Some 63 new Handi-Vans will be added to Honolulu’s heavily used paratransit fleet in the coming months, the city’s Department of Transportation Services announced this week.

At the same time, the city plans to retire 48 aging vans in total, DTS spokesman Travis Ota said in an email. That net gain of 15 vehicles will bring the Handi-Van’s fleet total to 205 vans.

That happens to be the maximum capacity of paratransit vans that Oahu Transit Services is able to accommodate for the city, according to a 2017 report that looked at managing Handi-Van’s growth. It’s among the most heavily used paratransit services in the country.

A Handi-Van pulls out of The Queen’s Medical Center. The city is adding new vans in the coming months and growing the fleet by 15 more vehicles, putting it at capacity. PF Bentley/Civil Beat

For years, the city has been challenged — and sometimes struggled — to keep up in replacing Honolulu’s constantly aging Handi-Vans. In the past decade, at least three vans have caught fire while on the road, and in one of those cases the driver had to swiftly evacuate passengers before flames consumed the vehicle.

The service’s on-time performance has generally struggled amid such high demand and the often crippling constraints of Oahu’s congested road grid. Its Americans with Disabilities Act-certified customers also face hurdles to get through on the reservation line.

Furthermore, Handi-Van officials have repeatedly voiced frustration with the service’s dispatch software, Trapeze. The software’s mapping has caused problems sending vehicles across the island to pick up different passengers, sometimes extending trips by hours, they say.

The city has issued a so-called “request for information” from dispatch software vendors, and it’s currently seeking funds for a new request for proposals to provide Handi-Van’s dispatch, according to Ota.

The 2017 report on growth management, meanwhile, proposed that the city purchase more property to accommodate the growing Handi-Van fleet.

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