Lee Cataluna: Walkable Honolulu becoming parkable, too
Jared from the office stands up and asks, “Hey, wanna go to lunch? I’ll drive.” And you go, “Sounds great!” and eagerly jump in his car, happy for the camaraderie, excited for the food but also eager to know where Jared is going to park, because everybody has their own secret spot to park around town, down some dusty alley or up some steep, dark parking ramp or in a fenced lot owned by a distant relative.
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Jared from the office stands up and asks, “Hey, wanna go to lunch? I’ll drive.” And you go, “Sounds great!” and eagerly jump in his car, happy for the camaraderie, excited for the food but also eager to know where Jared is going to park, because everybody has their own secret spot to park around town, down some dusty alley or up some steep, dark parking ramp or in a fenced lot owned by a distant relative. If you go with Jared this time, next time you can take your family and tell them, “I got this. I know Jared’s secret parking spot.”
But that was before.
Honolulu is entering an era of good parking.
Well, maybe not good, but appreciably better in certain key spots.
Parking is everything in Honolulu. When a new restaurant or shopping complex or attraction opens, the first thing local residents want to know is, “Where’s the parking?”
Despite Uber and Biki and “walkable neighborhoods,” parking still factors heavily in people’s choices of where to go, what to do and how to spend money. Nothing beats the convenience and autonomy of a car. And nothing beats the frustration of not knowing what to do with it. Bad parking makes people stay home.
The transformation of the Ward complex wiped out acres of open, wide-spaced parking lots along with a lot of favorite local stores and restaurants. Sure, parking was still free, but a trip to the movies or anyplace in the area now required maneuvering through that tight, dark, crowded ramp below the theater or other unappealing options.
There were hopeful signs when the Ward Village Shops garage opened off Queen Street, but it always seemed crowded with brawny SUVs parking over the line, and that squeezy spiral ramp with the scrape marks along the wall told the sad story of expensive miscalculation.
But now comes the Whole Foods parking garage at Queen and Kamakee streets. The ramps are wide and easily navigable, not like some thrill ride. Stalls are reasonably wide and there’s lots of light. And it’s got those new electronic signs that tell you how many stalls are open on each level, rewarding drivers who
venture ever higher to
the 200 open stalls on an upper level rather than hunting around for the three spaces open on Level Two.
And nothing has done more to welcome locals back to Waikiki than the reopening of the International Market Place with its glorious parking structure. Going to Waikiki used to be an anxious day trip, but now no more endlessly circling for street parking that never opens up, or parking at the zoo and walking, or trying to find that old hotel off Kuhio that charged only $20 for four hours.
It’s not free, but if it’s possible for a parking garage to offer value, this one does. Its ramps are wide, spaces generous, and it even has those electronic tote boards pointing you to the least crowded levels.
Not every corridor of
areas has undergone this transformation from congested to convenient. Downtown is still terrible. Kaimuki requires patient orbiting and an ashtray of quarters. That doesn’t mean somebody needs to build a 30-story luxury condo tower on Harding Avenue, though. Sometimes, having to hunt for parking is worth it if means keeping the charm of an old neighborhood intact.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.