Every Saturday, we‘ll present these short-take editorials that look back on, and assess, some of this week’s news.
Amid confirmation that Southwest Airlines will be coming to Hawaii next year, it’s the possibility of it entering the interisland market that really made locals sit up and take notice. Having such a deep-pocket player go into competition with Hawaiian Airlines would raise intriguing questions, chiefly: Will flying interisland become more affordable, and therefore, more enticing? We hope so.
But first things first. Southwest’s official announcement Wednesday was just the first step in the public process to get Federal Aviation Administration certification to fly between the mainland and Hawaii. After that would come announcing of those routes, including details about where, when and how much.
Having yet another good option to get on and off this rock is welcome news for travelers. And state tourism officials certainly are upbeat, seeing potential for even more tourism growth beyond this year’s projected record tourism numbers for the sixth year in row.
But the sheer fact that Southwest is even evaluating the possibility of interisland flights could start roiling dynamics in our island state. For now, Hawaiian Air is hugely dominant over local carriers Island Air, Mokulele Airlines and Makana Kai Air. Cut-throat competition might well take a player off the map.
Audit takes a look at UH travel
The University of Hawaii system spends a fair amount of money on travel: over the last three years, about $30 million a year, according to a recent internal UH audit.
Was that money well-managed? Was there proper oversight?
The audit did not examine all that travel spending, but zeroed in on funds spent through UH’s automated e-Travel system, which included $13 million in fiscal year 2017.
“Overall, Internal Audit believes University travelers have complied with travel policies, laws, rules and regulations,” the report from UH’s Director of Financial Management and Controller concluded. Whew.
There’s a caveat, though: The audit found that some UH employees took too long to reimburse the university for travel money advanced to them that they did not spend.
Some 13 examples of travel advances examined by the audit contained some intriguing information: The average travel advance was $13,800. If that sounds like a lot, it won’t seem surprising that 10 of the 13 travel advances exceeded travel expenses, requiring repayment. The average time to repay advances was 62 days, ranging from four to 216 days.
So it makes sense for UH to follow the audit’s recommendation to find a way to reduce excess travel advances and encourage prompt repayment.
California wildfires warn us, too
It is horrific watching the California wildfires devastate the regions of Napa, Sonoma and Santa Rosa, as well as other northern regions of the state. As of Friday afternoon, 15 fires had burned more than 212,000 acres, destroyed more than 5,700 buildings and caused at least 33 deaths — and sadly, the death toll is expected to rise.
The unfolding tragedy is a somber reminder that in a year-round sunny state like Hawaii, vigilance is constantly needed. Fire-safety warnings routinely come during brushfire season in our summer months but bear repeating now — which, coincidentally, is National Fire Prevention Week.
During this week each year, the Hawaii State Fire Council, composed of the four county fire chiefs, issues a safety guide that’s distributed to elementary school students statewide. It’s an effort that has contributed to Hawaii having among the nation’s lowest rates of fire deaths and injuries.
Let’s keep it that way. Among the preparedeness tips: To prevent wildfire spread to tree tops, prune so the lowest branches are 6-10 feet from the ground. And make and practice a household evacuation plan — have at least two ways out of every room, and do the drills twice a year.
Blue Biki bicycles on a roll
It was June when those powder-blue Biki bikes and racks started replacing parking spaces all over town. The skeptics jeered and drivers complained. But people started riding them — 180,272 rides in the first three months, according to Bikeshare Hawaii, the nonprofit that manages the system. Moreover, the numbers show a steady uptick. In July (including June 28-30), the average number of rides per day was 1,735; in August, 1,918; in September, 2,101. Will this growth continue? Will Biki’s business model succeed? We hope so.
Driving through congested traffic in urban Honolulu is bad enough. Finding street parking is like winning the lottery. It’s getting ridiculous.
Like the bus or, heaven forbid, walking, bikeshare programs like Biki offer a sensible alternative for navigating dense, compact business and residential districts like downtown or Kakaako.
It’s true that drivers will have to slow down and be more careful. That’s not a bad idea, Biki or no Biki. It’s true that a Biki station can take up spots for a few cars — replacing them with spots for about 10 to 20 bicycles. That seems reasonable. It’s true that there aren’t enough dedicated bike lanes to accommodate a rising number of bicyclists. So add more.
When you can ride a bike safely from Chinatown to Ala Moana and beyond, urban Honolulu will become a thoroughly mobile metropolis.