LIHUE — The Kauai County Council is considering legislation that would change bus fares and establish a passenger code of conduct.
Bill 2758 would increase the cost of paratransit shuttle rides — a door-to-door shuttle service for Kauai residents over age 60 — from $1 to $4, or $2 for qualified individuals under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The change is meant to incentivize paratransit users to take advantage of the county’s regularly scheduled bus routes, according to county Transportation Agency officials, who presented an overview of the bill to councilmembers at a meeting last month.
The bill would not increase rates for regular bus routes, but it would up the cost of monthly and annual bus passes. If bill 2758 passes, the price of a one-month pass will go up $5 — from $40 to $45 — and an annual pass will cost an extra $100 — from $400 to $500 — starting Jan. 1, 2020. The following year, those prices will increase again to $50 and $550, respectively.
The bill also proposes a one-day bus pass for $4 starting next year, increasing to $5 beginning in 2021.
During a presentation to the council in September, Kalawaia Lee with The Kauai Bus said the bill was formulated in accordance with the goals and objectives established in the Kauai Short-Range Transit Plan, a 2018 report that outlines the county’s blueprint to improve public transportation over a five-year span.
“The next bit of work is, unfortunately, having to be brought more forward and into light,” Lee said of the second half of the bill, which establishes a set of rules for bus passengers. “As our system grows and our ridership increases, we’ve had to become much more defined in the way that we have our code of conduct for riders.”
Lee said the new code of conduct is a way to address a safety issue “for other riders, for our community, and for our employees,” and sets rules that force people to give up priority seats for riders with genuine mobility needs, in accordance with federal laws.
Another aspect of the bill deals with age limits for the transportation department’s paratransit service. The paratransit shuttle is available to anyone over 60 years old, but under the bill, that age would be bumped up to 65.
“That’s based on statistics of our rider usage and how much people would be affected,” Lee said. “We tried to balance it with what you guys and the community felt was the appropriate first step in the direction of becoming an ADA-compliant service, and to bring the cost back into better alignment with our fiscal responsibilities.”
The bill would also provide free paratransit service to anyone over 85.
“We’re saying that anybody who is 85 and older is automatically accepted into the ADA service because we believe that that threshold is when people are gonna have needs to use paratransit service,” Lee said. “So we’re kinda taking our kupuna and we’re saying, ‘We’re gonna take care of you no matter what, at age 85. If you need the service, we’re gonna be there for you.’”
Bill 2758 passed first reading last month and is pending approval of the council Transportation Committee, which will take the matter up at its meeting Wednesday.
The committee’s chair, Councilman Arthur Brun, said he asked Transportation Agency officials to make another presentation at next week’s meeting and encouraged members of the public to show up and provide feedback. A public hearing on the bill at the last council meeting was sparsely attended.
Brun said the bus fares need to go up one way or another because the county has recently been putting so much funding into the transit system, but he wants to make sure those fee increases are done in a way that fits needs of the community.
“We need the public’s input,” Brun said. “So come out and let us know.”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.