City Councilman Tom Berg and Council Chairman Ernie Martin have sponsored a resolution that asks Mayor Peter Carlisle's administration to waive a decades-old rule that says 27 to 33 percent of the cost of operating The Bus must come from the fare box.
If the resolution passes the full Council, it would allow the city to restore bus routes that were altered or discontinued last month, without raising fares during the current fiscal year.
"My general feeling is that with the way the economy is right now, I don't think it is the right time for us to raise fares at this point," Martin told KITV4.
The city's Department of Transportation Services altered or discontinued more than 20 bus routes on June 3 to cope with a $10.5 million increase in operating expenses. Even with the cutbacks, the city expects to spend $3 million more on fuel than the previous fiscal year.
Donald Au of Manoa gathered a petition of 600 signatures after Route 5 was scaled back during peak travel times. The route loops through Manoa and Makiki before ending up at the Ala Moana Shopping Center.
"My wife works at Sears, and now that the service has been cut from every 30 minutes to every hour, she has to go to work half an hour earlier," said Au. "All the riders that I see all the time, they're really unhappy about it."
The resolution to waive the city's fare box mandate is scheduled to be heard by the Council's Budget Committee on Wednesday. If it passes, it could head to the full Council by the middle of August for final adoption.
"We're hoping that it doesn't take that long for the (Department of Transportation Services) to be proactive and just move forward," said Martin.
DTS Director Wayne Yoshioka told KITV4 he's examining the resolution sponsored by the two councilmen. He said even if the measure passes the Council, the question remains as to where the city would find the extra money to restore bus routes.
However, Martin said a review of the past two budget cycles shows DTS allowed $8 million to go unspent.
"There are ways they probably can look at in terms of tightening the belt, and then identify those funds to restore the (bus) services," said Martin.
The Council chairman also believes the city could use a federal Community Development Block Grant to restore bus service cuts. He said former Mayor Jeremy Harris used such a grant to provide bus service to the Leeward Coast.
"So, it's not setting new precedence to use these funds to augment that service," said Martin.
Berg, meanwhile, has tied the cutbacks in bus service to construction of the city's controversial $5.3 billion rail project, even though Yoshioka insists there's no link.
"Bus service should be enhanced, not cut," Berg said in a written statement. "Buses beat rail on all fronts and it is buses that should get funded over this rail boondoggle."