Aloha, No Parking


Aloha, No Parking

The trickle down from Covid continues. Besides the obvious negatives, there are some positive changes coming out of the pandemic. 

The Hawaiian Island of Maui is taking steps to address parking issues caused by tourists. Tourism is the state’s biggest source of revenue and the main cause of its congestion and mind-boggling cost of living.

At the end of 2019, Hawaii reported a record number of visitor arrivals: 10.4 million. By July 2020, that number was close to zero.

According to The New York Times, state leaders in Hawaii report that locals felt the seriousness of the economic crisis brought on by Covid’s impact on travel, but also a renewed sense of ownership for their islands. With crowds gone, they could enjoy their beautiful beaches and other destinations.

Residents of Hawaii had their home to themselves for a little while. 

I’ve been to Hawaii twice and both times I seriously contemplated what it would take to stay there permanently. Missing my flight, pitching a tent in the forest, and living off lizards and wild guavas seemed like a great plan – anything to stay in paradise.

Tourists, off-island ownership of business, and part-time residents all affect the state’s environment, economy, and culture. They bring in money, but deplete natural resources and diminish quality of life for locals.

There are already movements in Hawaii to change the way history and tourism have affected the land and communities. Those include teaching the Hawaiian language in schools, tours of historical sites, including Iolani Palace, the Hawaiian royal residence, and discussion of the colonization and militarization of Hawaii.

As tourism in Hawaii surges again, there are many conversations happening about how to make the island safer and happier for locals but still welcoming to visitors. 

In 2018, the County of Maui Department of Public Works, and the Department of Planning, hired Dixon Resources Limited to study and create parking solutions for the towns of Lahaina and Wailuku. 

In late August 2022, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino held two meetings to hear community members’ input on plans for “PARK MAUI,” a parking management program in the works for beach parks, business districts and streets in Maui’s most visited areas.  

Mayor Victorino told MauiNow that he wants Maui County residents have free access to beaches and parks and non-residents to pay for parking in those places. Revenue will pay for operations and could be used for facilities, cultural preservation, environmental protection, and beach restoration.

In early 2023, pilot programs will begin in South Maui at Ulua/Mokapu Beach and at Kamaʻole Beach Parks. Next, according to MauiNow, Park Maui will launch in Lahaina and Wailuku

Recently, residents in East Maui, specifically in Paʻia and Hana have asked for quick attention to their extreme traffic and parking issues. The Road to Hana is a 64.4-mile-long stretch which connects Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. It has 617 hairpin curves and 59 one-lane bridges. Many of the concrete and steel bridges date back to 1910. The speed limit is 25 mph or less the whole way, making the drive take about 2.5 hours.

In 2021, the Hawaii Department of Transportation installed 70 “no parking” signs along the Road to Hana.

My husband and I took this drive many moons ago when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I don’t recommend it during pregnancy or for anyone who gets carsick easily. 

We pulled off the highway twice to swim – and once, my husband jumped off a 25-foot waterfall. Thankfully, I had the perfect excuse not to jump with him. I’m sure we were parked illegally both times – and on a narrow highway with countless blind spots.

We encountered many other parking novelties when we were in Maui – parked on a cliff, parked in a field, paid to park at a 5-star hotel to access a public beach, and so on. I live in Los Angeles, and think of Hawaii as a place where parking is comparably difficult.

Here in our ultra-crowded section of Southern California, we consider traffic, parking and crowds before we make plans to visit beaches, museums, parks and theaters. There are places we don’t go at all and days of the week we avoid any destination that attracts tourists or requires a drive on the freeway. 

Places we love are not always possible to visit – we gave up going to Griffith Park Observatory several years ago. It was a tradition for us around New Years, but the last time we went, we looked for parking for 40 minutes before we gave up. 

Fortunately, we’re not on an island and we have plenty of other options. Not so for the people of Hawaii. I think it’s entirely fair to ask tourists to pay for parking on the islands and let locals move around freely. We’ll see what they work out

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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