Posted tagged ‘Complete Streets’

Ala Wai reimagined

September 11, 2018

I was excited to learn that we’re turning our attention to revitalizing the Ala Wai in Honolulu.

Ala Pono: An Ala Wai Crossing” is looking at the ways residents and visitors move between the neighborhoods of Waikīkī, Ala Moana, and McCully/ Mōʻiliʻili. The goal is to make our community safer and more convenient for people, bicyclists, and motor vehicles, including emergency personnel.

Pedestrian bridge. I can envision a pedestrian bridge spanning the Ala Wai. A beautifully arched white bridge, similar in architecture to the smaller bridges at Ala Moana Beach Park, could add a feeling of elegance and historic charm to the canal. Or a clear plexiglass bridge, an ala aopua‘a (cloud path), could connect land, water, and sky and create a sense of freedom and awe.

But the “Complete Streets” project wouldn’t be complete without reimagining the Ala Wai. As it is, the canal is minimally landscaped and functional. But it could be so much more.

Floating gardens. What if there were floating gardens along the canal? Aquatic plants could both beautify the canal and clean the water of carbon dioxide and algae.

Hanging gardens. What if we created hanging gardens, with trellises arching over parts of the canal or growing along canal walls? This could enhance the open spaces, create more privacy, and clean the air of carbon dioxide and pollutants.

Murals and sculptures. What if we built “art nooks” along pedestrian and bicycle pathways? By displaying the works of local Hawaii artists, we could give people a reason to leisurely walk or bike along the Ala Wai Canal, and something to talk about as they continue their journey.

Canoe rides. What if we created a student-run program to offer canoe rides between the Waikīkī Public Library and the Honolulu Convention Center? The canoe rides could include a cultural component with Hawaiian history or music and chant. While I am hesitant to suggest commercialization of the Ala Wai, this could offer an alternate method of transportation while giving high school students experience in business, management, and hospitality.

There are two public meetings this month at the Ala Wai Elementary School Cafeteria: on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 1 pm and on Monday, September 24, 2018 at 6:30 pm. I encourage you to attend if you can, or share your ideas here and with Nicola Szibbo at

Do you live, work, or go to school in Waikīkī? What can you envision for the Ala Wai?


Thoughts about Honolulu’s complete streets

January 23, 2018

Last November, the Honolulu Urban Core Complete Streets Program invited community input during a series of public workshops and pop-up events. Urban Honolulu continues to grow and change, with increasing densification (high-rise apartment buildings) and transit-oriented development. The goals of the Complete Streets plan are to improve safety, accessibility, and comfort for all users, encourage physical activity, and reflect community needs and character.

The Honolulu Urban Core includes about 16 miles of roadways within downtown Honolulu, from North King Street and Downtown, through Kaka‘ako, Lower Makiki, and Moiliili,  that are planned for rehabilitation, repaving, or restriping.

I work in the Ward/Ala Moana area, and my son goes to school nearby, so the Complete Streets proposals will affect us almost every day. Our commute is about 10 hours during the weekday, and while it’s a big chunk of time, I know that it could be a lot worse. I try to see our commute as personal time with my son, asking him about school, going over homework, or letting him take a power nap.

I wasn’t able to attend the public workshops or pop-up events, but I decided that it’s not too late to share some of my thoughts, and answer the four questions they are using to plan our streets:

How do you move around the area? I drive to urban Honolulu every weekday morning, dropping my son off at school and picking him up after work. I rarely drive during the day – I am fortunate that I can walk to many of the places I need to go to (the bank, the post office, the grocery store). I appreciate the clean, uncluttered streets.

What streetscape features make your neighborhood unique? In my neighborhood, I appreciate wide and well-lit streets, and trees planted between lanes of traffic (though I understand that there are issues of tree maintenance and road upkeep). We have neighborhood entrance signs that make street corners more attractive and give us a sense of place and pride.

What obstacles do you encounter while traveling through the area? In downtown Honolulu, I feel anxiety about one-way streets and finding parking. In urban Honolulu, I feel stress from the lack of dedicated left-turn lanes along Kapiolani Avenue. At Neil Blaisdell Center, traffic often gets backed up on King Street when there are trade shows or events, because there are limited parking entrances.

