Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 |
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Passengers board the Hele-On bus to Hilo on Luhia Street in Kailua-Kona in this Jan. 4 file photo. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
Eight more old buses will soon be on their way to the Big Island, with the County Council set to accept the donation of used buses from the City and County of Honolulu.
Resolution 491, expected on the council’s agenda next week, will accept the 2000 and 2002 40-foot Gillig Phantom buses with an estimated value of $1,000 each and a total shipping cost of $40,000. The resolution follows a similar one for 12 of the buses in March.
The buses can be used in immediate service to continue the implementation of the Transit and Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan for the Hele-O bus system while standardizing the fleet with the Gillig Phantom model, Transit Administrator John Andoh said.
“It is anticipated by obtaining these buses from Honolulu will allow for all routes in East Hawaii as well as the Hilo and South Kohala Resorts routes to be operated with county-owned buses with spares necessary to meet service demands as the maintenance staff continue to refurbish and rebuild buses pending delivery of the new buses,” Andoh said.
The master plan requires 55 buses. The present Hele-On fleet totals 55, but only 30 are in service, forcing the county to rely on leased buses fro local transportaiton companies. The eight new old buses will replace eight of the worst-performing buses in the current fleet, Andoh said.
As part of the fleet replacement plan, an additional invitation for bids will be opened for at least 26 buses for delivery between fall of 2023 and spring of 2024 and a request for proposals for 10 battery electric buses would be delivered in summer of 2024. Staff is also intending on releasing a invitation for bids for used electric buses and chargers that are available in Hawaii that could be used in Hilo and the Puna District as well. Two hydrogen buses are due to arrive in winter 2022 for Kailua-Kona service.
The plan is to retire the entire fleet of the 12- to 27-year-old buses by 2024 as the new fleet comes in, Andoh said. Currently, the average age of the Hele-On bus is 17.8 years.
While council members have in the past resisted the idea of using Honolulu’s hand-me-downs, the iconic old yellow buses with the stiff suspension and hard seats actually break down less often than the county’s other buses, transit staff has said.
Andoh said the buses removed from the fleet will be sold at auction, if they’re running. If not, they’ll be recycled and scrapped, he said.
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