Charter amendment: Who should be responsible for operating our rail system?


It will be a while before Honolulu’s rail system is up and running, but once it is, who should be responsible for it?

Should rail continue to be under the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation or another agency?

It’s part of a charter amendment voters will get to weigh in on for the general election.Should a unified multi-modal transportation system be created by:

  1. Forming a Rate Commission to annually review and recommend adjustments to bus and paratransit fares, rail fares and parking fees;
  2. Placing operations and maintenance responsibilities for bus, paratransit and rail solely in the Department of Transportation Services and providing for the transfer of positions and legal rights and obligations relating to rail operations and maintenance from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) to the Department of Transportation Services effective July 1,2017; and
  3. Clarifying the responsibility of the HART Board to establish policies, rules, and regulations regarding the development of the rail system, the internal management and organization of HART, and the allocation of decision-making authority between the Board and the agency’s executive director and staff, and amending the responsibilities of the HART Board to include determining the policies for approval of certain agreements with the federal, public or private entities?

The question basically asks voters if they want a unified multi-modal transportation system. Charter amendement four first asks if a rate commission should be formed

Currently HART sets the rail fares, separate from TheBus and Handi-Van.

“The rate commission would review and determine the appropriate fares and rates for various transportation functions in the city, including TheBus, Handi-Van, future rail service, as well as parking,” explained Mark Garrity, acting director for the city’s Department of Transportation Services.

The next part of the question asks voters if they want operations and maintenance responsibilities for rail to be under DTS instead of HART.

“The city Department of Transportation Services already operates and maintains the city bus system, the Handi-Van, and so forth,” Garrity said. “Bringing rail operations and maintenance under DTS makes sense.”

David Rae, chair of the Honolulu Charter Commission, says having all transportation systems under one roof will help DTS meld bus lines with rail.

“The bus is not meant to be a feeder, a subsidiary, or anything of rail,” he said. “Neither of them are meant for that. They are meant to coexist, to work together for the best of the various communities.”

DTS says the proposed amendment would not impact the contract with Oahu Transit Services, which currently operates TheBus. In fact, rail would be contracted out in a similar manner.

“Right now, there’s a contract with Ansaldo to operate the rail system once it comes up and running,” Garrity said. “That contract would be reviewed and, in the future, it’s possible there could be different ways to contract out operations of the rail.”

Lastly, the charter amendment would give the HART Board of Directors more oversight.

“I believe the people expect the board to be like what they expect the board to function as: one with oversight, one with responsibility, and one that will ask the hard questions and see the changes through,” said former HART board chair Colleen Hanabusa.

DTS and the HART board will continue to work closely together under the proposal. The HART board will still oversee the design, construction, and future expansion of rail.

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