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APEC HAWAII SUMMIT


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Traffic fears prompt detours

Residents stock up or stay away as they prepare for APEC changes

By Dan Nakaso

POSTED:


Could this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit end up being Oahu's "Carmageddon" -- a dire warning of urban gridlock that instead results in a commuter's dream?

Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, certainly hopes so.

"I've been warning everybody I can to take the week off and stay off the roads," Meisenzahl said. "So I'm really hoping APEC turns out to be just like Carmageddon: Much ado about nothing."

In July, Southern California traffic experts warned of an apocalyptic gridlock if everyone behaved and drove normally when a 10-mile stretch of the I-405 Freeway -- one of the region's major freeways -- was shut down to allow demolition of a bridge. Instead, enough Southern Californian drivers left town or otherwise made temporary changes in their driving behavior that resulted in a traffic dream unlike any since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games produced similar images of wide-open freeways.

With President Barack Obama and his counterparts from 20 other APEC nations in town later this week, Waikiki will be locked down into a security zone never before seen in Hawaii.

So rather than work their way through ID checkpoints and blocked streets, some of Les Among's neighbors in Waikiki are staying home with enough provisions to wait out APEC, surrounded by the same security apparatus that guards the president.

"People are stocking up on food because they don't want to fight the traffic," said Among, a member of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board. "They don't plan on driving anywhere."

Others who live in Waikiki, such as Bob Hinman, are using APEC as a good excuse to visit the neighbor islands.

"I see this place turning into a zoo," Hinman said. "It's safer to get out of here."

Outbound planes that normally fly to Las Vegas and the U.S. West Coast this time of year at a pre-holiday, round-trip price of $450 instead are leaving much fuller at $900, said Rachel Shimamoto, manager of the Travel Ways travel agency.

"The fares are high because no more space," Shimamoto said. "People are traveling like it's a major holiday weekend, like Thanksgiving."

So if enough people across Oahu use APEC as the perfect excuse to work from home, fly to Vegas, get on the roads earlier than expected and conduct their daily business outside of APEC security zones, University of Hawaii traffic expert and former mayoral candidate Panos Prevedouros believes there's a good chance that Oahu drivers could enjoy unprecedented clear traffic.

"All around Waikiki there will be localized congestion," Prevedouros said. "For the rest of us, traffic could be way better than usual."

Prevedouros saw a version of L.A.'s Carmageddon phenomenon at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, "when a lot of Greeks stayed home and watched the Olympics at home, leaving the (Olympic) venues 30 percent full."

But there's a downside if Oahu roads suddenly become clear during the first few days of the APEC conference, Prevedouros said.

After a few days of wide open roads, Oahu drivers could revert to their old driving habits late in the week just in time for the arrival of Obama and other APEC delegations, whose motorcades will cause traffic disruptions, especially next weekend.

"There is some danger of people falling into complacency," Prevedouros said.

Hinman lives on a sailboat in the Ala Wai Boat Harbor and is not taking any chances.

Like other Waikiki residents, Hinman already made plans to fly to Maui this weekend and will be off island during the entire APEC conference.

"We've seen the whole island come to a screeching halt just when Obama's here" for his annual Oahu holiday vacation, Hinman said. "Imagine 20 other heads of state? I'm out of here."

Other Waikiki regulars don't have that luxury, however. Tourism industry employees have to report to work, APEC or not.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii has been trying to help ease the traffic pain for employees by keeping them informed, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations.

"We've been giving out all the information on traffic flow, the shuttles that will be coming in," Vieira said. "We've been making sure that everyone's planning for it, understanding where the closures are."

The Starwood properties have had meetings before work shifts begin, from housekeeping to restaurant workers, to plan for APEC traffic. The company has not done any official carpools but has encouraged use of shuttles, buses and carpools.

Vieira expects that local residents who do not have business in Waikiki will stay away during APEC week.

"I don't think people are just going to drive through Waikiki to see what's going on," he said. "We've had things like this before, but never to this level."

On the other end of Oahu, Richard Foust and his wife, DeLaine, were still deciding last week whether to leave their Ko Olina condo when Obama and the other APEC leaders meet at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort on Nov. 13.

"It looks like we're going to be under house arrest during this period," Richard Foust said.

He and DeLaine considered taking a mini-vacation on Oahu's North Shore to avoid all of the security hassles.

But they also had other alternatives.

"We've considered suicide but that seemed kind of rash and overdone," Richard joked. "We thought about getting some drugs from our doctor to put ourselves in a medically induced coma. Thirdly, we could invite some friends over and make a party of it and see who'll still be alive if we don't kill each other."

Whatever path the Fousts follow, it will not lead to them driving in and out of Ko Olina through heavy security that will close the main entrance to the resort and force residents to access a dirt road normally used for construction equipment.

"We're definitely not going to be going in and out," Hinman said. "It's not going to be worth the hassle, barring an emergency like we run out of liquor."


Star-Advertiser reporter Gene Park contributed to this report.

