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Honolulu Rate Commission Weighs $2.75 Rail Fare In Seeking Public Comment

Catherine Cruz

The Honolulu Rate Commission is considering whether rail fares should be lower or higher than a ride on TheBus. That's along with other issues concerning fares that the advisory committee wants the public to comment on before it makes its final rate recommendations to the City Council and city administration later this year.

The commission held its first discussion on rail fares yesterday in preparation for the start of partial rail service late next year. The $9.2 billion rail project has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, and most recently, has been the subject of a federal investigation.

But the process of setting fares for riding on the rail line is rolling along. 

The rate commission, an advisory committee to the council and the administration, is responsible for advising city policymakers on the rail fares. Initial steps call for the public to answer questions about how the fares should be structured.

Cheryl Soon, chair of the commission, said one question is whether the fares should be a flat rate or based on the ride distance. Another question is whether there should there be discounts, as there are now for seniors and students riding the bus.

Soon said the commission will be making a fare recommendation for a specific dollar amount. A ride on TheBus is now $2.75, and the commission will have to determine whether the cost to ride the rail will be at the same or different.

The commission is also considering an introductory fare that could be a low rate or free to promote rail as a transportation option.

"All of that is on the table for public input at this stage," Soon said.

It's still not clear what city subsidies the rail project will be granted, and what revenue benchmarks the rail will have to meet for that assistance.

Other public meetings are being scheduled to allow residents to comment on the rail fares. The next meeting will be held next month. Comments can also be emailed to Howard "Puni" Chee at hchee@honolulu.gov. 

More information about the Rate Commission can be found at http://honolulu.gov/dts.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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