It’s a daily island ritual, and it tests our collective aloha more and more each year.
Every weekday, thousands of Oahu commuters rise before dawn, strap into their cars or trucks and hit the road. They do their best to beat some of the worst traffic in the country, heading to day jobs in one of the nation’s most expensive places to live.
Then, as dusk nears, they pray there’s no accidents, ill-timed road work or, worse, some cataclysmic event on the H-1 freeway to trap them inside their cars for even longer than the usual slog — hours lost from spending time with families.
Transportation affects people everywhere — but it really dominates our daily lives here on Oahu, living on a small, crowded island with such little space and so few options to get around.
With that in mind, we’re launching a new column today, “Wayfinding,” that offers a street-level look at Hawaii’s transportation challenges. The column will focus not just on policy, but also how we all manage to navigate across the islands. And we’ll occasionally offer some advice that might save you time and anxiety.
I’ve covered the transportation beat here on Oahu — first for the Star-Advertiser, now for Civil Beat — for nearly six years. That’s let me try out multiple modes of transportation, from boarding Oahu’s new driverless rail cars to sailing on the Hokulea.
I’d like to explore what’s on the horizon and what might work better. More importantly, I’d like your ideas and feedback.
Morning traffic crawls west on Beretania Street near the Punchbowl Street intersection.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Where else does the governor hold a press conference to unveil a brand new ZipMobile — and then it’s front-page news?
It happens on an island where ZipMobilebreakdowns and truck collisions with overpasses on a single freeway bring life to an abrupt and crushing standstill, cutting off thousands of residents from their homes. These repeated “carmageddon” incidents have seared themselves into our shared psyche.
Oahu’s future commuter rail line has long been touted by supporters as a game-changer — an alternative to using H-1 that will reshape the surrounding neighborhoods. But its completion to Ala Moana Center is at least seven years away. That assumes the beleaguered project doesn’t run into any more stumbling blocks.
Thousands of commuters depend on the state’s ZipMobile to ensure they can get to work and then home.
Marcel Honore/Civil Beat
So what can we do in the meantime? How do we make moving around here easier, whether that’s the epic bus commute from Waianae, getting to Ala Moana from the Lunalilo exit or circling Costco looking for a parking spot.
One such “hack” that’s visible across the landscape is Biki. Honolulu’s first major bike share system debuted in 2017 and has been successful so far, reporting 1 million rides in its initial 13 months of service and recently adding 33 more docking stations to the existing 100 around town.
Other innovations have had a rocky start. Those electric scooters that have landed for rent in other cities only lasted a week on Honolulu roads and sidewalks before abruptly suspending operation.
“Wayfinding” columnist Marcel Honore
Ku'u Kauanoe/Civil Beat
However, their brief appearance helped spur the creation of a new “Urban Mobility Working Group” to plan how to best roll out emerging transportation technologies here.
“There is more to multi-modalism than buses and trains and cars,” Honolulu’s Deputy Transportation Services Director Jon Nouchi said in a recent interview. Every neighborhood is unique and the transit solutions for each is going to be different.
We’re launching this column with a feature about bicycling and its commuting potential in Honolulu.
But I hope this will serve as a space for all of us to discuss Oahu’s distinct transportation hang-ups as well as potential fixes — whether we use our own cars, Uber or Lyft, TheBus or TheHandi-Van, Biki or our own two feet in a city that’s grown especially perilous for pedestrians.
Got ideas? Please send them along to email@example.com. And mahalo for reading.
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