Hele-On is Now Fare-Free
Hawaiʻi County Mass Transit Agency announced that Hele-On service is now fare-free through Dec. 31, 2023.
Free ridership is possible due to the Department receiving $4,500,00 in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and $1,879,773 in American Rescue Plan Act from the Federal Transit Administration by way of the Hawai’i Department of Transportation.
The funds are 100% federal with no local match necessary and are provided to help transit systems sustain their operations during the pandemic. Upon receipt of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, the fare-free initiative should extend another year to Dec. 31, 2024.
“We are extremely excited to offer this improved, efficient, and critical resource to our community at no cost,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “There are a myriad of issues contributing to a growing cost of living, so it is our hope that providing free transportation services to our residents will help alleviate some of that burden. We understand that Hele-On has had a bad rap in the past but would like to encourage our residents to try it out; they may be pleasantly surprised.”
Hele-On is also using the 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 Ka’ū areas of the Island with later service, more frequent service and added Sunday and Holiday services.
Officials say the master plan is helping the county restore creditability in its public transit system and allow it to be an integral part of connecting people to jobs, education, social service, and quality of life while driving economic development. In addition, underserved communities such as Pāhoa, one of the fastest-growing areas on the Island, has significant 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.
“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,” said John Andoh, the county’s mass transit administrator and general manager.
The goal of implementing fare-free transit is also to rebuild ridership lost over the past 10 years due to reliability issues of the transit system.