People in Hawaii have a great capacity for tolerating all sorts of hassles and hardships. Five-dollar gas, anemic imported tomatoes, long lines at Jollibee, never any size-7 women’s shoes on sale, potato chips that go limp from the humidity 20 minutes into the party … all that and more, can handle. There is an unspoken acknowledgement that this is part of the price of living in such a wonderful place.
But one thing about island life never seems to become routine: having to pay for parking still kind of blows our minds. We have a hard time paying to leave the car at the airport for a weekend trip and would rather have uncle drive in to drop us off Friday after work and then come back Sunday night to pick us up. The UH-Manoa parking situation is so baffling and expensive that only faculty, staff and students show up to free events on campus. If there was free parking at the Legislature, I swear more people would show up to participate in the process.
Last week we had the parking situation at Kapiolani Park resurface in the form of Bill 30 at the Honolulu City Council. The measure would have raised the parking rates at the 300 metered stalls on the ocean side of the park from 50 cents an hour to $1, and would do away with "after hours" free parking. Most vocal about the proposed rate hike were the residents of the nearby apartment buildings who don’t have parking spaces and rely on the free overnight parking. (Devil’s advocate, but maybe if one lives in a two-bedroom, one-bath at the water’s edge that goes for around $530,000, one might be able to come up with the scratch for parking.)
But for those who go to the park for weekend birthday cookouts or weekday morning surf sessions, the proposed increase came much too soon after the last increase.
In July 2009, the parking rates at the nearby Honolulu Zoo went up from 25 cents to $1 an hour while the meters on Kalakaua Avenue along Kapiolani park went to 50 cents an hour. At first, the reaction was clear: There were open parking spots along that row any time of the day because the local people were so averse to the new charge.
After the last rate hike, I was dutifully shoving quarters into a meter across from the Waikiki Aquarium when a chunky braddah came up to me with a look of great concern on his face.
"Sistah," he said. "Go park the other side and walk across the grass. Free, you know."
He wasn’t about to pay the new rate and he was annoyed at me for being a shill to the establishment and too lazy to hike half a mile across the park.
And he then pointed mauka across the grass and showed me that there was an open spot next to his brand-new $35,000 Ford truck where I could, like him, save a couple of dollars.
Lee Cataluna can be reached at email@example.com.