Vanpool loses subsidy, fee likely to increase

Published: Jun. 6, 2011 at 10:44 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 7, 2011 at 12:18 AM HST
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A Vanpool Hawaii van
A Vanpool Hawaii van
Charlotte Lenseigne
Charlotte Lenseigne
Vicki Harris
Vicki Harris
Dan Meisenzahl
Dan Meisenzahl

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Vanpool Hawaii is losing its government funding, but its executive director said Monday the program will continue.

"Our top priority is to reassure out folks they are still going to get the best service. Actually they won't notice a change except for perhaps as we move on into the summer there could be a price increase," said Vicki Harris, Vanpool Hawaii Executive Director.

Harris said it is too early to say how much that increase will be, but an announced will probably be made within the next few months.

The federal government subsidized Vanpool for its first 16 years. When that funding dried up in April, 2010 the state stepped in. It spent $3.7 Million supporting Vanpool for 14 months, but that money runs out at the end of June and new state money will not be forthcoming.

The state is hoping to secure some new federal money to assist the program.

"There are a lot of hoops and ladders we are going to have to jump through. We'll have to start a whole new process, but we have a lot of people working on this," said Dan Meisenzahl, Spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation.

Vanpool participants pay $65 a month for membership.

Roughly 1,600 people state-wide ride in a Vanpool.

That means between May of 2010 and July 2011 (14 months) the state spent more than $2,300 subsidizing each Vanpool participant ($1,982.14 for 12 months).

Harris said Vanpool Hawaii will "tighten its belt" to keep the fee increase as low as possible. And she said it will try to secure money from the private sector to keep the program on the road.

Vanpool riders expect the number of participants to drop if the fee climbs too much.

"If it's going to be $200 or $300 more, then why would I do that?" asked Vanpool driver Charlotte Lenseigne.

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