With all the talk about rail, how the proposed system connects to TheBus is a critical issue. Not only will rail cost a lot, but taxpayers subsidize the bus system to a great degree as well. The hope of some is that efficiencies can be created if the two are managed by one entity.

A measure to create a transit authority will be on the ballot in November as a City Charter Amendment. The authority’s board of directors would include three members appointed by the mayor and three by the City Council, one selected by the city transportation director, one by the state transportation director and another by all involved. The board would then hire an executive director.

One purpose of this agency would be to ensure that the rail system and TheBus are well integrated — for logistical and financial reasons. TheBus isn’t cheap, so maximizing its efficiency will be essential to Honolulu residents who pay for it — largely through property taxes. The city spent $192 million on bus services in 2009 ($101 million on salaries). TheBus had an average weekday ridership of over 237,500 that year.

For the 2010 fiscal year, officials appropriated $199 million for bus transportation services. Down the road, officials hope bus expenses will be reduced as the rail makes certain bus routes obsolete.

The Hawaii Business Roundtable has endorsed the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project, but only if the city forms a transit authority to construct and administer its transportation system, according to Don Horner, chairman and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank and a member of the roundtable.

The group, a statewide public policy organization made up of the CEOs and senior executives of companies headquartered or maintaining significant operations in Hawaii, believes that the city needs an objective group of people, removed from politics and special interests, to manage the project.

We’re interested in your thoughts on whether a transit authority is a good idea.

About the Author