The Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) is launching a pilot program with the four counties to expand subsidized county bus passes for high schoolers in grades 9-12. The pilot program — called EXPRESS, which stands for Expanding Ridership to Educate Students in Schools — aims to help mitigate the impacts of the national school bus driver shortage.
Expanding free bus transportation services to all high school students under the EXPRESS program also stands to benefit more than 21,000 students — or 47% of high school students — who are currently ineligible because they live within the walk zone of their school campus.
The goal is to increase high school student ridership on county bus services so that underutilized school buses can be reassigned to restore canceled and consolidated routes.
“Like other school districts across the nation, Hawaiʻi is addressing a shortage of school bus drivers that has led to canceled routes, schedule delays and passenger waitlists, as our contractors work hard to maintain services with fewer drivers,” Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. “We started this school year short roughly 90 bus drivers and every bus we can reassign will help us to prioritize impacted routes at our elementary and intermediate schools. We thank our county transportation partners and our high school students for being a part of the solution.”
Interested students with an active HIDOE student ID number may sign up online beginning today, Sept. 12, 2022, at iportal.k12.hi.us/express. Approved applicants will receive a confirmation and their county bus pass directly through their school. Oʻahu recipients will receive one county pass beginning in November that will be valid through July 2023. Recipients on Kauaʻi, Maui and the Big Island will receive passes good for each month through July 2023.
"Approximately 6,000 high school students currently use school bus service to get to and from school statewide,” said Student Transportation Services Administrator Emily Evans. “Students who choose to participate in EXPRESS gain access to a means of transportation that isn't limited to school transportation; they are free to use their pass as needed.”
“The City and County of Honolulu's TheBus is proud to partner with the State Department of Education to deliver transit to Hawaiʻi's high school students," said City Department of Transportation Services Deputy Director Jon Nouchi. “These students will learn early the benefits and independence transit can offer them, and may use their rides on TheBus to reach destinations beyond their schools, in their community, and even the job market. Developing students into new transit riders is timely and provides an efficient way for our keiki to access education."
“Maui County’s partnership with the Department of Education extends beyond the classroom,” said Mayor Michael Victorino. “We are happy to offer free passes to students who can ride the Maui Bus to school to help mitigate the temporary shortage of school bus drivers. We hope it helps to fill an important need.”
“Since the beginning of the school year, we’ve seen an increase in student ridership on our Kaua‘i Bus routes islandwide,” said Celia Mahikoa, Executive for the County of Kaua‘i Transportation Agency. “We thank the Hawai‘i Department of Education for providing these free bus passes as we know it will be a welcome help to our local families in need, and we look forward to our continued partnership as we work together to help our keiki get to school.”
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 here.
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.
The City & County of Honolulu will be funding the cost of passes on Oʻahu for June and July 2023. ADA and Paratransit services are not included in this program. For more information, visit bit.ly/HIDOEstudent-transportation.