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LifeLibertyHappiness wrote:
If I had to commute to HNL every day this next week I would get a cheap hotel and just stay there for the duration instead of fighting traffic. Madness...
on November 6,2011 | 01:25AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Can u find a hotel?
on November 6,2011 | 02:59AM
bender wrote:
So the new solution for traffic congestion is for everyone to stay home or leave town. In essence both solutions shut down business in Honolulu.
on November 6,2011 | 04:59AM
1local wrote:
So how is Hawaii supposed to break even with all the $millions spent on it? The loss of freedom and access and all the unlimited Overtime pay for HPD? Not everyone can take the week off with pay like "I've been warning everybody I can to take the week off and stay off the roads," Meisenzahl said. There are many who are essential to either supplying, servicing, delivering and working in the security corridor daily who will be able to experience the APEC planning by the State of Hawaii...
on November 6,2011 | 05:55AM
false wrote:
We should all take the week off. Close the schools for a week and don't go to work. APEC is the permission to take sick leave. Stress from unrealistic restrictions. We have seen the worst of it when a Federal agent loses his sense of decorum in a foreign area. We are now at the mercy of the government agents. What is this called when the government takes over with curfews and restricted movement? What are these organizers thinking? We are now non-persons in our only home.
on November 6,2011 | 05:28AM
1local wrote:
"I've been warning everybody I can to take the week off and stay off the roads," Meisenzahl said.
on November 6,2011 | 05:55AM
Ambergris23 wrote:
LIKE
on November 6,2011 | 08:28AM
sollie wrote:
WHO'S PAYING FOR ALL THE IMPROVMENTS TO THE SECENERY BUT NOT THE TEACHERS OR CITY AND STATE WORKERS!
on November 6,2011 | 06:36AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
""I've been warning everybody I can to take the week off and stay off the roads," Meisenzahl said."
So what is the economic impact if all these people take the week off? Is this considered in the cost of APEC to Hawaii?
on November 6,2011 | 06:57AM
aomohoa wrote:
Of course my daughter is coming from the Mainland at the same time as APEC. Luckily she doesn't like Waikiki or all the touristy stuff.
on November 6,2011 | 07:16AM
false wrote:
"Kua`aina. Kapu, Keep Out." If that isn't the case. APEC will go down as an economic tragedy.
on November 6,2011 | 07:28AM
honujoy wrote:
To avoid the whole security gridlock, not to mention the millions spent, the financial hit for some businesses located within the POLICE STATE ZONE and the loss of personal freedom, why not use any of the military bases on the island e.g. Hickam Airforce Base etc. or even the WHITE HOUSE LAWN? There would be then INSTANT SECURITY at almost NO EXTRA COST and MUCH LESS STRESS on the neighbors! But no, MONEY IS NO OBJECT for Mr. Commander-in-Chief who loves to show off for his own political expediency. NOBAMA 2012!!!
on November 6,2011 | 07:29AM
BRock wrote:
You need to stop ranting and chill out.
on November 6,2011 | 08:15AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
I hope they use a helicopter to fly Michelle Obama to Wai`anae instead of blocking all H-1 traffic, all on- and off-ramps, all overpasses, etc. Think ahead, please.
on November 6,2011 | 09:02AM
LemonySnickets wrote:
Maybe by some miracle Rail will be built overnight and after APEC disappear. You see little people working at night? Ride the Rail. Ha Ha Ha Ha.
on November 6,2011 | 09:21AM
localguy wrote:
Got to hand it to our babooze APEC planers. They knew full well months ago it they published all the public areas they would close, (for no reason other than the APEC excuse) they would have been ripped apart by the public. So they hid it behind "Anti Terrorism and APEC Security" excuses, waiting till the last minute to dump their failed plans on us. Their incompetence knows no limits. Take the Zoo parking lot for EMS staging? No good reason for this, just makes them look like fools. Might want to compensate the Zoo for lost business, a point you should have made clear from the start. Same for every business you block access to, compensate them for your failure to plan. Scary part is some of these same baboozes will manage our rail install, airport upgrade and more. No change, just another day in the backwards Nei. Doing what they do best, nothing.
on November 6,2011 | 09:57AM
WesleySMori wrote:
Good 1 LOCALGUY! "GOOD ONE!!!!!! LOL!!! GOD BLESS HAWAII & AMERICA"!!!!!!!
on November 6,2011 | 10:45AM
kennysmith wrote:
i know you all don't like what is going to be there monday thru the nov-14-2011, no one will ba abale to do any thing there.
on November 6,2011 | 10:11AM
CloudForest wrote:
It's OK, "they" are way more important than we are. So as we bow down and lick the hands that feed us, we should all give thanks to "them" for even allowing us to stay on "their" island whole they grace us with "their" presence. All hail APEC!
on November 6,2011 | 01:49PM
CloudForest wrote:
I'm sorry, it just reminds me of Flash Gordon!
on November 6,2011 | 02:27PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
JSH: Just Stay Home.
on November 6,2011 | 04:06PM
bwaikiki wrote:
Richard Foust's comments are great! I live in Waikiki so can relate. Thankfully, I am retired, provisioned, and won't have to go further than the mail box. That is, If mail can be delivered from the Waikiki post office which is in the "kill zone".
on November 6,2011 | 06:05PM
kapoleitalkstory wrote:
Panos is a blow hard that has never done anything of value.
on November 6,2011 | 08:36PM
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