Mar 13, 2014

Waxing Nostalgic: BusPlus

Twenty years ago, the last time that the idea of rail was gathering steam in Honolulu, Brook and I got to work with the big tour bus companies, Charlie’s Taxi and well known rail foe Cliff Slater on a project called BusPlus.

We met pretty much in secret, and weren’t “allowed” to say Slater was part of the meetings, lest we alert the rail proponents of the project.  The idea, called BusPlus, was for the big bus companies (Roberts, Grayline, Polynesian Adventure…) to help solve the traffic problem — in lieu of rail — by using the hours that visitors were’t travelling (and were coincidentally the peak traffic hours) to offer an “executive” bus service.  They planned to offer service to all of the well travelled areas, complete with coffee and newspapers, taking people to work and bringing them home.

In order to make sure that their business plan was accurate, BusPlus did a survey asking when people needed transportation to work.  They found that in the Waianae area that so many people had two jobs that they would need to travel early in the morning and late at night.  The sheer numbers of people that this applied to was surprising … I was understanding for the first time that Hawai`i’s unemployment rate does not come close to telling the real story.  Another thing we found out was that government employees paid only $30 a month for parking (even back then, that wasn’t much) and so it was going to be hard to get them out of their cars.

Once a plan was put together, we went to talk to Gary Gill at the City Council (his position at the time) and I must say he was not the type of civil servant I believed he should be (sorry, Gary, but you lectured us and didn’t listen…).

BusPlus never happened because the rail project was killed that year, with Arnold Morgado casting the last vote against rail, and one of the last votes of his political career.  Thank God for Arnold Morgado.

As everyone knows, the rail proponents spent the next decade getting ready to relaunch what I continue to think will be the biggest disaster in Hawai`i’s encounter with mankind.  And they have succeeded.  So I am waxing nostaligc for BusPlus, which I strongly believe would have been a huge part of the solution, and we would actually have had a shot at solving Honolulu’s traffic problems.

Mar 13, 2014

My Stay At Castle Hospital

I wanted to take a moment to give Castle Hospital and all of its employees 5 stars, 5 diamonds, thumbs up — as I was treated very well during my overnight stay this week at the hospital.

Readers of this blog know that I had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in 2004.  The surgeon used veins from my left leg to repair my broken arteries.  I am approaching the 10 year mark, and I cannot tell you how many people have told me that I would have another heart attack at ten years because veins used (versus arteries) clog up.  So I have been particularly sensitive about this these days, even paranoid.  On Tuesday morning I was sitting at my desk, planning to go to lunch with Brook to discuss some business when I began to get a feeling of warmth in my chest.  No chest pain, nothing else.  But women present atypically, and I definitely did ten years ago.

I went upstairs to take my blood pressure and it was quite high … didn’t come down … so I decided to call an ambulance.  This is what they tell you to do, even if you are not sure, which I was not.  I went around and locked up the house, called Mark, Brook and Ian and told them I was calling 911.  Two fire engines and one ambulance (from Waimanalo!) arrived in short order, and I was transported (I believe that is what they call it) to Castle Hospital ER.  Brook, Ian and Mark got there before I did.  The ER was so crowded that there were people lying in the halls, and I was pushed, sitting up, into the middle of the room.  They got me a bed after about 10 minutes, and I spent the day there hooked up to monitors, getting my blood drawn …

The hospital was full so about 3 p.m. they told me I was going to have to spend the night in the ER.  Not happy.  But they found me a private room and moved me there about 5:30.  Happy.  Everyone in the ER was wonderful, as were the nurses and aides on the Laulima floor, and the nuclear medicine, radiologist and cardiologist folks too.  Brook came at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday and stayed with me through all my tests and until I was released from the hospital.  Ten years ago, she spent every night in the hospital with me.  Lucky to have such a good friend.

Happy to say, I got to go home on Wednesday, having been told I had not had a heart attack and my heart was in comparatively good shape — I am lucky to (most probably) be in the 50% of people whose veins do not clog up at the ten year mark, and I may be around a bit longer.

Castle is a terrific place and we’re lucky to have it in Kailua.

Feb 28, 2014

The Cost of Preserving Green Space

$25 Million —- that’s the figure the Mayor has come up with to encourage neighborhood development around the rail stations.  TODs.  Transit Oriented Development:  the raison d’etre for rail in the first place.

According to an article in PBN, “Caldwell wants to spend $25 million to fund a rail-related Transit-Oriented Development plan. Of that, $20.3 million would go toward streets, land acquisition for bus and rail hubs, multimodel studies and “catalytic” projects at the Pearlridge and Kapalama stations. The rest would go toward planning.  Caldwell said that the rail will provide opportunities to develop middle-class neighborhoods along the line and that by focusing on development along the urban corridor through the plan, the city can preserve its green space.”

Mayor Caldwell isn’t the only one to be talking about building in order to preserve green space.  The Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP) with its “same great O`ahu” campaign is also saying — not just implying — that we want to keep the country country and by building a “whole new way of urban living” we can do that.   So are these promises or are they threats?

