LIHUE — The Kauai Bus ridership for fiscal year 2019 has nearly eclipsed 2018’s total of 760,415 total passengers.
According to the County of Kauai Transportation Agency, ridership numbers for 2019 thus far stand at 686,928 passengers, with a month left in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
That’s an average of 62,448 riders per month this year, and 62,927 per month over the course of the past 23 months.
“We always want to see that increase because of the benefits the entire community has that we can assist with providing,” Transportation Agency Executive Celia Mahikoa said. “It had actually decreased somewhat over the years.”
Mahikoa said that ridership numbers peaked in 2008 due to financial challenges that individuals were going through at that time.
“We saw a significant increase at that point, and since then fuel prices come back down, the economy is doing great, so individuals have a lot more disposable income,” Mahikoa said, adding the Transportation Agency is hoping to appeal to individuals who do have a choice in their modes of commuting.
With an increase in ridership numbers in recent years, the cost of operating The Kauai Bus has also increased.
In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the Kauai Bus’s biggest expense was labor, totaling $6.2 million and $5.8 million respectively. In 2018 the transportation agency spent $388,694 on bus repair and maintenance, bringing the total operating cost for 2018 to $8.4 million In 2019 the cost of repair and maintenance increased to $409,735, bringing the total operating cost thus far in 2019 to $8.4 million.
Compared to the revenue streams generated through ridership fees, The Kauai Bus made a total of $931,333 in 2018 through fares and contracts for a net difference of a positive $246,088 compared to operating and maintenance costs.
In 2019 thus far, the public transportation system has generated a total of $871,165 through fares and contracts, overtaking operational and maintanance costs by $114,879.
Revenue generated through fares and contracts goes into the Highway Fund. The Kauai Bus is funded from three different funds: the county’s share of the state General Excise Tax, Highway Fund and General Fund.
“There’s always room for improvement, and we hope that part of that is going to be really being a good listener,” said Jeremy Lee, assistant executive on transportation. “Listening to what the community desires and needs, what the administration is desiring and needing, what the legislative branch desires and needs, and making it all work for the best of the whole community.”
Lee said being a good listener is one of the tools the agency is using moving forward, armed with recent and accurate ridership numbers and other data.
“The tool that we use is a company called Route Match,” Lee said. “It’s a nationwide company. They’re based out of Atlanta, Georgia. We went through an RFP (request for proposal) process four years ago.
“And that system has a whole set of canned reporting, and then you can make all kinds of your own personalized reports. Most of the data sets that we provide are required at the national level for data-reporting (purposes) and provide for other purposes (at) both county and state levels.”
The implementation of Route Match has supplied the Transportation Agency with information on real ridership numbers as accurately as possible, said Mahikoa.
“There are some glitches in the system occasionally,” Mahikoa added. “Connectivity, we have some challenges with on island.”
There is still a physical element of drivers keying in numbers on their individual tablets throughout the course of their day, and it’s these employees that keep The Kauai Bus moving forward.
“We do certainly have a great team,” Mahikoa said.
“Drivers make up close to about 80 percent of our team, and then we do have mechanics who keep our buses on the road. They are extremely talented individuals.
“Being on the frontline, our drivers and our dispatch team, in particular, we focus on customer service with them. They enjoy being able to provide this service that is so important to so many individuals.”
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Several figures in this story were changed to reflect accurate numbers for operating costs, labor costs. A correction was also made to how the Kauai Bus is funded.