Rail car snag will show what HART is made of

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation goes into executive session Thursday to discuss the city’s troubled $1.45 billion contract with Ansaldo Honolulu to provide and operate cars for the $5.3 billion rail system.

In two disturbing developments last week, the city admitted it made no reference calls to check Ansaldo’s spotty performance in other cities and Ansaldo’s parent company conceded the rail division has “structural problems” in producing rail cars for customers and may be sold if “urgent restructuring”  doesn’t solve financial and managerial problems.

The disarray involving a major contractor leaves unwelcome question marks hanging over the fledgling Honolulu rail project before construction is even started.

Further clouding the matter are challenges to the bidding process filed by two of Ansaldo’s competitors — Sumitomo and Bombardier — that could end up in court.

It’ll be the first test of what HART is made of; will the board deal forthrightly and independently with an unacceptable lapse of due diligence by the city, or will it join the city administration in putting a happy face on rail-related snags?

I have further thoughts on the rail car mess in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “City missteps cast doubt on direction of rail project.”

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13 Comments on “Rail car snag will show what HART is made of”

  1. zzzzzing Says:

    Dave, will your article be viewable by those of use who choose not to pay the SAd for a subscription? I sure hope so, but I have my doubts.

    RE: HART & Rail – yes, and now the fun begins. The Mayor couldn’t wait to hand the responsibility off to them, and I’m guessing that the City Council is wishing they had let HART be completely autonomous. Watching the City (mis)handle this project is so cringe-inducing…

  2. kalaheo Says:

    zzzzing – I was able to view the article despite not being a subscriber. The hard part was actually finding it. It was pretty well hidden and the flASHback link went to 404.

    If it hadn’t been for Mr Shapiro’s blog update, I never would of found it.

  3. kalaheo Says:

    update – I just looked again. and while Mr Shapiro’s essay is much easier to find now, it is now impossible to read without a subscription.

  4. kalaheo Says:

    One more update :)… if you try to read David’s excellent essay off the main page of the paper you can’t, BUT if you find him under the “Columnists” box and click “volcanic ash,” you CAN read it.

  5. Kurt Kamikawa Says:

    Why don’t we try free bus service for a year and see how that catches on? It will probably be less expensive than building the rail system.

  6. Richard Gozinya Says:

    “…. the city admitted it made no reference calls ….”

    You guys do realize that in any sane world, heads would roll for such an obvious dereliction of responsibility, right?

    I mean, people don’t even hire a pet walker without references.

  7. zzzzzz Says:

    I subscribe, and I can’t read the article online, even after logging on.

    I’m guessing there are a lot of folks who support rail in general, but have serious doubts about the C&C’s ability to manage such a project–remember Ewa Villages?

    Their numbers probably just increased.

  8. Manoa Kahuna Says:

    HART should rebid the rail car/maintenance contract. They are the ones responsible for it now that they exist.

  9. zzzzzing Says:

    tnx kalaheo – glad to see you posting here. I’m one of your many ‘likes’ on disqus, lol. I’ll look into the ‘columnists’ avenue.

    @Kurt K- that has been suggested many times over & summarily dismissed as ‘not getting the point of having an means of travel.’ Go figure…

    @Richard G- I do that even for a light switch 🙂

    @zzzzzz – From the ‘reasonable’ pro-railers, I get exactly that. Having a Rail that is reasonable isn’t objectionable, but the way the City is effing it up, is. I argued with willki & that Hannah chick about not having the Rail go to Ewa – they told me Ewa was not in the traffic corridor & has too many cars for Rail to work – can you believe it? 😎

  10. zzzzzing Says:

    zzzzzz – you’re right. this is all I get:

    City missteps cast doubt on direction of rail project
    By David Shapiro

    POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 03, 2011

    Many of us the city writes off as anti-rail aren’t against mass transit at all. We just have doubts about the ability of our elected officials to run the biggest public works project in Hawaii’s history in an honest, competent and cost-conscious manner.

    We’ve had the state needlessly run up the cost to Oahu taxpayers by skimming 10 percent of the rail excise tax to pay for nonrail projects statewide. Login for more…


    I thought the columnists were supposed to be free – guess Dave’s columns are worth more than that. 😉

  11. Hugh Clark Says:

    Some might say this is not my dog since I live on the Big Island.

    But I visit Oahu and my wife shops there and we indirectly pay a share of the transit tax plus I suspect we pay even more for goods and services purchased from Oahu. Unlike many jurisdictions there is no provision for a visitor refund.

    I have been a constant fan of the idea of rapid transit in Honolulu, particularly after post-retirement visits to several cities in Europe and Asia as well as the Bay Area, Seattle and NYC.

    If it is clear there was no due diligence on a billion-dolar contract, the Mayor should be cracking skulls right now. What an awful turn.

  12. kalaheo Says:

    zzzzzing – Thank you for the kind words. I was a little stunned when the SA deleted all 2500 of my comments and my nearly 30,000 likes all because I criticized their pay model. I found posting there to be an worthwhile and stimulating pursuit, and I’ll miss it. I tried creating another account to say good bye to all my SA friends and adversaries, but once you’re banninated, you’re banninated good.

    I probably shouldn’t say much more than that here as I adore David Shapiro writing and don’t want to endanger his blog.

  13. Kurt Kamikawa Says:

    A rail route linking UH Manoa and West Oahu campuses would be something to get excited over, since we all know the impact of UH commuting on traffic. Plus, this opens up the possibility of building a new football stadium at W. Oahu and shifting more undergraduate programs, dorms and jobs in that direction. The UH parking structures would also provide an inherent possibility for some park and ride users.

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