Ferry System Would Impact Users of Ala Wai

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (12/12/98)
By Ray Pendleton

More than a few people at last week's O`ahu Trans 2K workshop in Waikiki wondered why, as a recreational boating columnist, I was there.

For those of you who haven't heard, the workshops, sponsored by the state Department of Transportation and Honolulu's Department of Transportation Services, are aimed at getting community input on planning for our public transportation needs for the 21st Century.

My answer was that besides the fact that I do occasionally use our roadways from time to time, I have often noticed when the subject of transportation alternatives comes up, someone will always suggest using water taxis and ferries. When you are surrounded by water, it is surely a natural reaction.

These are just some of the suggestions that have been proposed recently:

  • Establish a ferry service between Barber's Point Deep Draft Harbor, Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Harbor. The Ewa Marina could be added to the route, once constructed.

  • Establish an additional ferry route linking the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor with Honolulu Harbor.

  • Establish a water taxi service route up and down the Ala Wai Canal to provide transportation from the ferry landing in the harbor, to the Convention Center, and then to various stops on the Waikiki-side of the canal.

My concern is with the numerous considerations that may go unseen by those with little or no experience around our waterways.

I will leave the discussion as to the viability or profitability of coastal ferry services to people like Maui Divers' Cliff Slater, who have spent years studying public transportation.

As I understand Slater's assessment, ferry services that parallel highways traditionally loose money and rarely cause more than an insignificant drop in the numbers of vehicles on the road. If true, investments are lost and the traffic remains.

As to the impact of a ferry service to the Ala Wai harbor and a water taxi service along the canal itself, I think those presently using those waterways must be considered.

Historically, the harbor has been off limits for commercial boating operations. And, because of this lack of commercial traffic, the two resident yacht clubs - Hawaii and Waikiki - have been able to use the calm, if questionably clean, waters of the basin as a safe venue for community youth sailing instruction.

This use of protected water holds equally true for the area's canoe and kayak paddlers. In recent years, outrigger paddling teams have dramatically grown in size and numbers, and now hundreds of paddlers use the canal and the harbor every day for instruction and training.

Naturally, all of these activities peak at certain times of the day. So, once the canal is dredged and its full width is usable, perhaps there will be room for compromise.

Small electric boats hugging the Waikiki side of the canal might not be totally unacceptable. Or, with planning, a small passenger ferry schedule could be coordinated with other harbor activities.

But, there would seem to be no question that the Ala Wai's present users must be involved if there is to be meaningful dialog regarding its use as an alternative transportation corridor.

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