The County of Hawai’i Mass Transit Agency announced it has extended its free fare program upon county council consent through Dec. 31, 2025.
The free fares continue to be funded through an American Rescue Plan (ARP) grant which will cover the lost fares in 2023, 2024, and 2025, according to the agency's news release.
The agency cites a 40% uptick in ridership since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, strong public support, and the importance of transit equity as the reason for continuing the program.
“With the implementation of the Transit and Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan and removing the barrier of fares, we are seeing ridership trend in the opposite direction from what the industry is experiencing, and we believe this program is helping our island stay connected with ease”, said GM John Andoh.
The Mass Transit Agency recently received funding from the Hawai’i Department of Transportation through the Federal Transit Administration to support the program through Dec. 31, 2025, with assurances no local match required. The $1.8 million dollar grant will cover approximately $500,000 in lost fares each year.
“As ridership continues to outpace previous years, we are optimistic the value of accessible transit continues to grow with it,” Mayor Mitch Roth said. “As we remain focused on the ridership experience, we continue to work towards connecting our essential workers to jobs, our island visitors to fun, our kupuna to social activities, and our keiki to education.”
Each year by July 31, the Mass Transit Agency said it will present statistics on the effects of the fare-free program to determine the value it is bringing to the county through 2025, and that analysis will determine if the program will continue beyond December 2025.