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Hawaii bill would increase fines for illegal tour buses

HONOLULU — A bill proposed by Hawaii lawmakers would significantly increase fines for tour bus companies that repeatedly break state law.

Hawaii politicians this year have sought to crack down on tourist buses that illegally take up rows of parking spots, block residential driveways and drop visitors off in locations coveted by locals, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Under the provisions of the proposed bill, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission could fine operators $5,000 for the fourth and any subsequent offences over a calendar year. The current maximum fine is $1,000. The commission regulates motor carriers.

The bill has cleared the state Senate and state House of Representatives and is set to enter a final round of negotiations between the two chambers before it is sent to the governor’s office for veto or approval.

"There have been some companies that have clearly, intentionally, completely ignored the law and continue to drop off over and over again in spots that are dangerous and otherwise in­appropriate," said Democratic state Sen. Chris Lee, who introduced the bill.

The laws that regulate tour buses vary by location in the state.

But regulations are par­ticularly strict in Kailua, where Honolulu city and county officials in 2012 banned nearly all commercial activity at two beach parks.

Residents had complained they were experiencing gridlock weekend traffic for hours as they tried to navigate through roads clogged with tourist buses.

Gareth Sakakida, the managing director of the Hawaii Transportation Association, which represents the commercial ground transportation industry, said his agency supports the proposed bill.

"This gives the PUC a bigger hammer," Sakakida said. "Anything that the PUC wants to help their enforcement effort, we support."

Public Utilities Commission Chairman Jay Griffin said between 2019 and the pandemic, the commission issued 74 citations for improperly-run tour vehicles.

But Griffin said since April 2020, the commission suspended citations because of the pandemic. Enforcement is expect to resume in the coming months, Griffin said.

The Associated Press