HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The rail and TheBus are teaming up to find the best ways to integrate the two transit systems which could save money but also cut positions.
Both systems want to have schedules that complement each other so passengers can seamlessly get off the rail and onto the bus and vice versa. But it gets a bit trickier when talking about combining forces.
Both boards for the rail and TheBus had the first ever combined meeting and unanimously approved a joint working group to figure out the best way to integrate the systems and reduce redundancies.
"You know it doesn't make sense to have two people counting fares, it doesn't make sense to have two websites, or two fare media type things so I know there are a lot of savings if we do this right," said Roger Morton, Oahu Transit Services President and General Manager, which is contracted by the city to operate TheBus.
"We do not need to reinvent the wheel if the wheel is already at OTS. That's what we need to do and we all need to accept change," said Tony Guerrero, Oahu Transit Services Board Chair, during the meeting.
However people stopped short of calling it a consolidation just yet. Even Councilmember and rail supporter Breene Harimoto backed off his previous comments about merging the services.
"Despite some of the things I said before, about needing to merge the organizations, it was just a thought," said Harimoto, during the meeting to both boards.
Consolidation could mean only one management team, one board, one accounting department and potentially fewer jobs.
Is there a need for two management teams, one for the bus, one for the rail?
"Well I think that's a question that needs to come out of this discussion as we get down the road," responded Morton. "We want to see if there are resources that would best be shared with Hart so at the end of the day we can also save money."
"It could save in administrative costs yes, but it might not serve other purposes so you really want to engage the public and find out what they want out of their system," said Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) CEO. "I think that is always a possibility in the future, but the message today is regardless of how the back room operation is organized, the front room operation has to be thinking customer, customer, customer."
"In some ways it makes sense to me. But I think they're going to know better than anyone else whether it's something that should be done or not. I think it's a valid question to ask and I think we have to hear the pros and cons," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor. "If it saves I'm passionate about finding those savings. I think efficiencies always do result in some savings."
It may come down to money, although at this point no one knows how much consolidation would save taxpayers.
Voters approved forming the Hart board. They may be asked to decide if there should be a consolidation with TheBus.
"As you know rail is highly controversial you guys have been covering it for years. We don't want to create greater controversy by rushing. We want to allow everyone to weigh in," said Mayor Caldwell.
Another thing the joint working group will work on together is the fare structure. They want to have the same price to ride the rail as TheBus and to use one pass for both but it also has to be affordable.
Of course first the rail has to get built. Construction isn't expected to continue again until the end of September. The first phase is expected to open a year behind schedule in 2017.
Hart it will be getting less money this year from the federal government than expected. The city found out today the sequestration cuts are costing $14 million. The city will get $236 million instead of the full 250 million. Grabauskas says the city "can live with it" and it's an amount that is "easily sustainable." He also says the $14 million will be made up in future years.