HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Legal challenges have meant the City of Honolulu hasn't bought a new Handi-Van in three years, but now the City announced it has bought 99 new vans that will hopefully provide better service.
There are 157 Handi-Vans in the fleet but a couple dozen could breakdown or be in the mechanic's shop every day because they were getting old. That caused delays and scheduling problems, but the new vans hope to fix the Handi-van's problems.
"How consistent is the service?" we ask.
"Consistently late," laughed Laureen Kukino, a visually impaired Handi-Van user. "When you want it on time it doesn't come on time. When you want it late, it's on time."
As vital as Handi-Van service is punctuality has been laughable for some users. Kukino says she's waited more than an hour for the van to show up.
"It's also hard if there is no shelter, no shade or nothing to sit on," said Kukino.
"Handi-Van is a complicated system," said Roger Morton, Oahu Transit Services President, which operates the Handi-Van system.
"We believe we can do a better job. We're not sitting back and saying this is acceptable, we're going to rest here. We're looking to improve service and we're always looking to tweak the system," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor.
The City hopes the purchase of 99 new vans for $10.7 million will help because newer vans mean they won't be broken down as often. The vans purchased with Federal tax dollars picking up 70 percent of the cost.
The vans also feature gas engines instead of diesel. They have security cameras inside and outside and are fully air conditioned.
"If we don't have enough vans then we have to shift riders from one planned ride to another planned ride and that can have a crescendo effect all over the system. With new vans that should go away," said Morton.
"We hope that this will improve the services. There is a lot more things we have to do but this is a step forward," said Donald Sakamoto, Citizens for a Fair ADA Ride (CFADAR) Chairperson.
The City also says no-shows are a big problem so chronic violators will be suspended from service. However that frightens some.
"When I was disabled the Handi-Van would come, but it wouldn't come to my driveway or come inside, it would park a block away and as a disabled person you are looking and say where is the Handi-Van? You call and they say it's there he just didn't see you," said Shirley Sypert, former Handi-Van user.
"This is really aimed at habitual no show offenders that have a high frequency of unexcused no shows," said Morton. "There are couple of warning steps that go on first. Then there can be a suspension of service penalty."
Despite criticisms of the systems the Morton says they pick up 90 percent of users within 30 minutes of the scheduled time.
The City says there are 14,000 registered Handi-Van users. It transports about 3,500 people a day for $2.00 per one way trip.
The City says there was already a manufacturing glitch with Ford affecting all the new vans, so that's caused a slight delay. Fifteen vans are already in Honolulu. All 99 new vans should be on the road over the next five months.