Traffic, ZipMobiles, Rail And Leadership
My friend Robyn Nelson earns her keep as an itinerant college lecturer. She teaches introductory English composition: one section at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, another at Chaminade University, the latter, Robyn’s alma mater.
On Tuesday, March 31, she drove into town, taught her mid-afternoon Chaminade class, then, around 4 p.m., departed the college’s Kaimuki campus for home.
Robyn resides in Ewa Beach. She drove there non-stop. It took her six-and-one half hours.
That’s right: 4 p.m. start, a 10:30 p.m. finish. How did she do it? A Rice Krispie Treat and a handful of Milano cookies provided her only sustenance. Repetition of modernity’s favorite mantra, “It is what it is,” kept her sane.
Thank the god of traffic jams it wasn’t me. I would have gone mad; cookies, treats and a philosophy of resignation would not have saved me.
Somewhere, around hour 3, I might well have attempted suicide by banging my head against the steering wheel, screaming, “No mas! No mas!” until it became, at last, a death rattle.
Traffic jams are as common to Leeward residents as sunsets over the Waianae range. But this one was the mother of all traffic jams, occasioned by the breakdown of the ZipMobile on the H-1 freeway.
Think about those six-anda-half hours, feel them, as you inch along, mile after mile, hour after hour, accompanied by a few cookies and fellow sufferers in a traffic hell numbered H-1.
Because that’s what it’s become, and it’s the future of every Leeward resident, Leeward not just of Red Hill, but of Ala Moana Center, the current planned terminus of Hawaii’s elevated rail transit.
Every Leeward resident I know has a traffic story, most not as horrific as the ZipMobile disaster, but bad nonetheless.
Rail construction, most often, gets the blame. Freeway lanes are reduced during the day, more often from 8 p.m. till dawn’s early light.
Currently Waipahu and Pearl City are absorbing, and causing, most of the pain. The alternative routes available there, Moanalua Road and Kamehameha Highway, have become traffic traps themselves.
The pain will spread, wave-like, with Kiewit’s construction cranes.
We need to deal with it, to own rail and the consequences of its construction. That’s going to require leadership that has been so far nonexistent.
Let’s start with government and business. Technology makes it possible for many who work to do their jobs at home. But horse-and-buggy-like, they’re still forced to commute to an office cubicle in downtown Honolulu.
Employers, both public and private, should inventory their employees; those whose work can be done from home should do it from home, at least through this traffic crisis.
University of Hawaii administration needs to take stock, as well. Commuters know that when the university is not in session, their time on the road diminishes. Faculty know that students hate early morning classes, so administrators shouldn’t schedule any before 9 or 10 and run many, routinely, during evening hours when most university classrooms sit empty.
Gov. David Ige — a resident of Leeward Oahu all his life — and Mayor Kirk Caldwell both support rail transit. Both also own the bully pulpits of their offices. Use them. Run public-service announcements, buying time if necessary with their own excess campaign funds, to urge people to carpool and ride those all-too-empty buses.
And you and I, we have to heed their call.
I don’t want to think about Robyn or anyone else suffering a six-and-a-half hour drive home.