Free parking at Ala Wai isn't helping
THERE'S been considerable media attention given to the Ala Wai Harbor's diminishing docks in recent months, and rightly so. Being the state's largest marina and being located on the rim of the world-famous Waikiki Beach, it is bound to be newsworthy.
And as the marina has been considered the "cash cow" for all of the Department of Land and Natural Resources' recreational boating facilities for decades, it should be headline news when more than 100 of its slips have been condemned.
Clearly, a smaller slip inventory directly equates to a decline in revenue production at a time when the DLNR is bemoaning its lack of sufficient funding.
Still, there is another feature of the Ala Wai facility in increasingly short supply -- and that could generate revenue -- that has been given scant attention: public parking.
The problems involving the parking lots surrounding the marina have been escalating over the years due to a soaring demand for virtually the only free off-street parking in Waikiki.
As one would imagine, those with boats in the harbor consider their adjacent parking stalls as absolute necessities, and in fact, providing free parking for boat owners is a marina industry standard.
Presently though, it is not just boaters who use the nearly 1,000 parking stalls. Along with them are surfers, canoe paddlers, beachgoers, and those whose vehicles have become their primary residence.
Moreover, there are the hotel employees and construction workers who park and then walk as far as Kalia Road and Beach Walk to reach their job sites.
Their numbers have grown the most in the past year or two.
It has often been questioned why the DLNR -- or its Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation -- has continued to maintain this large parking area with Boating Special Fund revenues without charging those who do not pay into that fund.
The answer historically has been that whenever the DLNR even hinted it was looking at charging for parking, the cries of outrage from the surfers and beachgoers was so loud that department heads quickly dropped the subject.
However, as a DOBOR employee told me, ironically there have been recent complaints from those same non-boaters about construction workers taking up all the free parking.
Considering the ongoing development of the nearby Hilton property, it may be that soon even more employees and even visitors of the Hawaiian Village will be taking advantage of the harbor's free parking.
As I pointed out in a Water Ways column more than four years ago, even asphalt-paved parking lots have funding requirements for security, lighting, periodic repairs, resurfacing and sweeping. Hawaii's recreational boaters should not have to shoulder these costs alone.
If the area in question were a totally unimproved lot on an isolated part of the island, parking fees would surely be objectionable.
But by establishing a reasonable parking fee schedule at the Ala Wai, the DLNR could establish a great deal more equity to the situation.