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LETTER: Bus System Audit Findings

May 25, 2018, 3:22 PM HST
* Updated May 25, 3:25 PM
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Submitted by Myelle None, Volcano

Aloha dear county council members Poindexter, Ruggles, Chung, LeeLoy, Ohara, David, Kanuha, Eoff, Richards, mass transit administrator Maria Aranguiz, Mayor Kim…with copies to reporter Nancy Cook Lauer, SSFM consultants + interested Big Island bus riders/residents/staff,

Please know: you can NOT spend another $100,000 – $500,000 on automated fare technology for the Big Island’s Hele-On bus system — after already spending $500K towards creation of a mass transit master plan — while the practical day-to-day treatment of actual bus riders remains so POOR.

For example:

* On Saturday May 19, 2018 both the Hilo-Kau 2:40 PM & 4:40 PM busses departed from the mall area EARLY, leaving multiple riders first with wilting, perishable groceries, and then — since the 4:40 is the last bus of the day — stranded with their shopping and NO AFFORDABLE WAY TO GET HOME.

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* During the same period, busses scheduled in and out of lower Puna were CANCELLED WITHOUT NOTICE, leaving residents unable to get to work &/or home in this critical time of new Puna area volcanic eruptions!

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This is inexcusable.

IT COSTS NOTHING to inform all drivers if they are running early they must WAIT in order to effectively provide transportation service to the public depending on stated bus schedules, as this is what drivers were hired to do.

IT COSTS NOTHING to set up an outgoing mass transit voicemail message informing riders of scheduling changes/bus cancellations/delays during any hours the public phone line is not manned or is overly busy.

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I need to ask at this point why any of you seem surprised that the recent audit (http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/WebLink/DocView.aspx?dbid=1&id=93069&page=1&cr=1) found the person in charge of mass transit for much of the past 20 years ineffective, if not ethically compromised, in her duties??

Please check the files:

* Numerous riders & residents have tried working with Tiffany Kai regarding necessary bus system improvements without success — and usually without receiving even the courtesy of a reply to their communications as well — and they have been telling you this for years.

* Investigations into poor bus service and questionable monetary discrepancies under Ms. Kai’s management have been noted in the press for decades.

* The ex-marine consultant Mayor Kim recently brought in to help right the system let you know he was struggling with seemingly immovable inertia surrounding how things were done under Ms. Kai.

So it should be no surprise to anyone the recent audit found things like $30,000 cash fares dating back to July 2017 had not made it to the bank, & were instead lying around on a break room table, unsupervised.

Even high schoolers working at McDonalds know how to accurately, safely, courteously handle incoming cash + customer communications…

Yet the person you have allowed to oversee Big Island Mass Transit is a grown woman who at the very least — after 20 years on the job — does not exhibit the managerial, accounting, nor customer service skills needed to run anything as complex as the island’s public transportation service well…nor does she apparently have any inclination/motivation to learn.

This is inexcusable.

Why have you allowed it to continue for two decades?

We — the island’s concerned residents & riders of the Hele-On bus system — hold you: the county council, mayor’s office, and current/previous mass transit administrators RESPONSIBLE.

As representatives voted &/or hired into your positions in order to oversee & apportion this island’s budget, it is imperative that you prioritize providing decent day-to-day, dependable public transportation BEFORE spending any more money on long-range mass transit plans, paperwork, consultants, or new technology.

Any money & energy needs to be spent on:

* busses healthy enough to run regular routes without breaking down,

* drivers trained to meet stated bus schedules while dealing efficiently & ethically with cash & customers,

* competent staff/administrators hired & instructed to effectively meet job duties including dealing efficiently/ethically with income and providing accurate, timely information + courteous responses to customers.

This should be your primary priority at this time.

Only once the above is accomplished can & should next steps such as expanding hub & spoke bus service into rural subdivisions + things like adding additional evening/Sunday bus service be undertaken…

…and only after THOSE vital, practical secondary items are working like a well-oiled machine should any money be spent on tertiary things like automated fare collection boxes.

I’m sure you are equally frustrated about these matters…but, unlike residents & riders, they are within the power of the county council, mayor’s office, & mass transit administration to correct.

Please use your leadership abilities to take the actions necessary to rectify this deplorable situation.

In fiscal year 2016-2017, the Big Island’s mass transit system brought in $1.2 million dollars (that you know of)…making sure you have effective, ethical people in charge of this income + rider safety is not too much to ask.

The county’s mass transit Mission is: to provide “safe, clean, convenient transportation services” to residents and visitors.

Please prioritize fulfilling this mission.

Not years from now.

Not once the final draft of the MT master plan is complete & funding has been acquired in order to purchase new fleets of busses, etc.

NOW.

And please ask yourselves why exactly all of you — & your predecessors — have allowed this inexcusable state of affairs to continue for as long as it has…after being notified by many sources that much about the island’s mass transit system was amiss again & again & again, over the past 20 years?

Thank you for your attention to these issues.

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