Protesting Honolulu Bus Route Cuts? Get Used to It

Photo: Emily Metcalf
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Photo: Emily Metcalf

BY CLIFF SLATER – Protesting bus cuts? Get used to it:

The norm in cities with both a rail line and public bus system is for rail to soak up a disproportionate amount of operating funds.


The elected officials’ response typically is to cut bus service first before they even think about raising fares on rail.

Rarely do they cut service on rail.

This has led to bus riders protesting in some of our transit proponent’s favorite rail cities. For example:

Portland, Oregon

TriMet board kills Portland’s Free Rail Zone, raises fares, cuts bus service over protesters’ shouts, jeers.

“A ticket to ride? Going up — again. Bus service? Cut. Again.

“Meeting in an abandoned credit union building scheduled to be demolished for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line, TriMet’s board unanimously approved a plan Wednesday that one opponent called “economic warfare” on financially strapped and transit-dependent riders.”

Los Angeles, CA.

Bus riders protest against elimination of bus service in LA

Pittsburgh, PA.

Bus Riders Rally Against Proposed Port Authority Cuts Proposal Includes Cuts To Dozens Of Routes.

Boston, Massachusetts.

Hundreds protest MBTA cuts, fare hikes

“Nearly 400 area residents, most regular riders of the MBTA, packed Malden Government Center last night to sound off about steep service cuts and fare hikes the public transit authority has proposed to close a $161 million deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“The MBTA is holding hearings around Greater Boston to gain public input before its board of directors votes on a plan to close the deficit, probably at its April meeting. The Malden crowd grew so large, it spilled out of the council chamber into a conference room.

“On the table are across-the-board service reductions in local bus and commuter rail service, along with fare hikes ranging from 35 to 43 percent, depending on the level of cuts made. Last night, 135 speakers, including students and senior citizens, urged T officials to consider the impact the changes would have on their daily lives.”

The cuts to our public bus service are due to rail, no matter what the mayor or transportation officials try to claim.

The following excerpts from a letter by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to the City make it clear that the City has to bring TheBus and HandiVan operating costs under control if it is ever to receive federal New Starts funding:

“Regarding the Financial Capacity Assessment, FTA notes that the financial plan HART [Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation] submitted is sufficient to advance the project into final design. However, it must be further strengthened before FTA will consider awarding an FFGA [Full Funding Grant Agreement].

“Specifically, the financial plan states that additional revenues may be obtained from an extension of the General Excise Tax or implementation of value capture mechanisms. “However, these revenue sources require actions by the State of Hawaii and/or the City that have not been taken and which are beyond HART’s ability to control. Prior to the Project’s consideration for an FFGA, HART should demonstrate the availability of additional revenue sources that could be tapped should unexpected events such as cost increases or funding shortfalls occur.

“Additionally, HART made assumptions in three areas that require further justification or amendment: (1) the containment of bus and HandiVan operating expenses; (2) the increasing share of the City’s annual budget required to fund the transit system; and (3) the diversion of Section 5307 [bus purchasing] funds from preventive maintenance to the Project. Prior to the Project’s consideration for an FFGA, HART should either provide further documentation justifying the reasonableness of these assumptions or consider revising these assumptions to more closely follow historical patterns.” (underline added).

Here’s the link to the full letter.

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