How to ride the public bus for free on Oahu and the island of Hawaii

HONOLULU — Just in time for back to school and at a time when Hawaii has the highest gas prices in the nation, Honolulu’s largest public transportation system, TheBus, is offering free rides for five days, from August 22 to 26.

To take advantage of the free fare week, passengers must swipe their HOLO card — a “passport to travel” statewide, according to J. Roger Morton, director of the Honolulu City and County Department of Transportation Services. – rather than paying in cash.

HOLO cardholders can use the card when boarding a bus and also load monthly passes on it. When the highly anticipated Honolulu rail project is completed, the card will also be used to use this service.

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HOLO cards are available for free until August 26 at select retailers, TheBus Pass Office and select satellite city hotels. Generally, they cost $2. (In Hawaiian, hello means “to go” or “to progress”.)

The decision was made unanimously by the Honolulu City Council to stimulate interest in the public bus. Before the pandemic, the bus carried 195,000 people around Oahu a day, and that number dropped to 35,000 at the height of the pandemic, according to Morton. Since then, attendance has steadily increased.

TheBus is using the promotion to introduce the HOLO card and “get it into the hands of as many residents as possible,” Morton said. The goal is to get people to reconsider their travel habits.

“TheBus is a great way to save money,” he continued. “It’s not for everyone but (it works) for some.”

Can tourists take the bus for free in Oahu and Hawaii?

Although the promotion is primarily aimed at enticing residents to use the system, visitors who are “going to be in town for a while” may find the HOLO Card a worthwhile purchase since TheBus serves the entire island. Typically, visitors make up about 9-12% of TheBus ridership, Morton said.

This is the first time TheBus has offered such a promotion. As for future free fares, Morton said TheBus “will probably do this again.”

Is there economic support for TheBus?

Morton noted that TheBus also offers a low-income transit pass program to help “extremely low-income” people get a subsidized HOLO card.

Is there another free transportation option in Hawaii?

Oahu will be the second island offering free public bus rides to people. From now until December 31, 2025, residents of the island of Hawaii can use its only public transportation option, Hele-On, for free, thanks to federal pandemic relief funds. Officials said the free public transit is intended to help mitigate the rising cost of living.

“We believe going free has also helped ensure fairness for everyone and removed a barrier for particularly low-income people who need access to destinations and don’t have to worry about paying.” , John Andoh, Transit Administrator and CEO of Hawaii County Transit Agency. It’s also a social service, he said, so it will hopefully help ease congestion and improve the economy.

Does the bus go to the airport?

The Hele-On bus offers direct service to all airports on the island of Hawaii and covers most of the island, which is the largest in the state. From 2005 to 2013, Hele-On was also accessible to everyone.

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