Hele-On sees big ridership gains in FY22

Oct. 10, 2022
The County of Hawai'i Mass Transit Agency believes the increase in riders is the result of implementing its master plan, as well as utilizing federal funds to provide zero-fare service.

The County of Hawaiʻi Mass Transit Agency credits a significant increase in its ridership during Fiscal Year 2022 to the implementation of its 2018 Transit and Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan, as well as the use of grant funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for making fares free on Hele-On bus and Hele-On Kākoʻo paratransit services.

From July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, the Hele-On transit system (buses, paratransit, demand response, taxi and vanpool) collectively transported 588,416 passenger trips. In the same period last fiscal year, Hele-On had 325,049 passenger trips. In addition, HIBIKE, the bike-share system operating island wide, carried 23,466 bicycle trips.

Mass Transit Administrator and General Manager John Andoh said that about 473,083 passenger trips were made on the Hele-On bus alone and significant ridership gains were made after the transit system went fare-free in March of 2022.

The free fares program costs the MTA roughly $560,000, of which $4,500,000 in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) and $1,879,773 in American Rescue Plan Act from the FTA will continue to cover each year through December 31, 2025, with no local match required.

The Hawaiʻi County Council approved the program in February of 2022.

“This program is about opportunity,” said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. “As we continue to strive for an island that helps our residents thrive and succeed, we must ensure that they have the ability to get where they need to be when they need to be there – at little to no cost. The way we see it, transportation is a bridge that connects people to workplaces, recreation, their families, and so much more. That’s why it’s a priority and that’s why we’re proud to offer that service for free.”

Hele-On also is using the grant funds to cover the implementation of the new transit service network as planned in the 2018 Transit & Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan, which increased public transit access in the Hilo, Kailua-Kona, Waimea, Puna, and Kaʻū areas of the island with later service, more frequent service, and added Sunday and Holiday services. The Master Plan is helping the County restore creditability in its public transit system and allows it to be an integral part in connecting people to jobs, education, social service, and a better quality of life while driving economic development. With that, transit access to underserved communities, such as Pāhoa, now has much better transit access with seven days a week transit service, paratransit service, and additional small bus service within the many subdivisions along Highways 11 and 130.

“Continued higher ridership translates into increased federal and state formula funding and creates a positive feedback loop for Hele-On to improve and grow the island’s mobility network,” added Andoh.