First set of new Handi-Vans arrives in Honolulu

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell and top transportation officials gathered at Honolulu Hale Monday to unveil the first 25 of 99 new Handi-Vans. The new vans, procured through a 2013 contract, will replace existing vehicles in the city’s fleet of 157.

That is welcome news to Rose Pou, who is visually impaired and started using the service 14 years ago. When asked how long she would wait if a Handi-Van was late in picking her up, Pou said “oh, maybe an hour, two hours. (I know) some people have waited three hours.”

Oahu Transit Services president Roger Morton said that out of the 14,000 eligible to use the Handi-Van, “we have about 6,000 people that actually use the van once a month. On a daily basis, we have about 4,000 trips that we schedule, and about 3,500 trips that we actually provide.”

Hundreds of trips a day are either canceled, or end up being a no-show, Morton said. “For people at the last minute that cancel a ride, that takes rides away from people in town, and so we’ve implemented a policy to try to control that,” he said.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he understands the frustrations of riders like Pou. “We have been trying now for three years to purchase new vans, (but) we are a very litigious community, and a lawsuit was filed to stop the move forward on a purchase by those who did not get the winning bid,” he said.

According to the mayor, the fleet of new Handi-Vans will run much quieter and will be installed with interior and exterior video cameras for safety purposes.

City officials hope to have all 99 new vans up and running by the end of the year.

TheHandi-Van averages about 2,900 trips each weekday, helping Oahu’s people with disabilities get to work, school, places of worship, medical appointments, shops, and other places around our island. In 2013, there were a total of 841,000 trips taken via the TheHandi-Van for an annual mileage of 6.4 million miles.

Oahu Transit Services last received a new Handi-Van in 2011. The average lifespan of a van is seven years, and a recent Federal Transit Administration study indicated that similar types of vehicles are typically retired after about six years.

The average cost for the new vans is approximately $108,000 per vehicle.

The old vans being replaced and removed from the fleet will either be sent to auction or donated, pursuant to city policies.

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