Bus riders tired of homeless sleeping on benches

Bus riders tired of homeless sleeping on benches
Published: May. 8, 2014 at 10:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the Alapai Transit Center, the city installed slats between seats to prevent anyone, including the homeless, from stretching out and sleeping on the bus benches.

But at many other bus stops on Oahu the bus bench is a bed.

"It's disgusting," bus rider Catherin Porter said.

She catches the bus regularly. She is fed up with homeless people who block the benches at the bus stops she uses.

"They defecate. They go 'shishi.' They spit. They have no respect for anybody," she said.

There are about 3,800 bus stops on Oahu, and no city ordinance that makes it illegal to sleep at them.

"It's an ongoing battle. You can get them out, but they'll find a way to come back," city Transportation Department Director Mike Formby said.

The city cleans a bus stop three times a month at a cost of about $200 dollars per cleaning. Emergency cleanups cost taxpayers more. That's what happened at a bus stop on South King street where a homeless man refused to budge. The city recently took away the bench. When he left, he left behind a mess.

"This weekend we had to call a crew in to clean up human excrement and vomit," Formby said.

That cost taxpayers about $250 dollars. And now no riders will have a bench to sit on.  A bill that died at the legislature this year would have made it illegal to obstruct a bus stop. Violators would have been fined $50. Critics said it criminalized homelessness.

Porter said something needs to be done.

"I will walk, if I have to, three bus stops, which is a long haul in the hot weather, to get on another bus," she said. "I've waited for up to three buses so I don't have to put up with it."

"We do need someone that can go in and legally enforce the rights of the transit riders to occupy that space," Formby said.

Until that happens the problem will persist. It's especially bad in Waikiki, Chinatown and in the city, where many bus stops have turned into bedrooms.

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