Experts advise major changes for TheHandi-Van with demand, costs both soaring

UPDATE: TheHandi-Van riders voiced their concerns in Thursday’s city council committee meeting while the city made it’s case to the council for a fare increase.

Right now TheHandi-Van has a 45-minute pick up window.

The city’s goal is to get that window down to 30 minutes in the next 5 years.

To do that, it will need more resources, and more money. In the future the city says to get where the service needs to be, a fare increase is a necessary step. The recommended increase will go up 50 cents each year from $2 dollars now, to $4 in 2022.

 

The City and County of Honolulu faces some tough decisions about the future of TheHandi-Van service.

With more than 11,000 active riders, TheHandi-Van and its partners provide more than 1.2 million rides each year.

According to a newly released study commissioned by the city, the service is one of the most used in the country, but some changes will need to be made to keep it running smoothly.

The study says if TheHandi-Van continues to run like it does now, operating costs for the service are projected to balloon from $46 million last year to around $64 million in the year 2022.

A small portion of that money comes from fares, which cost $2 for a one-way ride.

Here are just a few of the recommendations in the study:

  • Increase fares 50 cents each year, from $2 in 2017 to $4 in 2021,
  • Promote TheBus in the hopes that TheHandi-Van riders consider an alternative mode of transportation, and
  • Implement a taxi voucher program.

For years, taxi companies have stepped in to help TheHandi-Van, and the report says it’s happening more and more often — 160,254 trips in 2013 compared to 190,368 trips in 2016.

Howard Higa, president of The Cab, says his company can keep up with increasing demand.

“We will always be able to keep up with the demand with OTS and TheHandi-Van,” he said. “With that said, when we give Handi-Van and OTS the priority, everybody is tight on money. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got rail issues, we’ve got Handi-Van issues. We’ve got all these different issues that all cost money. That’s probably going to be the biggest issue. How are they going to figure this out to budget TheHandi-Van situation?”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told us Thursday that taxpayers pay for about 95 percent of the cost, so raising the fare every year is reasonable.

“It’s door-to-door service,” he said, “so I think some adjustment upward is a fair thing to expect. It’s not going to break the bank. We’re talking about from $2 to $2.50.”

Riders who testified before the city council Thursday said they are willing to live with the fare increase, but they also want the service to improve.

“We have been waiting for such a long time for better services,” said TheHandi-Van rider Donald Sakamoto. “Yes, a rate increase is amenable. We need a rate increase.”

Click here to view the entire Paratransit Growth Management Study.

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