How could better transportation options improve your everyday life? I would like to have more convenient access to downtown Honolulu somehow, without worrying about parking. Near my workplace, we do have transportation options — we are near a bus route (though it doesn’t take me to places that I need to go) and Biki stands (though I would not like to ride a bike in “work clothes”).

3 small, inexpensive improvements that work.

  1. Wider striped crosswalk areas create a safer zone between vehicles and pedestrians.
  2. A longer delay in traffic signals between “red” on one street and “green” on the cross-street allows a “grace period” for vehicles to complete turns and pedestrians to cross the street.
  3. Buffered bike lanes with a designated space separating the bike lane from regular traffic.

3 costly, confusing changes that don’t work.

  1. Sidewalk corner bulb-outs and midblock bulb-outs are less safe for vehicles and pedestrians crossing the street.
  2. Urban roundabouts are more confusing than “stop” or “yield” signs, because there is no clear right-of-way.
  3. Bike boxes that put bikes at the front of the lane.

Do you live or work in urban Honolulu? What do you think of the Complete Streets plan?

A “road diet” plan for Hawaii

November 22, 2016

Complete Streets 2016The City and County of Honolulu released the “Complete Streets Design Manual” (September 2016), a guide book that will ensure that our streets and public spaces can meet everyone’s transportation needs. It is well-designed, with photos of real streets and diagrams of different design ideas.

Skimming through the Design Manual, one of the easiest and most economical ideas to improve pedestrian safety and reduce the risks of an accident is the Advance Stop Line, a solid white line that are up to 20 feet from the crosswalk, instead of the typical 4-6 feet (section 5.3.6). It lets drivers see pedestrians more easily and gives them more time to slow down.

Speaking from personal experience. one of the worst “traffic calming” ideas to slow traffic speed and eliminate the need for traffic lights is a Roundabout, a circular intersection where traffic flows counterclockwise around a central island (section 4.10.4). In my opinion, roundabouts are confusing and stressful because there is no clear right-of-way. It only benefits those bold drivers and pedestrians who enter the roundabout without hesitation, while less aggressive drivers and pedestrians wait anxiously to enter the roundabout safely.

What caught my attention is the idea of a “road diet” – the narrowing or removal of traffic lanes to encourage vehicles to slow down. The “reclaimed” lane can be used for wider sidewalks, landscaped spaces, bicycle lanes, parklets, or on-street parking (section 3.10).

At a time when Hawaii has more people, more cars, and more traffic than ever, Honolulu plans to deliberately reduce roadways where appropriate. But to further increase safety, reduce accidents, and encourage alternate means of transportation (walking, bicycling, or rail transit) we may all need to go on a more drastic “Road Diet.”

Hawaii’s “Road Diet” Plan will involve more than just cutting down on the number of lanes or width of lanes on the roads. It will probably be painful and divisive. Here are some “Road Diet” options:

* Revising the Driver Education program. We already updated driver education programs to show the dangers of texting while driving. The next step is promoting pedestrian awareness with a driver’s education course that rigs a mannequin to dart in front of the driver or suddenly move into the driver’s lane from the other side of a parked car.

* Creating trade-in programs. To encourage people to walk, bike, ride-share, or take the bus, we could create a trade-in program so that bicycle users could trade in their old bike for a new bike or motorized scooter. In addition, we could create a trade-in program so that car owners could get a free bike or scooter if they sell or donate their car and agree not to buy a replacement car for at least one year.

* Limiting the number of cars per household. We may need to limit the number of motor vehicles allowed per household, or perhaps drastically increase the vehicle registration fees for additional vehicles in a household. Personally, I don’t like having my transportation choices limited, but diets are not supposed to be easy.

* Capping the number of cars in Hawaii. We could put a cap on the number of personal motor vehicles imported into Hawaii.

I realize these issues are outside of the scope of the Complete Streets Design Manual, but they are logical steps to dealing with traffic, limited land, and a growing population.

Which traffic safety improvements to you think are effective – and which are problematic? Do you think that Hawaii needs to go on a more drastic “Road Diet”?

Four ideas for street safety

September 20, 2011

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 (, 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 and cities like San Francisco ( and Boulder ( 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