Vanpool Hawaii participation drops as fee rises

By Lisa Kubota - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A hefty fee hike has prompted about 30 participants to drop out of Vanpool Hawaii's program next month. The program recently lost its state subsidy and now some vanpools are being forced to merge.

Vanpool Hawaii met with the state officials on Wednesday. In a couple of weeks they hope to have a timeline for possibly receiving federal funds.

Staff at Vanpool Hawaii have noticed a spike in calls now that riders are receiving invoices reflecting the August 1 fee increase. While some people have chosen to opt out of the program, others are staying put, especially those still enjoying a subsidized ride through military travel vouchers.

"The amount that the military provides covered the old fee and there was a positive leftover balance. But now with the seat fee, what the military provides still covers the fee," explained participant Keith Kamakele-Cordeiro. He rides along with five other coworkers to Wheeler Army Airfield.

1,402 of the 1,624 participants live on Oahu. Starting on Monday, Vanpool Hawaii will charge them $985 a month per van. If there are six riders, each one would pay $164 dollars per month, more than double the current monthly charge of $65. Neighbor island rates will remain the same. Vanpool Hawaii estimates its riders across the state would fill about 32 city buses.

"It does make a difference as far as the commuting," said Kamakele-Cordeiro. "I'm sure it takes cars off the road which in turn it's a domino effect."

The state spent $3.7 million to subsidize vanpools during the last 14 months. The program has approximately 300 vans. There were 55 groups on a waiting list in June. Those potential participants could help offset some of the losses.

"With people dropping out, I'm not saying that's a good thing, but maybe more people here might be able to participate because the military subsidizes the cost," said Kamakele-Cordeiro.

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