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Video by David Corrigan, Tim Bryan | Voice of Stephanie Salazar
The on again – off again effort to enact a $1 fare for the Hele-On bus system was resurrected and passed by the council on Tuesday.
The bus rides are currently free, but the administration was counting on the council to pass a bill that would start a $1 cash fare, adding hundreds of thousands in revenue to the county budget.
Just a few weeks ago, the council failed to pass a measure increasing the bus fares.
The surprise move carried with it possible unintended consequences, and prompted Ka’u councilwoman Brittany Smart to try to reconsider the vote.
“The conversation that did take place,” said Smart, “was free buses vs. a dollar a ride. The conversation that should have happened was a dollar a ride vs. going back to the old fares.”
“There was no confusion… certainly not in my district”, said North Kohala councilman Pete Hoffman. “The issue was: Do we charge bus fares? Do we eliminate some people because of the exclusions we were having? Do we charge the same bus fares for shuttle service vs. lomg haul service, which I think is totally inappropriate? Or do we simply re-establish the Kokua Zone?”
“If you choose not to support Bill 51,” said council chair Dominic Yagong to his colleagues, “then you better be ready with an amendment today to come up with $560,000. It is already included in the budget.”
The motion to reconsider passed, giving the council a second chance to vote on the the new bus fare.
That very morning, a Hele-On bus was involved in a crash in Volcano. The accident closed down Highway 11 in both directions, and traffic was redirected through a nearby subdivision.
Passenger Jerry Wallen, who rode the Hele-On bus all the way to Hilo from Naalehu just so he could testify at the council meeting, was on the bus when it had the accident. Wallen hitch-hiked into town just in time to give his opinion.
Since the $1 bus fare was passed, a different measure extending the free Kokua Zone ordinance was withdrawn.