Letter: Actually, the rail transit board is as political as you get
HonoluluTraffic.com, a citizen group opposed to rail transit in Honolulu, responded to a column in the Monday, August 15 edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser titled “Honolulu strikes own path with rail board” (available through subscription).
The Star Advertiser writes today that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) board was formed to have “apolitical leadership.” How can you have an “apolitical leadership” when the “leaders” are all appointed by politicians?
Eight of the 10-person “apolitical” HART board consists of six current and former City employees and two union officials. The minority two are businesspeople. This is “apolitical”?
Second, while the Star Advertiser contends that “most boards in other cities are run by politicians,” that does not appear to be the case. Reviewing the boards of the six largest transit agencies reveals that only Los Angeles MTA is run by politicians, whereas Chicago CTA, New York MTA, Boston MBTA, Philadelphia SEPTA, and Atlanta MARTA, are not.
More importantly, the report should have read, “most boards in other areas” since we cannot find another transit authority that runs transit in only one city or county. Transit authorities generally run transit for multiple cities or counties since the needed political coordination between them requires it. Honolulu may well be the only city in the United States that has its own transit authority.
Even worse, HART does not run TheBus, even though a common fare structure with rail is promised and bus schedules will have to be coordinated with rail. That alone tells you that something strange is going on.
We have consistently asked at Council hearings the rationale for establishing a transit authority for rail alone, and in a single jurisdiction, and have not received an intelligent response.
The only reason that makes sense to us is that it is done to shield elected officials from the harsh criticisms that will well up from voters when the cost overruns and ridership shortfalls occur and consequent increases in property taxes are needed. Then the mostly anonymous HART appointees will take the flak.