We Need A Ferry, The Right Way

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - September 05, 2007
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Let me make this clear. I am not against the Hawaii Superferry. In fact, I will probably ride the Superferry when the tumult dies down and if it’s still around. Like many of you, I’ve happily ridden ferries and waterbuses in other parts of the world. They’re fun, scenic and a cool way to get around. The only question I’ve had up until now was, why did it take so long to get a system running here at home?

But the ferry almost lost me when, in defiance of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling that an environmental assessment was needed for Maui harbor improvements, handing out $5 fares like candy to crying babies. That rattled my sympathies and roiled up a whole mess of trouble for the company.

I wonder, what did Superferry CEO John Garibaldi expect to happen? His actions were the equivalent of giving the finger to the rule of law. Maybe the law is stupid and unfair, but if it is it’s got to be dealt with, not ignored. Garibaldi’s act was a breathtaking gesture of disrespect to the state’s highest court and the spark that galvanized the opposition. It woke up the protesters and sent the surfers into the water. It put the Coast Guard into the middle of a controversy it did not ask for and did not want.

And as for the passengers? Many were disappointed and stuck without their vehicles after the debacle at sea. Their sympathies obviously were with the Superferry, but the reality is they jumped at a deal that under normal circumstances would be too good to be true, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Would they even have been offered five-buck tickets if the company hadn’t been trying to pull an end-run around the Supreme Court’s ruling? Nope.

There are no heroes and no obvious winners. There have been failures to listen and to compromise all along the way. Environmentalists and surfers come off looking like obstructionists. They may bring up important questions but their methods have people shaking their heads. Hawaii once again presents itself to the world as a bad place to do business.

It’s obvious Hawaii residents like the idea of an interisland ferry. Come on, folks, we are an island state in the middle of a huge body of water. Why aren’t we able to get a basic water transportation system up and running? It’s for this reason that I am rooting for John Garibaldi to work his way through this and get the boat operating.

But there’s got to be a better way than to try to bulldoze over the system. That doesn’t help anyone, least of all the Superferry’s own bottom line. In the end that act of defiance cost the company millions. It may have been gutsy, but it wasn’t smart.

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