City invests in new Handi-Vans

By Paul Drewes
Published On: May 05 2014 05:30:07 PM HST
Updated On: May 05 2014 06:53:24 PM HST

The city spends millions on new rides in an effort to get a vital transportation service moving. KITV4's Paul Drewes shows us what's new with Oahu's Handivan.

HONOLULU -

Like many who use the Handi-Van, Donald Sakamoto has had to wait for a ride.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' story.

"I would call to check on my pickup from work and they would say, 'We're still looking for a van for you.'  Call back and we're still looking for a van," said Sakamoto.

Being late is not only an inconvenience.  For some riders, it can also be a health hazard.

"If the van is late for their cancer treatment or dialysis, it pushes them back and they miss their hookup," said Sakamoto.

The average age of current Handi-Vans is 7 years old.  The city's aging fleet hasn't been able to keep up with the 4,000 daily requests for rides.

"With an older fleet, it was hard for us to keep 137 vans on the street," said Roger Morton of Oahu Transportation Services.

Legal challenges over the  past three years stopped the purchase of new vans, but now the city is on a buying spree.

"This is the first of 99 vans -- $10.7 million worth.  Seventy percent from the federal government," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Two dozen other vans are already on Oahu, and are being readied to roll out.  The new vans are quieter as they use gas instead of diesel and come equipped with security cameras inside and out.

Each of the vans are equipped with tracking devices and OTS says, down the road, they may be able to provide riders with an app so they'll know exactly where their van is.

Along with the new vans, there will also be a new scheduling system for Hand-Van reservations to cut down on the number of no-shows or last-minute cancellations.

No-show riders will first get warnings, but repeated problems could lead to a suspension of service.

All of the new vans will be on the streets by October and many Handi-Van riders can't wait for more reliable transportation.

Once the vans are in place, drivers will try to reach the federal guideline of arriving within 30 minutes of a scheduled pickup.  The city council is debating whether the city auditor should look at the service's performance and problems.  It will hear a measure about the Handi-Van on Thursday.

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