Saturday, March 02, 2024 |
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Hawaii County is set to receive more than $8 million in federal funds to upgrade an aging public transit system.
The Hawaii County Council approved a resolution on Wednesday allowing the funds to be used to continue operations and to purchase additional buses. Just over half, $4.5 million, will go to Roberts Hawaii to sustain services, with the rest going toward the acquisition of five new buses, according to interim mass transit administrator John Andoh.
“We’re looking at two 30-foot buses and three 40-foot buses,” Andoh said.
Andoh’s testimony in front of the council came just days after being announced as the interim mass transit administrator by Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration. Previous administrator Brenda Carreira has been on leave since early May.
Big Island residents shouldn’t expect the additional buses to arrive immediately; Andoh anticipates the new buses will arrive between 12 and 14 months after the purchase order is made.
The purchase is the start of an effort to reduce the age of Hawaii County’s 45-bus fleet. Currently, the average age of the fleet is approximately 16 years old, compared to a typical industry average of between 3 to 6 years.
“As part of this fleet replacement plan that I’m working on, I’m hoping that we can, as we start buying these buses with the grants that we receive, that we can drop that age significantly,” Andoh said.
Moving forward, he hopes to have a plan before the county council for approval in September with future steps to update the remainder of the fleet.
“I’m working with finance so that we can do a term RFP, which will come to council to request approval so we can ultimately have a five-year contract to buy 30, 35 and 40-foot buses,” Andoh said. “I’m working on a fleet replacement plan as we speak that will spell out, with all the grants that we receive, how we’re going to strategically replace those buses.”
Though Andoh expects the buses purchased with this federal grant to be diesel-powered, given the desire expressed by the state and the county for a zero-emission fleet, it’s likely future buses will be either hydrogen or electric.
The state has expressed a desire to become carbon-neutral by 2045, with Act 15 signed by Gov. David Ige on July 1, 2018. Hawaii County conveyed the same goal in its 2020 Climate Action Plan, which the council reiterated Wednesday.
“We as a council have to recognize we are transitioning toward low-emission, no-emission, zero-emission,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards. “But there will be a transition time until we get there.”
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