Fixing Tourist Road & Parking Craziness

Hawaii unemployment caused by the Covid strangling of hotel, tour, bar, restaurant and car rental businesses might have tamped down complains about 10 million annual tourists despoiling our roads, beaches and hiking trails.

Right now, we might get only 400 visitors on any given day and that’s not bringing in the big bucks.

But it would be a big mistake to sit back and clap our hands when Covid is gone and the big jets start landing again at half-hour intervals. We can make changes.

We can’t keep U.S. people out. Inter-state travel is promised in the Constitution. We can soak outsiders big-time for hotel rooms and rental cars, but then we’re chasing business off to Mexico and Florida.

We are looking at higher state park fees. Tourists are used to paying $15 or more admission elsewhere.

What we can and should do is tackle the matter of most of those 10 million people in cars on our roads and in limited parking spots in our island main towns and at popular attractions cherished by locals who don’t expect a crowd of 100 at their waterfall.

And state and city attractions don’t — like the Polynesian Cultural Center — have 42 acres on which to put an endless parking lot.

So we need to ration. And there are a couple of ways to legally do that.

One is to go to toll roads on overused routes such as the Hana Highway. You do that with technology. Locals’ cars would have a computer-readable windshield tag that declares “resident — no charge.” Rental cars would have a tag that assigns perhaps a $15 charge to the rental bill. The unmanned, tag-reading booth is relatively inexpensive to mount on whatever roadway we think needs a discouraging toll.

And then there is parking. It has to be done better than at Hanauma Bay. Yes, there are 300 parking stalls, but those tend to fill up around 7 a.m. when we are in full tourism bloom. A resident arriving at 10 a.m. is out of luck.

A solution there and elsewhere was devised on Kauai for those going to Ha’ena State Park, Tunnels beach and the Kalalau Trail. That road had been closed due to the 2018 floods and residents pushed the state not to allow resumption of the overcrowding.

Complaints heard. Now there are designated Ha’ena parking stalls. You need an advance reservation made online for a day and time. Its $15 for all day. It’s a $200 fine if you’re ticketed for illegal parking.

Parking will be a big hang-up for controlling the Hana Highway. It’s a two-lane, twisty road with cliffs mauka and a deep drop-off to the sea makai.

So now, people just park wherever they can, mauka or makai, to view waterfalls or hike. They impede traffic. There’s no room for parking lots. Tourists should be warned in brochures about no parking — just view as you drive. Illegal parking should bring a heavy fine to make it unaffordable for the hard-core wealthy.

I don’t see any other way to handle it. Do you?

I’d also impose higher inner-Honolulu parking fees for rental cars than for residents. One way to do that is to prohibit rental-car-tagged cars from using metered street parking. Make them use private lots and set those fees at $15-$20 for two hours. New York’s average private parking fee for two hours is now $34.

All this is not going to discourage tourism. People want to come to Hawaii. They’ve heard we are an expensive place. So is Tahiti. Mexico’s cheaper but you might get caught in a drug cartel gunfight!

Road fees and parking fees. And encouraging visitors to use shuttles. If they don’t have an expensive rental car, there’s less incentive to go to our out-of-the-way beaches and trails mostly used by locals.

Keep them in Waikiki and Kailua town, Kailua-Kona, windward Kauai rather than the North Shore, and Lahaina-Kaanapali on Maui. Molokai already discourages them and Lanai has almost nothing to do outside of a hotel property.

Okay, give me your best shot!


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

6 replies on “Fixing Tourist Road & Parking Craziness”

  1. It’s nice not having tourists in Kailua, cluttering the walkways, roadways. Would not wish to see the bus loads return! I have little hope that Hawaii will be efficient, sensible!

    1. Over developed sense of Oahu’s tourist attraction will leave residents on Oahu sitting twiddling their thumbs instead of living off tourist dollars. There is nothng but traffic and homeless encampments. Get a grip pepl. Outer islands is where the money is being spent, not in Japanese owned hotels in Waikiki. Oahu is government jobs to survive.

  2. $15.00/day tax on all rental cars
    Retain visitor quarantine, cut time to 7 days for humanitarian reasons
    Institute toll road charges for visitors, Ubers & Lyfts

  3. I think your suggestions on obtaining revenue from parking and toll fees are great. I just want to suggest forwarding your thoughts on this subject to the Governor, Legislature, city councils and mayors, or at the very least, to your own district representatives. It would be good if all of these people read your articles regularly, but in case they don’t, this is why I’m suggesting contacting them directly.

    I also agree with your thoughts from yesterday on having classes outdoors for at least part of the school day.

  4. Recent data showing total tourist spending was going down even as number of tourists was going up says we were attracting a lot of cheap tourists who burden our infrastructure without lifting our economy.

    Continuing the shutdown of illegal rentals via companies like AirBNB and VRBO would help reduce that. If Kaua’i can do it, why not the rest of the state?

    I agree about park use fees. On the mainland I’ve had to pay to enter and use publicly owned parks. I’ve also been to city-owned parks that are only open to residents of the city that owns them.

  5. Hey! Kailua is not Waikiki. We should NOT go back to treating it like Waikiki. Enforcing illegal B&Bs would help tremendously. Working with A&B to support businesses for residents would help. Yes, for other parts of the island, limiting and approprate pricing of parking is an easy, inexpensive method to limit over-use of trails and natural areas. Good ideas are out there. We have to push for them. Kaua’I is such a leader. Kawakami for Govenor.

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