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Ticket system aims to reduce lines at Arizona Memorial

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Question: I am an annual visitor to Kailua from Chicago. When a friend wanted to visit Pearl Harbor, I went online and learned no reservations are taken for the Arizona Memorial. So, we arrived at the ticket window at 9:30 a.m. recently and were thrilled to see no lines. The nice man behind the counter gave us our tickets — for 11:45 a.m. He said all the earlier tickets were given to cruise ships. As we waited for over two hours, large groups of people arrived and went directly to the memorial. Doesn’t this constitute a "reservation"? I think someone needs to address the inequity of this situation.

Answer: The website for the World War II Valor in the Pacific national monument (which includes the Arizona Memorial) — www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm — does say free tickets are distributed first-come, first-served and are not reservable.

To eliminate long lines of the past, when every visitor had to get an individual ticket, the National Park Service has tried various methods of distributing tickets.

Currently, it splits tours into two basic groups, explained Eileen Martinez, chief of interpretation for the memorial: one made up of independent travelers who come on their own; and the other, those who come via transportation companies with "Commercial Use Authorization."

The current system allows commercial operators to pick up tickets for their groups, including cruise ship passengers, reducing lines and congestion, she said.

Commercial operators have to be licensed and insured, sign a contract and pay a fee.

"A percentage of the tickets go to Commercial Use Authorization holdees and a percentage go to (independent) visitors," Martinez said. "Normally, that’s half and half" of the 4,500 tickets available daily, although it may be weighted more toward commercial activities on cruise ship days.

No program is blocked off entirely for cruise ship passengers, she said.

"What we’re trying to do is make this, overall, a better experience for the visitor — we’re trying to eliminate the lines … trying to balance the needs of basically visitors from all over the world."

That all said, the National Park Service will be "hosting a reservation system study" at the end of this month to look into the pros and cons of setting up a ticketing system.

Through the years, Martinez said, a number of pilot projects have looked at accommodating all visitors. "It’s not perfect yet, but the hope is that we will get to the point that it is absolutely fair and equitable for all and we don’t have any doubts."

Question: A couple of months ago there was an ad about a missing dog on the North Shore. Did they ever find the dog? I’m just curious because I own dogs.

Answer: Sadly, Polo remains missing.

As we reported last October (http://tinyurl.com/49qa6l8), the owners of the 120-pound, almost 2-year-old American bulldog offered a $1,000 reward for his return.

Polo was last seen running on Chun’s Beach in Haleiwa after he and his brother escaped on Sept. 20.

Andy, who did not want to use his last name, said the family averages a call or two a week from people who think they may have seen him. "We still check all leads," he said.

If anyone has information, call 284-7755.

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Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

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