Meters make too much sense
For many years I have found it difficult to understand why Hawaii's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation has had such a hard time establishing an equitable parking fee system for its small boat harbors.
For instance, I asked one DOBOR administrator more than a decade ago why the use of parking meters, like those on the mauka side of the Ala Wai Harbor, wasn't continued throughout the marina.
"We can't afford it," he told me without further explanation.
From my perspective the meters appeared to be doing a good job of regulating parking and it seemed they brought in enough cash to defray the costs of maintenance where they were used. So his answer didn't make sense to me then and it doesn't today.
At that time, those who owned boats or leased property in the marina -- like the Hawaii Yacht Club -- were provided with identifying permits for their vehicles for a small yearly fee. That allowed them free long-term parking, and even though the metered cost was just 40 cents an hour, they could sail off for days without having to feed the meter.
Because the boaters were already paying into the Boating Special Fund, which pays for the upkeep of the harbor and its parking facilities, it seemed to me only fair that those wishing to park around the harbor should make some contribution as well. And after all, Kapiolani Park's parking meters haven't appeared to have blocked anyone's access to that recreational area.
Plus, by enforcing the metered parking with appropriate tickets and towing, it tends to discourage those who might otherwise be tempted to use their parked cars as improvised dwellings.
Nevertheless, to this day, the DOBOR has not expanded its metered parking at the Ala Wai Harbor, but instead it has recently proposed a parking fee plan for all of its harbors that seems to have ruffled the feathers of nearly everyone it affects.
Even the state's Board of Land and Natural Resources, when asked for its approval, ordered DOBOR to get more public input.
DOBOR officials have said their goal is to generate more revenue for capital improvements and to decrease the number of cars parked by people who work in the surrounding areas rather than use the harbor.
But then where is the logic in increasing the fees paid by the boaters from $20 a year to $300 and yet offering free parking in some 130 stalls to surfers and beachgoers who haven't paid a dime into the Boating Special Fund?
The Ala Wai Harbor was created in the early 1950s by the state as a recreational boating facility, not a beach park, and over the intervening years it has been solely supported by the Boating Special Fund and bond issues, and not from Hawaii's General Fund.
If DOBOR now feels Ala Wai Harbor's parking should be shared with non-boaters, shouldn't it find a way to let those folks share in the maintenance costs as well? Why not use parking meters?