After getting off work at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on a busy Friday night, Anders Jonsson often rides his bike home to Kaimuki, shortening what can be an hourlong drive into a 15-minute ride.
“I ride my bike to work several days a week,” said Jonsson, whose employer gives workers access to lockers, showers and a recently upgraded bike-storage facility. “It cuts down on gas costs, it keeps my commute times steady, and helps me exercise.”
Hilton further encourages employees to keep cars off busy Waikiki streets by allowing them to buy bus passes with pretax contributions. They also hold a semiannual lottery giving away 67 monthly bus passes.
Hilton’s promotion of alternative transportation is part of a broader movement to make the tourism destination more appealing for pedestrians.
“Waikiki is one of the most popular resorts in the world, but it never had an initial transportation plan,” said Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and chief executive.”Long-range traffic planning is very important to reduce safety and improve congestion in Waikiki.”
Today, too much vehicle traffic conflicts with pedestrians and bikers, said Wes Frysztacki, project manager of the Waikiki Regional Circulator Study, which was completed in June and funded through the city and a Federal Highway Administration grant.
As a result of the study, which drew participation from residents and business people, a plan has been developed to provide public transit service between the future rail station at Ala Moana Center and Waikiki. The plan, which takes into account eventual transit service impacts to McCully, Moiliili, Kapahulu and the University of Hawaii, also set a priority to make Waikiki more pedestrian-friendly.
The study found Waikiki already has urgent transportation problems, including unreliable bus service, traffic congestion and a shortage of parking spaces, Frysztacki said.
“Right now, a lot of the traffic mix in Waikiki is unnecessary,” Frysztacki said. “For example, we found empty taxis trolling for fares on Kuhio Avenue in the morning and afternoon. In other cities, they’ve found that people looking for parking make up about 30 percent of the traffic.”
The study recommended corrective actions including:
–Provide more frequent bus service to Waikiki with fewer stops.
–Implement pre-boarding bus fare payment and all-door boarding.
–Coordinate bus information with improved signage and electronic displays.
–Create a 7-mile pedestrian and bicycle core network that considers building pedestrian and bike paths over the Ala Wai.
–Implement bike sharing.
–Emphasize early morning deliveries.
–Provide real-time parking information displays.
“The city has started looking at the street as a public right of way, not just a street for public vehicles,” Frysztacki said. “The next step for them will be to take these recommendations and put them in the budget.”
To make some of these changes, the city will need to budget the items by next year, with design and construction beginning in 2015 and 2016. ___