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TheBus Reports Ridership 60% of Pre-Pandemic Levels, Increases Service for Schools

Casey Harlow
Hawaii Public Radio

TheBus reports ridership is sitting at about 60% of pre-pandemic levels and as thousands of students return to school across Oʻahu, more hours of service will be added.

Robert Yu has been the president and general manager of Oʻahu Transit Services for the past month. But he's no stranger to the operation — he spent 26 years at OTS and then several years at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

To help students get from door to door, TheBus is adding about 44 hours a day throughout the island, which equates to about 19 routes to service all the schools, Yu said.

"I cannot tell you how the ridership with the youth will look like because many things are still pretty uncertain, right? How many children are comfortable going back to school, and whether their family feels comfortable for them to ride a bus?" he said.

Overall ridership on city buses has increased since the earlier days of the pandemic. Yu said the ridership is now at about 60% of pre-pandemic levels.

He said COVID-19 precautions remain in force including deep cleaning and wearing masks.

“We have a policy to social distance riders but you know, that's not always possible. For a 30-foot bus, we want to have at most 20 people on the bus," he said. "For a 40-foot we want to have at most, I think 25 on the bus. And for a 60-footer we want at most up to 30."

Out there on the road, you may see some new electric buses.

The City and County of Honolulu has three in operation right now, seven more have arrived in the last month, and another seven are expected by the end of September.

Electric buses cost around $450,000 more than a standard 40-foot diesel bus, Yu said. The range of their electric bus is 150 miles, compared to about 360 miles on a diesel bus with a 120-gallon tank.

"So with respect to the cost of running the service, we're evaluating what are the best routes to employ the electric buses to reduce the cost. And obviously, when you have to bring a bus in and bring another bus out, it costs money," he said.

Yu said there are about 960 bus drivers on the road, but projects the demand will grow once the Honolulu rail is in operation.

If riders have problems with the HOLO electronic fare card system, Yu said they can call 808-768-4656 (HOLO) for help.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Aug. 3, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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