Monday, June 28, 2010

Divining Future Rail Use in a Bucket of Shrimp

Lennie Carlson photo
Don’t get us wrong. We still believe Honolulu’s rail system will be mostly a commuter system, with riders traveling from Point A to Point B in the morning and back to Point A at the end of the day.

But a bucket of shrimp got us thinking yesterday. Far as we know, the only place to buy shrimp by the bucket on Oahu is Ala Moana Center, the eastern terminal of Honolulu rail.

We imagined how a family of four living on the ewa plain might hanker for a shrimp fest on a weekend in the 2020s – mom, dad, and their two children – and how they’d satisfy that appetite without burning a couple gallons of $8/gallon gasoline (yes, it’s that expensive).

All four catch the train each weekday morning at the East Kapolei station after a short bus ride from their neighborhood. Each has a monthly transit pass and shows it to the driver, but they simply board the train after a short wait without going through a turnstile or showing it to anyone.
The father commutes to his business near Honolulu International Airport (train travel time to the airport station, 26 minutes); mom works downtown (38 minutes); the college sophomore in the family attends UH Manoa and the younger sibling goes to a private school in town. They both get off the train at Ala Moana (after 42 minutes) and catch buses to their schools.

That’s their weekday routine, and come Sunday and their sudden craving for a shrimp lunch, nobody thinks twice about driving. The train is part of their lives, and they often use it for high school and UH football games at Aloha Stadium, only 21 minutes from the East Kapolei station.

So bagging three buckets of shrimp on an early Sunday afternoon is just another reason to ride the train. They drive to the station and park in the lot next door. Once aboard, they divvy up the Sunday paper, and everybody finishes it by the time they arrive at Ala Moana station in 42 minutes.
And so it goes for this fictional family from the ewa plain. But taking Honolulu rail is no longer fiction or a dream for them. It’s an every-day happening for thousands of Oahu residents who live along the system’s 20-mile route, some of them in the new transit-oriented developments that have sprung up in the corridor.

After decades of planning for Honolulu rail, a bucket of shrimp will be just a train ride away for hundreds of thousands of residents who choose to ride.

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