Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Step Beyond (The Big Picture)

A rail would have made sense to me if they built one from Waikiki to Ala Moana and maybe on to downtown -- because that is the highest density population, and from my observation, accounts for half the bus ridership.

But to build one in the suburbs not even built yet, is really a high-risk maneuver that only city planners would dream of. Not only are these populations not even built, but they have no culture of mass transit use -- and may actually choose to live in suburban areas because of its low densities and they like to drive.

They are not the "city types" who deliberately own no cars and build their entire lives on being located in their local universes (global villages).

One of the most insane things I ever heard were these people who lived in Kapolei or Mililani, but always came into Waikiki, where they did everything. The obvious solution is not rail, but living in Waikiki -- even if it is in a studio, rather than a 3 bedroom house which their only reason for going to, is because they "live" there and own such a place, and think therefore, a studio would be too small to live in. Granted, a few places in Hawaii are nothing more than prison cells, but they are at least larger than living in one’s car, commuting in that manner.

But now with tourism dying, even the Waikiki to Ala Moana route might not be justified in embarking on a huge capital improvements project at the top of the market. Those envisioned communities for planned growth, may never happen now because the economics make them prohibitive. The suburban growth model may have been undermined by the energy fuel crisis of locating people in that way.

A lot of people are fond of saying that if they did the rail project back in 1992, they'd be riding rail now, forgetting that they dodged a bullet by not buying rail before Hawaii went into the economic tailspin for the rest of the '90s. The least of their concerns then was that they didn't have a rail -- but had unused capacity of everything, that really only recovered when the only safe place to travel to in the world was Hawaii (USA) -- because the President guaranteed it -- and delivered, and so people moved about freely with great confidence that would have been crippled if we all retreated to bomb shelters.

The fear, anxiety and trepidation of most of the '90s was quickly forgotten in the boom of real estate markets that happen about once a generation (of about 20 years), but now many stuck with those houses, are realizing that is not such a good deal when aging boomers function best in efficient spaces -- rather than large, spacious ones, requiring a lot of travel and movement to get around.

If you're 65, 75, 85, the last thing you need is a large house and a yard to take care of. Your optimal environment is a well-designed efficiency (studio) -- or one bedroom with no stairs. For most of these people living in well-planned, well-located communities, neither a car, or rail that they have to walk any distance to, meets their needs -- but a more personal transportation device like a seated electric scooter, allows them the mobility they can use all the time, not quite like the full-fledged handicap wheelchair but something that allows them to conserve as much wear and tear on their body in getting anywhere and doing anything. Most people just stop leaving their houses and watch the world on television as an acceptable substitute -- and thereafter, learn to live through others in thqat mediated way.

The preretirement generation can actually prolong this need for automated transportation devices by taking up slow biking as opposed to the rigorous bicycling that also takes a toll on one's body. That manner of movement is like performing tai-chi on a bike -- yet they are capable of performing it fast, if they really have to, but ordinarily, move slowly, deliberately, unstressfully, as a pedestrian on wheels -- which enables them to maintain such a practice and discipline pretty nearly indefinitely, for the rest of their lives.

But the greatest advantage of such modes of transportation is that the human interaction level is greatly increased -- and people actually have to interact with one another -- rather than in the automated mode of isolating themselves, even in a mass transit mode -- because that very means of transportation, disengages them -- except for the tourists on a joyride of discovery.

The positive impact of tourism is that it brings fresh outlooks and enthusiasm into any community -- as people with a fresh perspective have always done. In otherwise isolated communities, that would be the children, who are not so conditioned that they no longer can see those things which may be the problems in their communities. The most difficult thing to see is that which everybody accepts as the truth -- which may in fact, be the misunderstanding that is the source of most of the problems that when finally seen and addressed, allows each civilization to move on to a higher level of challenge, rather than just continuing to repeat the same obsessive-compulsive behaviors as though that is the only way humans (in that community) can behave.