Voters should have received the 2016 Charter Amendments booklet this week. There are 20 amendments for voters to read through and decipher. Question 4 deals with the rail project and deserves much more discussion.
This ballot question is largely the result of a proposal submitted relatively late in the process. During Honolulu Charter Commission meetings it was mentioned the charter amendment that created HART didn’t adequately consider how rail operations and maintenance (O&M) would work (or not) with TheBus and HandiVan, which are under the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services (DTS).
In addition, certain members of the HART board felt oversight of staff was too limited. The proposal does make it clear the board sets the policies for the development of the rail system.
It would have been better to have a separate question regarding board powers, but the commission decided to combine these issues into this one question.
The question contains three parts: 1) replace the current Transportation Commission with a Rate Commission; 2) put rail O&M under DTS; and 3) clarify and increase the HART board responsibilities and authority.
Duties of a new Rate Commission would include creation of new sources of revenues. The commission would also be authorized to collect and report transit data. Discussions of this proposal did not address the issue of how riders’ personal information would be handled.
While it makes sense to have the rail fare system and route scheduling under the same agency as TheBus, we need to be careful how a transition between HART and DTS would be done. In this case, everyone (employees, contractors and even vacant positions) who has primary responsibilities related to O&M would transfer to DTS on July 1, 2017.
Those transferred “shall suffer no loss of vacation allowance, sick leave, service credits, retirement benefits or other rights and privileges because of the transfer.” So basically DTS will inherit HART’s liabilities without the capability of making any near-term changes.
Who are these people, specifically? How much will this change cost?
With O&M out of the way, what shortcuts will be taken on the rest of the development of rail to meet budget and completion deadlines? How much will this end up costing us more in the long run?
And how much consideration would DTS give to the quality of work prior to acceptance of the “completed” rail with pressures to simply get it going?
These questions should be answered before this amendment is passed. Since the Honolulu City Council may introduce charter amendments for the next election, I urge everyone to vote “no” on this.