- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Maui County Council members have taken a first step toward subsidizing the Molokai-to-Maui ferry to keep it afloat.

The council Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on Mayor Alan Arakawa to submit a budget amendment appropriating $500,000 for the ferry. The money would come from the county’s economic development revolving fund, which has a $1 million balance, The Maui News (http://bit.ly/1ChKaS1 ) reported.

Ferry revenue and ridership have declined sharply in the last six months in part because airlines are offering cheaper rates.

The ferry provides commuter service for employees working in West Maui hotels and resorts. Several people told council members that it’s also more economical for large groups to ride the ferry than fly.

“The Molokai ferry is a lifeline for the people of Molokai who rely on it to travel to work on Maui, and reduction in services or a loss of the ferry would limit our ability to participate in academic, athletic, cultural, social and economic events,” said Councilmember Stacy Crivello, who holds the Molokai residency seat.

Administration spokesman Rod Antone said the mayor would support helping the ferry because it’s important to the people of Molokai. The mayor was waiting to receive the council’s resolution before submitting his proposal to council members, he said.

Crivello and state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, a Democrat representing East Maui, Molokai, Lanai, contacted Arakawa after news broke that Lahaina Cruise Co. was seeking permission from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to reduce its daily round trips between Molokai and Maui from two to one, Antone said.

Currently, the ferry operates twice-daily round trips between the islands, using a 149-passenger vessel.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com

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