Too bad we can’t make them sign in blood.  Using keep the country country (PRP) and preserving green space (Mayor Caldwell) are catch phrases that are designed to make us believe that the trade off is worth it, if it is in fact a real trade off.   This seems really sneaky to me.  Especially since, as I have said before, all the land zoned for development on O`ahu would have been built out by 2005.  But!  Presto Change-o!  Rezone Ag land and you can build forever.   I don’t know if there is a catalog of  Ag land that has been rezoned for development  since 2005, but it would be interesting to see it.

Now that rail is a reality, of course we need TODs.  Fooled me there!  I ignorantly thought that the developers of the TODs would be paying for the streets as a condition of building around the rail stations. But gee whiz, it turns out we should pay for the streets and get the land prepped for developers (land acquisition by eminent domain, I think).  Someone will be making money on this, but I am not sure who.

One item I read said that advertising ON the bus (yes I am going there again) could raise as much as $20 million annually.  Coincidence, or is it more?  Bus transit pays for Rail transit development.  I bet they aren’t planning on putting ads on their shiny new trains.

Since they are using “green space” and “well, keeping the country country” (BTW the guy who says this in the PRP commercial is  standing in a parking lot) it seems like somewhere, somehow there should be some kind of guarantee that green space will be preserved and exactly what that green space will be.  And keeping the country country.  What exactly does that mean?   I can only say that development around all the rail stations, 14 new condominiums, and a “new kind of urban living” in Kaka’ako seems like a lot.  Is there a plan here for keeping green space and country country?  Or are these throwaway lines that are supposed to draw us in?



Feb 27, 2014

Please! No Advertising ON The Bus

Don’t Advertise on Me!!!

According to Wikipedia, the name TheBus and the familiar yellow, black and white paint scheme was introduced in 1974 to give our city buses a less stodgy image.  HRT became MTL when the city took over the bus operations.  At the time  Honolulu itself was run by former Hartford, Connecticut citizen Mayor Frank F. Fasi.  Fasi was Mayor of Honolulu City and County for most of the last century, or at least it seemed that way.  It was he who renamed the bus TheBus and gave it its new trade dress in 1974.    That sleek, comparatively sophisticated trade dress has lasted 40 years … which from a branding perspective is pretty darn good.  Even Hawaiian Air’s famed Pualani logo, designed by Landor and Associates in 1975 has changed since then.

TheBus is the 20th most utilized transit system in the nation with more than 70 million passengers carried in any given year.  It is also the only transit system to be recognized twice as America’s Best Transit System — the most recent time being in 2000-2001.  Expanding TheBus system and routes, in my opinion, could have been part of a cheaper (and more workable) solution to Honolulu’s traffic problems.  We didn’t need rail, we don’t need rail and even the rail proponents acknowledge that it won’t solve the traffic problem.  But alas, that is for other blogs (which I have already written).

Prior to the city takeover of HRT in 1971, outdoor advertising was allowed on the exterior of the buses.  That changed with Fasi’s acquisition (yay Frank!) and although no law has been passed specifically banning exterior advertising, a tradition has (surely!) been established — a tradition of more than 40 years — for no advertising on the outside of buses.  The Outdoor Circle, fanatic protectors of Hawai`i’s beauty (at least insofar as it is in their control)vehemently opposes advertising on the outside of the buses but since they are moving vehicles, it could be permitted.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, looking for ways to raise money, proposed advertising on the outside of TheBus in 2013, and it has raised its ugly head again just this week before the City Council.  WE CAN’T LET THIS HAPPEN.

Many cities have advertising on the outside of their buses.  But they are not big visitor destinations.  They are not paradise.  They have billboards so what difference do moving billboards make?

That’s for other cities, not for Honolulu.  What is Mayor Caldwell thinking?  Frank Fasi would have never let this happen.

Feb 24, 2014

Dionne’s Daddy Made My Lunch

Four out of the five of us who lived in the living room.

In my senior year at boarding school, I lived at “First House” with four roommates.  That is, there were five of us in one room — the former living room at First House.  We had a set of bunk beds, and three single beds.  No closet.  Yes dressers, I think.  Down the hall was our bathroom, which was also our closet.  There was a rack for all of our hanging clothes, a toilet, a sink and a shower.  And our parents were paying for this!

The people who lived in First House, and 2nd House and 3rd House ate in a common dining room.  The chef was Speedy Warwick.  There were rumors that he was Dionne Warwick’s father, but of course it was hard to believe.  In any event, Speedy Warwick made our breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Much to our surprise, one day Dionne Warwick showed up.  I managed to corner her on the stairway outside of Speedy’s kitchen and got her autograph on a napkin.  I carried it around for twenty years or more, and finally threw it away.

Now, First House and its companion numbered houses are gone, and so is Speedy Warwick’s kitchen.  So is my Dionne Warwick autograph.  So, probably, is Speedy Warwick.  He was a really nice guy.


Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.