Last month was Pedestrian Safety Month in Hawaii, when the state unveiled a 93-page draft “Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan.” The goal is simple: “to decrease the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities statewide.”
The plan centers around a “Complete Streets” policy (SB 718, signed into law on May 6, 2009) that requires consideration of all transportation modes (walking, biking, driving, and riding). Some of the ideas highlighted in the plan include more sidewalks, better connected sidewalks, better sidewalk markings, traffic signal modifications, better lit areas, and improved visibility (by cutting back vegetation and planning for parked cars).
There are a lot of education programs for pedestrians and drivers, notably Walk Wise Hawaii (http://www.facebook.com/WalkWiseHawaii), a public education program for pedestrian safety. But we can’t force pedestrians to be more aware on the streets, and we can’t make driving less distracting when drivers must pay attention to other vehicles, traffic signs, parking, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the weather.
What we can do is start to reduce the number of cars on the roads, and try to reduce the contact between cars and people. With that in mind, here are four ideas for improving pedestrian and driver safety:
1. Create tiered car registration fees. The first car registration per household would be assessed at the standard rate, while additional car registrations per household (at the same street address or apartment) would be higher, perhaps double or even triple the regular rate. Businesses, governments, and taxi/van/bus companies would have different rate structures. This would encourage carpooling and public transportation, potentially cut down on traffic, and make parking a little easier to find, while increasing revenue for road maintenance.
2. Start a car sharing service. Hawaii could create a car sharing service, which would let you sign up for a driving plan (including insurance), reserve a car (in days or even hours), use it, and then return the car. The service should pay for itself, once the initial program and cars are in place. Companies like Zipcar.com and cities like San Francisco (citycarshare.org) and Boulder (carshare.org) are already doing it. And we could use a fleet of electric cars! Better Place, which builds electric vehicle infrastructure, has already opened 10 charging stations in Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, with plans to add 130 charging stations around the state; and Enterprise Rent-a-Car has charging stations available to the public at the Honolulu Airport.
3. Integrate public school buses with public bus service. Instead of a separate bus service, we could add more buses before and after school, with special routes that stop at public schools. We would not have to maintain a separate bus fleet, and there would be fewer students gathering at bus stops and sometimes spilling into the shoulder lanes. It could also save us money: in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, about 37,000 general-education public school students rode the school bus, which cost Hawaii $72 million; meanwhile, student fares brought in only about $3 million, according to the Honolulu .
4. Second-floor pedestrian walkways. In high-density urban areas like Downtown Honolulu, consider second-floor pedestrian walkways between buildings and at intersections.Las Vegas,Nevada, has pedestrian bridges at major intersections along the Las Vegas Strip. There are walkways between large hotels like Treasure Island and the Venetian; and indoor bridges connecting hotels like the Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and the Excalibur. These walkways would reduce pedestrian traffic on the streets, and expand storefront space. However, they would cost a lot of money, require joint effort between different property owners, and drastically change the Honolulu skyline.
What are your ideas about pedestrian safety? How can we share our streets safely?
If you’re interested, there will be an OahuMPO CAC presentation of the Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan on September 21, 2011; and another presentation at the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials on September 22, 2011. You can comment on the Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan at http://www.hawaiipedplan.com/Comment.aspx.