New leaning bus bench criticized - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New leaning bus bench criticized

Beryl Rhodes Beryl Rhodes
Jane Serikaka Jane Serikaka

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - To stop homeless from camping out at bus stops the city is experimenting with new benches but not everyone is happy about the changes. 

If there's one thing I've learned it's that you do not want to upset senior citizens and there are some folks with the city that are finding out why.

"They spent taxpayer money to do something stupid," said Beryl Rhodes, 77, who isn't afraid to speak her mind. "I'm very angry at the thoughtlessness of the (city). They didn't think ahead or they didn't ask any questions or they didn't investigate to see who uses the bus."

She's speaking on behalf of the 150 other senior citizens that live in the Honuakaha building on Queen Street who are mad at the new leaning bench at the bus stop outside their home.

"Some of them are elderly and they're on walkers and they're on canes and they're not well."

The leaning bench is a board about six feet wide that is slanted at an angle making it impossible to sit on, instead you lean against it.

"Suddenly one morning we come out here and there's this thing. It's insulting. It's nasty," said Rhodes.

She says you have to be just the right height in order to use the bench but it's not comfortable or functional for the elderly or disabled.

"We're all short we're all five feet tall and the bench, we don't know whether to jump up on top of it, it's awkward," said Rhodes. "What if somebody falls off this thing or falls over the back? We had a nice bench here, we'd like a bench put back. This is not the solution."

"It's quite unusual. Some people get irate about it," said Stephen Yamada, bus rider.  "Well no one is going to sleep on it you know."

It's in response to complaints about the homeless.  This bus stop at the corner of Punchbowl and Queen Street was picked in particular because of a woman who frequently makes herself at home there.

"I used to just sit around in the daytime hours. If there's plenty people I just walk away and leave them seated. I don't usually sleep there unless I was super super sick you know," said Jane Serikaka, a woman who says she's been homeless for years.

Wayne Yoshioka, the City Transportation Director, says the city has also experimented with round concrete stools but people complained because they're too low.  They also started using benches with rails in the middle so people can't lie down but people complained because they're too restricting for larger folks.  Now the leaning podiums, which were also installed by A'ala Park on North King Street, are getting new complaints.  It could be a situation where it's impossible to please everyone.

At a total cost of $895 each, the leaning podium is also the most expensive option.  The bench with rails costs $740. Two concrete stools run the city $696 and $1,292 for a set of four.  A concrete bench has a price tag of $696.

The transportation director realizes one size does not fit all, but he wants to leave the leaning bench up a little longer to get some more feedback.  If more negative complaints continue to roll in they will fix it within a month.

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