Friday, November 11, 2011

Travel-Wise Military Personnel and Veterans Will Likely Be Appreciative and Frequent Rail Riders

We’ll pair some facts with a few assumptions and come to a conclusion on this Veterans Day. The “facts” are from a variety of sources that sometimes don’t agree, but they’re a starting point. (Try your luck in searching for them if you like.)

A friend with solid Veterans Administration credentials says 116,210 veterans were living in Hawaii in 2009, with 85,482 of them on Oahu. The Census Bureau found a higher number in 2010 – 11.4 percent of the state’s total population, or about 155,000 vets statewide. The majority presumably is on Oahu.

The State’s Data Book said active duty military personnel totaled 37,527 in Hawaii on July 1, 2009, with nearly all of them on Oahu. A 2008 survey located more than 50,000 military dependents on the island.

Counting them all up somewhat conservatively, there would appear to be upwards of 200,000 people living on Oahu with some connection to the military – active duty personnel and their dependents or veterans. That latter’s dependents aren’t in that aggregate, so when they’re added, we probably have close to a quarter million Oahu residents with an up-close and personal connection with the military.

Our conclusion is that as a group, these folks have traveled more and have experienced more of the world than those without a military connection. It’s the consequence of active-duty life – pulling up temporary roots for a new assignment elsewhere in the USA or around the globe.

Personnel with two- or three-year assignments abroad often embrace the experience of living like a local – enjoying the cuisine and traveling about on trams and trains. Sailors putting into world-class port cities see the sights using transportation that’s available – buses, subways, streetcars, high-speed trains, whatever.

Bringing it back to Honolulu rail, a sizeable percentage of Oahu residents already are conditioned to using public transit – presumably more so than residents without a military connection. If anything, the military’s presence in Hawaii is expected to be higher by the time the city’s elevated system is up and running around the turn of the next decade.

We doubt that few if any of the “Oahu people won’t ride rail” letters to the editor are from military personnel and veterans. They know better because they’ve traveled more, have seen more and experienced more travel options than the typical resident.

This isn’t to say the non-militarily connected among us won’t embrace rail, too. People start riding and give up driving – even if only occasionally – when public transit offers them cost and convenience advantages.

Honolulu’s future trains won’t know a veteran from a dependent from an active-duty service member from a civilian. The “All Aboard!” welcome will apply to everyone, as does Happy Veterans Day!

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