Maui County will receive $800,000 in federal funds to build 10 new bus shelters in Wailuku, Kahului and Kihei.
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and U.S. Rep. Mazie K. Hirono on Tuesday announced the funds for the bus shelters that will include solar-powered lighting, bike racks and recycle containers, and comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Maui County Transportation Director Jo Anne Johnson Winer believes that the ADA and green aspects of the planned bus shelters helped the county earn the grant from the federal Transit Administration Bus Livability Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The bus shelter plans also call for using materials that "will withstand weathering," she added.
In a few months, the county will have eight bus stops with shelters, she said. Noting that there are 179 bus stops on Maui, and that not all require bus shelters such as the one at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, the department has a four-year plan to build eight to 10 shelters a year, she said.
Concrete for the 10 new bus shelters could begin being poured by the end of the year with the shelters up by early summer, said Jim Oster, Transportation Department engineer.
"Maui's bus system is one of the fastest growing public transit systems in the nation," said Inouye in a news release. "These funds will . . . add sustainable sources of energy to bus shelters while promoting recycling, bicycle use and increased access for those living with disabilities."
Winer noted that the county received another federal grant recently for $1 million for bus replacement. The county will kick in a matching $250,000 that will allow the county to possibly buy three large buses, said Winer. Although the large buses run about half a million dollars each, the actual number that may be purchased with the funds will depend on how the bids come in, she said.
The money comes from the State of Good Repair Program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In total Maui, Kauai, Honolulu and Hawaii counties received $8.44 million to improve public transportation in their communities, a county news release said.
The buses purchased will be replacing ones in the fleet that are reaching the end of their service life, she said.
On the new bus fares that took effect July 1, Winer said the exact data is not yet in on their impact on ridership, but it does appear that Maui bus riders are turning more and more to monthly passes.
"We ran out of (monthly) passes," she said, adding that they had to order more.
The passes are "very attractive if you ride the bus on a daily basis," she said. Monthly passes are $45. Students pay $30 and seniors $25.
The new rates increased the basic fare from $1 to $2 per ride.
Winer said that the department is "pleased" that complaints are not as high as expected. She added the department is working on a fare assistance program, in cooperation with Maui Economic Opportunity, for low-income riders. The plan is for a 50 percent discount voucher for those riders.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.