Tuesday, November 20, 2001

A couple contemplated crossing Auahi Street last night
from the entrance of the Ward 16 Theatres parking lot
to the theaters. They eventually did cross illegally.

Pedestrians crossing
Auahi are in danger

Traffic dodgers going to
the Ward Theatres say the
crosswalks are too far away

By Rod Antone

It's Monday evening, and three young women dash across Auahi Street to try and catch a movie at the Ward 16 Theatres.

There is a crosswalk at Auahi and Kamakee streets and another one located across from Farmer's Market, but apparently they are not an option.

"We need to get to the movies before 5 p.m.," said Lynn Ahlo, a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant. "The crosswalks are too far away."

"It's convenient," said her friend Kehaulani Marzo, another flight attendant, "but it would be better if we had a crosswalk here."

By "here," Marzo means between the Ward 16 Theatres and the parking lot at the makai/Ewa corner of Kamakee and Auahi.

Victoria Ward officials say that while they are pleased that the theaters and the recently opened Dave & Buster's restaurant/arcade are attracting a lot of customers, they are concerned about those who choose to dodge traffic and run across the street to get there.

"We don't want to see anybody get hurt," said Chester Hughes, who is director of facility services at Victoria Ward and has seen the problem himself. "It's scary because you're looking at it (the problem) and saying, 'Why are you doing this, lady?'"

In preparation for the opening of the Harry Potter movie last Friday, Hughes said, he hired extra security to urge people to use the crosswalks. Other tactics have also included putting up barricades along Auahi Street to try and "funnel" pedestrians to the crosswalks.

"Even when we've done this before, some people look at you and they cross anyway," said Hughes. "We recognize that it's unsafe, but people are making those decisions of their free will."

Other Victoria Ward employees said they have winced as they have watched mothers cross the street with their babies. Waikiki Trolley drivers who pick up and drop off passengers at Ward Warehouse eight times a day said the area is becoming more of a pedestrian hazard than Chinatown.

"Used to be the people crossing the street from the Chinatown Cultural Plaza to get to their condos was the worst," said Waikiki Trolley driver Greg Ah Yat. "But now it's more frequent on Auahi Street."

"I've seen as many as eight people cross at one time. ... People need to be aware that they're putting their lives in jeopardy."

Honolulu police said they are aware of the problem but are not sure what can be done besides to monitor the situation. Police said that according to city traffic code, people are allowed to cross in an unmarked crosswalk "except within 200 feet of any intersection."

"Officers went down there and measured the distance, and it's further than 200 feet," said District 1 Maj. Michael Tucker. "Our dilemma is that it's permissible."

"It's a mix of traffic there that makes it scary," said Lt. Kurt Kendro. "You've got people crossing the street, cars stopping and waiting for people to get out of the movies, cars stopping and dropping people off at the movies or Dave & Buster's."

"We can discourage it, but if they're still going to do it, what can you do?"

Hughes said city officials are not interested in creating a "midblock" crosswalk, complete with traffic lights. However, Hughes said, there is some talk about creating "angled" parking spaces along Auahi Street to make the street more narrow and perhaps slow down traffic.

Mike Vanlangeveld, an optometrist who rushed from Dave & Buster's to get his car at the Auahi Street parking lot yesterday, suggested building a "pedestrian bridge."

"Either that, or have someone stand with a stop sign directing traffic. ... A cute girl in a bikini would get everyone's attention."

"People are going to do it anyway," said Kahi Dela Cruz, who was going to see a movie. "Think about it: Who's not going to do it?"

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