Ala Wai parking draws mixed views
It's hard to believe last week's column about installing parking meters around the Ala Wai Harbor would generate so much reader response. But, it's certainly apparent from my e-mail inbox that my proposal hasn't been universally embraced.
As someone who spent his teenaged years driving up and down the coast o Southern California in search of the best waves or the most productive fishing and diving spots, I've always considered parking fees just a part of life in the city.
So, when a reader wrote that she believes any parking fee is a barrier to her access to the ocean, I can only shake my head in disbelief because that concept is so foreign to my personal experiences.
Oh, to be sure, there were, (and still are) beaches in California where parking was free, however they weren't found anywhere near a population center like Waikiki's. Plus, it was likely the free parking you found was not paved, lighted, or secure in any way.
Still, even as broke teenagers, my friends and I always scraped together enough cash to buy gas for our surf safaris and to pay for parking wherever we ended up. We may not have liked either expense, but they certainly were not barriers to our access to the ocean.
Another reader didn't actually disagree with the concept of parking fees, but instead he voiced some rather compelling reasons for using a payment box for collecting fees rather than parking meters.
To begin with, he noted, meters have several drawbacks. They have a high initial purchase price and installation cost, they have high maintenance costs due to pilfering and vandalism, and they require frequent emptying.
Meters also wear out and are difficult to reprogram when a fee increase is needed.
As an alternative, he suggested, why not install payment boxes incrementally in the various lots around the marina? Numbered slots in the boxes, where drivers would deposit money, would correspond to the stall number where they parked.
The advantages of such a system would be that even several large collection boxes, compared to hundreds of meters, would cost very little to purchase, service and maintain, and parking fees could be easily adjusted.
The system would also offer a security advantage due to its need for on-sight supervision. Attendants would be needed to reconcile the deposited parking fees with the occupied stalls and to periodically empty the payment boxes.
"My belief is that beachgoers, surfers and fishermen who couldn't find any free parking would gladly pay a dollar or two for a couple of hours and be able to get a parking space immediately rather than to waste their time searching for a free one," the reader told me.
I find that hard to argue with, and with the addition of parking-fee exemptions for harbor users who currently pay into the system, it appears it would be a good alternative to meters.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources has asked its Boating Division to get more public input on the parking issue. Here's some free of charge.