Le Transportation On Le Cheap.
Honolulu’s transit system is in the news again and it’s not good news. The powers-that-be have once again revised the cost estimate—upward, of course—and no one has any clear idea of where the extra billion or so will come from.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell has just announced that because of cost overruns, the initial phase of the system will stop several miles short of the huge Ala Moana Shopping Center, as was originally planned. Passengers will now arrive pretty much in the middle of nowhere—so help me, the location is at Middle Street—where they will have to connect with a regular city bus in order to get to anywhere. It’s just not a workable solution, but it’s the mayor’s, and unless and until he changes his mind, that’s where the tracks will stop, continuing to Ala Moana Center “when we can afford to do it”.
In a kind of perverse way, this fiasco does remind me of several visits made to French Polynesia. There are a lot of similarities: one main island, Tahiti, with most of the population, and several nearby islands: Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine among others. There is one notable difference: the Tahitians have solved their need for public transportation quite ingeniously with a system called simply, in French, le truck.
These are literally trucks with the beds enlarged, covered, and fitted out with bench seating. When I was last there, they all had tape decks with Tahitian and Hawaiian music blaring into the passengers’ area. Things may have changed, but at the time the drivers were all independent owners of the vehicles, licensed by the government and assigned to specific routes all over the island.
If you have to go into Papeete for something, you just walk out to the road in front of your house and pretty soon along comes le truck. Some of them are pretty small and can only accommodate a half dozen or so people, but never mind, there are a lot of them and another one will be along in just few minutes.
So what about a Hawaiian version of le truck? It would never work on Oahu. It’s just too crowded … too many people … too up tight. But I can’t help thinking it might be a fit for Kauai and certainly for Moloka’i. Maybe even here on Maui. Heck, I could get eight people in the bed of our Toyota Tundra. And it wouldn’t cost Maui County a dime.