City plans to revive vanpool program

City plans to revive van pool program
Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's been years since Vanpool Hawaii put the brakes on its operation.

Now, the city Department of Transportation believes it can make another islandwide vanpool service work.

"The goal is to get people out in vans versus their own cars," said city Transportation Services Department Director Michael Formby.

Under the Oahu Vanpool plan, the city would partner with car pool companies vRide and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, plus other entities. Passengers will sign up with a pool and ride to and from work, while the operators provide the vans. And the city gives them a subsidy of $250 a month per vehicle.

"We will basically subsidize 150 vans a year. That's the goal," Formby said.

The plan was presented to the Honolulu City Council, which will decide whether to give the program the go-ahead. If Oahu Vanpool gets the green light, it could be running by the end of June.

The state will give the city $500,000 a year over the next two years to start the Oahu Vanpool program.

"The state's funding for this program aims to take hundreds of vehicles off of our highways," state Sen. Michelle Kidani told the City Council's Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Over the long-run, federal dollars could help sustain it.

"The return on investment is about 22 percent," said City Council Transportation Committee Chairman Joey Manahan. "For a $500,000 investment we'd get about $600,000 in federal funds."

The city won't operate the vanpools but will set requirements on those who do.

"And that is: 30 minimum round-trip miles a day and you have to have seven people in the van. If you meet those requirements you get a subsidy, so it makes it cheaper for people to take the vanpool," Formby said.

But will the ridership be there? Census estimates show a drop in the percentage of Americans who car pool, from 20 percent in 1980 to 9 percent in 2014.

Residents had mixed opinions on the plan.

"For some people I thinks it's a good option, maybe to take some of the commute off the bus riders, maybe alleviate some of the traffic coming from the west side," said Hawaii Kai resident Lauren Tanioka.

But Ewa Beach resident Donalyn Ortogero said she'd use the service.

"Traffic is really bad," she said.

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