Handi-Van riders say service lacks enough vans

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some riders of the Handi-Van said Tuesday the city's transit service for the disabled is chronically tardy and doesn't have enough vans.

They spoke at a quarterly meeting of Citizens for a Fair ADA Ride, a volunteer panel of para-transit users that meets with city bus and Handi-Van officials to discuss transportation problems and how to solve them.

Handi-Van officials said they've seen a 21-percent increase in ridership in the last two years and the number of complaints dropped from last year.

Ivy Galariada of Honolulu is legally blind, so she catches rides around the Oahu on the Handi-Van with her guide dog named Florin.

"Three consecutive times that I asked for a 12 o'clock Handi-Van and they didn't come because they said the driver was there but they're waiting for a Handi-Van.  There's no vans, they had to wait," Galariada said.

Handi-Van officials said they have 158 vans in their fleet, which has not expanded even though the service has seen a 21-percent increase in ridership in the last two years.

Louise Horio, a Handi-Van rider said, "Yes we are getting new vans,  but it's to replace the ones that are falling apart or catching fire on the road."

The city is in the process of buying 38 Handi-Vans to replace some old ones but that purchase has been delayed because of protests filed by companies bidding on the van contract, said John Black, vice president of the Handi-Van.

"If those 38 come in, now we have a newer fleet.  We have less broken-down vans," Black told the meeting."It's not increasing the fleet, but there's not as many broken down which gives us a higher availability to use the fleet."

"The Handi-Van is always late," said Lela Hubbard of Aiea. "We also need to make it policy that if the Handi-Van is late, we ride free. OK."  She also proposed that any riders who make reservations for rides but don't show up should pay a $4 fee.

Handi-Van officials said 85 percent of their pickups are on-time, but that definition of "on-time" allows them to be up to 30 minutes later than the posted pickup time.

The number of complaints in March dropped by 26 percent from a year ago, according to Handi-Van figures.

The city is hiring a number of contractors, including taxi service like The Cab, to carry passengers that don't use wheelchairs.

Howard Higa, president of The Cab, said his drivers deal with a lot of no-shows among Handi-Van passengers.

"They go over there and it's 'Ah, I got a ride with my uncle.' It's a no-show, It works both ways.  So we're trying to work that out as well with the customer," Higa said.

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