State Education Department Providing Free County Bus Passes to High School Students
To deal with the national school bus driver shortage, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education today launched a statewide pilot program to provide free county bus passes for high school students.
The pilot program called EXPRESS — which stands for Expanding Ridership to Educate Students in Schools — aims to help mitigate the impacts of canceled routes, schedule delays and passenger waitlists.
For high school students on the Big Island, public transit on Hawai‘i County’s Hele-On Bus is already a free fare service that can be utilized at any time.
The EXPRESS program also will benefit thousands of students who currently are ineligible to ride a school bus because they live within the walk zone of their school campus. The walk zone is 1.5 miles in most places.
The goal is to increase high school student ridership on county bus services so underutilized school buses can be reassigned “to prioritize impacted routes at our elementary and intermediate schools,” Department of Education Superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a press release.
Interested students with an active Hawai’i Department of Education student ID number may sign up online beginning Sept. 12 at iportal.k12.hi.us/express.
Student Transportation Services Administrator Emily Evans said about 6,000 high school students currently use school bus service to get to and from school statewide. Students who choose to participate in EXPRESS gain access to transportation that isn’t limited to going to and from school.
“They are free to use their pass as needed,” Evans said.
Approved applicants will receive a confirmation and their county bus pass directly through their school. Recipients on Kauaʻi, Maui and the Big Island will receive passes good for each month through July 2023.
Oʻahu recipients will receive one county pass that will be valid through July 2023. The City & County of Honolulu will be funding the cost of passes on Oʻahu for June and July 2023.
Parents and guardians will be responsible for locating the nearest county bus route to and from their student’s school and for finding the safest walking routes to and from the nearest bus stops. Public transportation safety tips are available at bit.ly/HIDOE-EXPRESS.
Students who have already paid for a second quarter pass or bus coupons may request a refund after receiving their county bus pass at bit.ly/STSB-refund. School bus refund requests should be made only after receiving the county bus pass to avoid premature deactivation of the school bus pass.
ADA and Paratransit services are not included in this program. For more information, visit bit.ly/HIDOEstudent-transportation.