schools such as UH, Chaminade and Kapiolani Community College.
“The more frequent the transit system is, the more attractive it is for people who can now have that freedom to travel when they want to. That’s how we just shifting people from cars into public transit,” Hawaii County Mass Transit administrator John Andoh said.
Hawaii County has committed to providing free rides on the Hele-On bus through the end of 2023. Andoh estimates that could save customers up to $660.
He says Hawaii County received 5% of its revenue from fares, which was reduced to 1-2% by the expense of collecting and charging fares. Instead, the county now supports the program with $6.4 million in federal funds.
“When you really look at the grand scheme of things, utilizing grant funds to cover the cost of fares appears to be more cost-effective than collecting them themselves,” Andoh said.
To avoid joy riding, they’ve set laws requiring Hele-On Bus riders to have a destination and are intending to have security officers ride for safety.
Funds must be found to extend the program beyond 2023.
“If we determine this program to be a success, to see if the county council would consider funding transit, utilizing those other funding sources that we can identify,” Andoh said.
The City Council Transportation Committee has approved the Honolulu fareless program, but it still must be approved by the full City Council on Aug. 10.