Unite operations of transit systems
City leaders overseeing the rail construction are certainly regarding a gloomier project landscape than when the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation was first established.Devastating cost increases, delays and technical problems are bedeviling what was supposed to have been a 20-mile system opening in 2019.
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City leaders overseeing the rail construction are certainly regarding a gloomier project landscape than when the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation was first established. Devastating cost increases, delays and technical problems are bedeviling what was supposed to have been a 20-mile system opening in 2019.
Now six years have been tacked onto the project construction timetable, and there’s the prospect of a completed segment of the rail going into operation well before the whole $8.6 billion alignment is built.
HART, with turnover in its executive office as well as its governing board, clearly will be straining to deal with the issue of finding the money it now lacks to finish the work. Juggling that with the operation of a partially constructed transit system is a hurdle beyond its capacity.
That’s the persuasive argument behind the proposed change in the Honolulu City Charter that would assign the operation and maintenance of the rail system to the city’s Department of Transportation Services (DTS).
This amendment merits approval by the voters, even if that move abandons the notion of a quasi-independent agency heading rail, with some degrees of separation from City Hall’s politically charged environment.
That was a theory that the Honolulu Star-Advertiser had favored, but one that has not worked out in practice. The rail should be run in coordination with the bus and paratransit (Handi-Van) systems, ideally by the same quasi-independent entity.
Unfortunately, based on the way the last year or two have played out, the theoretical advantages have given way to the harsh realities. HART cannot be that agency; it needs to find new leadership experienced in transit construction, and focus on the primary mission of completing the system.
Charter Amendment No. 4 on the ballot would establish a multimodal transportation system that includes a Rate Commission to annually review and recommend adjustments to fares for rail, bus and Hand-Van, as well as parking fees. This is, simply enough, a logical idea.
But the key element is the second proviso: to make operations and maintenance solely a DTS responsibility, effective July 1, 2017. Part 3 of the amendment would clarify that the HART board’s role is to establish policies, rules and regulations for the system’s development.
The board also would set policies for the approval of agreements with the federal government and other public agencies, as well as private entities. And that should be the goal of the coming years, as new financial planning for the completion of the route beyond Middle Street takes shape.
It’s clear that coordination of rail operations with transportation elements already under DTS supervision needs to begin now. Vote yes on No. 4.
Other charter proposals to consider, among the 20 total:
>> Amendment No. 6: Requires that departments responsible for city infrastructure prepare long-term plans. This would enable agencies to develop master plans to guide their capital budgets and projects more consistently, ensuring that state and federal rules are met. Vote yes.
>> No. 19: Repeals the requirement that no more than five of the nine members of the City Council Reapportionment Commission be from the same party. Although the Council, like the executive branch of the city, is nonpartisan, it makes sense to provide a way to give opposing political views influence on the process of drawing district lines. In a state and city so dominated by one-party government, it’s worth making that effort. Vote no.