Ongoing Series { Investigating Hawaii's rising school bus costs.

Taken For A Ride: Stopping Oahu School Bus Service Will Save Millions

Katherine Poythress/Civil Beat

Eliminating school bus service on Oahu is the quickest and most effective way to reduce Hawaii's student transportation costs, school district officials say.

It would save the Department of Education about $15 million per year on its estimated $75 million student transportation budget.

The district's recommendation was a reluctant one, it said in a long-awaited report to state legislators on Hawaii's options for curbing skyrocketing school bus costs. School services chief Randy Moore emailed Civil Beat a copy late Tuesday, about two weeks after it was due.

School bus contract costs have doubled in the last six years. In its Taken for a Ride series, Civil Beat has documented how a suspicious lack of competition among school bus companies has contributed to runaway student transportation costs. Earlier this year, the Legislature zeroed out the district's transportation budget for the coming school year and said it would be reinstated only if district officials come up with ways to reduce costs.

The future of student transportation in the isles hinges on this report and the department's ability to get a grip on contractors and costs. If the report doesn't satisfy lawmakers, they insist they will make good on their threat to eliminate school bus funding. At the least, the report and district recommendations likely will mean big changes this year for school bus companies and the school district — not to mention students and families who rely on the service to get their kids to and from schools especially in rural areas.

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