Public needs to be heard on transit policies

Last summer’s doubling of bus fares caught most riders by complete surprise. The feeling that they had not been consulted, and the resulting suspicions of back-room politicking, spawned a groundswell of angry calls for a more open and inclusive transit policy process.

Learning from past mistakes, the council’s Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee has scheduled public hearings on transit for 9 a.m. Feb. 14 in Council Chambers in the county building on High Street.

New postings on buses expressly invite patrons’ testimony concerning routes, equipment, fares and other transit matters.

The whole council is to be commended for greater openness on transit policy. And special thanks are due to Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa for asking for hearings and to Committee Chairwoman Stacy Helm Crivello for scheduling one.

Still, this giant step forward excludes from participation the working poor who rely on the public transit for all their transportation needs but cannot skip work to testify during business hours.

Among the hardest hit by last year’s increases, these hardworking akamai taxpayers have unique insights to offer. As bus schedules make evening meetings infeasible, I strongly urge additional Saturday hearings to get their contributions.

I encourage all Maui residents and visitors to offer testimony on Feb. 14. Tell the committee of your needs, contribute your good ideas for improving service and share your manao. If you don’t speak up now, you lose your right to grumble later.

Keith Kessler