Daily Archives: February 11, 2017

Taken for a bus ride

As a frequent bus rider, I was glad to see the city roll out a very reasonably-priced day pass good for unlimited travel on Honolulu buses.

That sounds like a pretty good deal.

As Hawaii News Now reported:

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed a bill into law Friday that allows riders to buy a one-day pass, eliminating the need for passengers to get paper transfers from bus drivers.

“We have one of the most heavily used bus systems. We want to make it as easy and convenient for riders,” Caldwell said.

City officials hope to have the one-day pass available for purchase by October. They say it will make things a lot easier for both passengers and bus drivers, while addressing the fraud that currently happens with paper transfers.

City officials, including Mayor Caldwell, are pretty proud of it.

However, there are a few caveats.

Did you catch the October timeframe? Apparently it’s going to take eight months to get this puppy up and running.

And then, if I understand it correctly, it’s a day pass. Not to be confused with a 24-hour pass.

If you’re a visitor and happen to buy your pass in mid-afternoon to do a little sightseeing and later travel to a restaurant for dinner, your $5 would only get you 12-hours or so.

That’s because the passes will be good from midnight of the day of purchase through 3 a.m. of the following day.

Still a good deal, but…

My wife and I have been in Las Vegas the past few days. She’s attending the annual conference of the Western Society of Criminology, and I’m along for the ride. Yesterday I rode the bus from the Las Vegas Strip to downtown in order to find the Writer’s Block Bookstore.

The Las Vegas buses are operated by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. The RTC website says the buses carry about 64 million passengers each year. That’s just about the same ridership as Honolulu, which claims 68 million annual rides.

My 24-hour bus pass here in Las Vegas cost $8, so I paid a premium over what the day-pass in Honolulu is going to cost.

But my pass is actually good for 24 hours. I bought it just after 10 a.m. yesterday, and I can use it up to 10 a.m. today.

How do they do that? By using smart passes rather than the technologically-challenged dumb passes Honolulu will rely on. Paper passes for Las Vegas buses have a magnetic strip containing the data showing when it was purchased and when it will expire. When you get on a bus, you just swipe your pass through a reader on the fare box. It allows them to sell tickets of different durations using the same paper tickets. Most useful for visitors are the 2-hour, 24-hour, and three-day passes.

I bought my pass using the rideRTC smartphone app. The app can be downloaded for free, and provides route maps and schedules, fare information, and allows you to quickly buy one or more passes using a credit card. No fumbling for cash at the bus stop. And no getting shortchanged by a day-pass that might only be good for a few hours.

According to RTC:

rideRTC Features

• Buy and use your transit pass – Purchase an RTC transit pass from the convenience of your phone anywhere, anytime, and use it on board any route.
• Plan your trip – Plan your next trip using transit with detailed step-by-step information.
• Find your bus – Get arrival information about routes and bus stops near you and where you want to go.
• Customer assistance – Call RTC customer service directly from the app.

And signage at bus stops and on the buses warns riders they must purchase their tickets before getting on the bus, eliminating most of the delays in boarding.

Oh, one more thing. The Ambassadors.

At the stop when I first boarded the bus outside Meda’s conference hotel, there was a man in a blue shirt identifying him as an RTC Ambassador, as in this photo (the picture was actually taken on my return from downtown). He walked among passengers waiting at the bus stop offering information, bus riding tips, schedules, and more. Extremely helpful for visitors, and most riders in this area were visitors. And after I visited the bookstore, returning with my bag of books, there was another ambassador making sure that visitors got launched properly back to the Strip.

That’s service.

And a final observation. When I visited the Regional Transit Commission’s website, I couldn’t help noticing that it provided quick and easy access to a schedule of meetings and agendas, not only for the commission but for its various committees.

“Meetings are open to the public and community participation is encouraged,” the website advises.

Committees include things like the Bus Shelter and Bench Advisory Committee, Arts in Transit Advisory Council, Specifications Subcommittee, Finance Committee, Evaluation Committee, and more.

That’s a different level of transparency and participation than we enjoy back home, isn’t it?

Bottom line. Yes, Honolulu’s new $5 day pass is a welcome move. But TheBus still has a long way to go.