School bus fare going up - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

School bus fare going up

Breene Harimoto Breene Harimoto
Donna Ikeda Donna Ikeda
John Penebacker, in Aloha shirt John Penebacker, in Aloha shirt
Karen Knudsen Karen Knudsen

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - School bus fares for Hawaii public school students will be going up at the beginning of 2010.

Thursday night the Board of Education voted 8 to 2 to increase fares.

A one way ride on a school bus that now costs $.35 will cost $.75 beginning January 1. The price of an annual pass will jump from $119.60 to $225.

The Department of Education estimates it will need about $72-million to provide bus service for the entire 2009 - 2010 school year. But it is about $12-million short.

"We need to be fiscally responsible. We need to start charging a more appropriate fee ... although we don't want to," said board member Breene Harimoto.

The fare increase will generate an additional $2 to $3 million ... far short of the $12-million deficit facing the school bus program.

The two board members who voted against raising fares say the new fee structure will not do enough to solve the transportation trouble, but may create other problems.

"It is possible that higher fares may induce some high school students to drop out of school. That should be of a concern to all of us," said board member John Penebacker.

"The amount raised I think does not offset the amount of pain and anguish this is going to cause the public," added board member Karen Knudsen.

If additional revenue is not found, the D.O.E. could run out of transportation money and school bus service could end in April.

About 40,000 students state-wide take advantage of the state's school bus program. It is particularly important on neighbor islands that do not have municipal bus service.

Some on the board who voted in favor of the increase did so only after an amendment was added that requires the D.O.E. to explore all options on bus fees. One of those options is ending school bus service all together.

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