Many bus riders will pay more to get around Honolulu if the City Council passes a new fare schedule.  

An annual bus pass for an adult would cost $880 under the new proposal, an increase of $110. 

Senior citizens would see the most dramatic increase in fares. Monthly passes for seniors would double from $6 to $12, while annual passes would jump from $35 to $120, an increase of over 300 percent. 

Those eligible to use the Handi-Van would see their cost for an annual bus drop, however, from $35 to $10.

The new rates are scheduled for an initial, first reading vote on Wednesday. The new rates would still need to pass two more readings by the full City Council. If it does pass, the new rates would take effect Jan. 1.

TheBus stops along North Beretania Street.
Fares for TheBus would rise for both seniors and other riders under a new rate schedule being considered by the Honolulu City Council. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The proposed price structure is in line with recommendations put forward by the Honolulu Rate Commission earlier this year. Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration had proposed higher rates in September that were rejected by the council.

Roger Morton, head of Oahu Transit Services, hopes the price reduction as currently proposed would encourage more Handi-Van users who are able to ride TheBus to do so.

That’s not to say that every Handi-Van rider should jump to TheBus, however.

“I’m certainly not saying that folks who can’t use the bus should be channeled there,” Morton said, adding that some people eligible for Handi-Van with more mobility may be able to utilize TheBus instead.

The concept has worked in other cities, Morton said, and it could also save Honolulu money. The average bus trip costs Honolulu about $2.60, while the average Handi-Van trip costs about $42.

Handi-Van fares would be raised by 25 cents from $2 to $2.25. Barbra Armentrout, a Honolulu rate commissioner, said that was the lowest raise the rate commission could propose. That increase would be the first in 17 years.

The new fare proposal would also reduce that fare to $1 for Handi-Van users who also receive social security.

A previous proposal that was defeated by the council in September would have raised Hand-Van fares to $2.50 for everybody. 

Individuals whose household income falls below the federal poverty level or 30 percent of area median income would be eligible for fare discounts that basically negate the price increases.

The current proposal would not increase fares for youth and persons with disabilities.

If it passes, this would be the second rate increase in about a year. The last came in 2017 when council members voted to raise fares for all categories.

The bill the council passed in 2017 originally proposed four incremental fare hikes over the next two years. The last three fare increases were removed from the final bill, however.

The City Council killed another proposal by city Department of Transportation Services to increase rates in September. That proposal would have increased fares for all users, including those who use the Handi-Van. 

Members voted along factional lines during that meeting in September. The five no votes came from allies of council chairman Ernie Martin, who often vote against the mayor’s proposals.

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