Some members of Legco's transport panel on Thursday urged the government to relax various restrictions on bus firms, to allow them to bring in other sources of revenue and reduce the need to raise fares.
They were speaking on RTHK, a day after the government revealed that the city's franchised bus operators have applied for fare increases of around 10 to 20 percent.
"All our public transport systems have been facing operational difficulties and I've pointed that out many times at the Legislative Council," said Frankie Yick, who heads the panel and represents the transport sector.
"The decline in patronage has been caused by several reasons, first, our population shrank, bad economy and people go out less, but let's not forget one important reason: that is, we don't really have any tourists coming to Hong Kong," he added.
The Liberal Party lawmaker also pointed out that operating costs have been rising as the firms suffer from manpower shortages and surging fuel prices.
Yick suggested that bus operators be allowed to rent out space at public interchanges to tuck shops, expand the areas on buses where advertisements are permitted, and use their depots for commercial purposes.
"We've been telling the government maybe it should do more to help these operators bring in non-fare income," he said.
Another member of the transport panel, Ben Chan, agreed.
"The degree of [proposed] hikes this time is higher than my expectations," said Chan during the same programme. " I hope the government will be mindful of the people's affordability when vetting the applications."
The DAB lawmaker also called on the authorities to extend a fuel subsidy for bus operators - something the government has declined to do, citing improving passenger figures.