Wednesday, June 22, 2011

With Friends Like This: Vanpool Rate Soars

Rail is not a transportation option worth pursuing on Oahu, according to rail opponents. Instead, they propose a number of alternatives – more highways, flyovers and High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, overpasses, underpasses, tunnels, more buses, staggered work hours, carpools, bridges over Pearl Harbor, etc. – anything but rail.

We've found that the more visibility their proposals receive, the better rail looks, so we'll highlight some of these suggestions in depth in the days ahead. Among them will be proposals offered last week at a “town hall meeting” in West Oahu by rail opponent and highway advocate Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii civil engineering professor.

But first….a major change in a ride sharing program that seems certain to discourage participation.

The state Department of Transportation announced earlier this month that it will end its funding support for the Vanpool rideshare program. Vanpool Hawaii said today it will continue the service by charging more for each passenger – 252 percent more.

The current monthly rate is $65 per person, but beginning August 1, the rate for each rider in a six-passenger van will be $164. (A story in the June 23 Star-Advertiser adds additional information.)

It’s hard to imagine that nearly tripling passenger costs will encourage ride sharing. An equivalent increase in the price of gasoline to $10 per gallon would change commuting habits, so it'll be no surprise if Vanpool participation declines after August 1.

Where Vanpool's switchers will go we don’t know – some to TheBus, others to their own cars.

More vehicles on the highways can't be good news for congestion, of course, so if Vanpool ridership does decline, we hope participants pick TheBus, the only public transit service available until Honolulu rail can provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe congestion-free travel through the city.

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