Saturday, November 17, 2007

 

Super-low ferry fares will divide community


by Larry Geller

The old New York lower East-side joke, "Yes, we lose money on every sale, but we make it up in volume" is no stranger to Hawaii. Here, we pay through the nose for everything except interisland fares it seems.

At least, sometimes. We also remember being gouged when the airlines could get away with it.

First, when Mesa came to compete with Hawaiian and Aloha, they offered ridiculously low airfares to gain market share. They effectively broke the duopoly, forcing the other two airlines to match them. At one point, airlines were even throwing free tickets at us.

So what could be wrong with $29 ferry fares till December 21 and $39 though March 12? The vehicle fares are also darn cheap. After all, Superferry needs to compete with go!, Hawaiian and Aloha.

Watching the ferry run day after day to Maui may also polarize Oahu supporters against future Kauai protests. That's probably one reason why runs to Kauai have been postponed. Perhaps it is intended to defuse some of the protestors, who may become resigned to the position that the ferry can't be resisted.

Whatever the motivation, the low fares will excite many people, mostly on Oahu. Just as the initial $5 ferry fare was strategic, given the legal battle underway at the time, so are the new intro fares. They will no doubt pit Oahu residents anxious to take the SUV for a spin on Maui against Maui residents who have had to deal with crushing traffic even without a ferry.

The fares will be very tempting. When Mainland friends ask us where we go for vacation, since we live in "Paradise" already, we tell them that we go to the Big Island, of course. We love to visit the volcano and eat at the best Thai restaurant in the state, located nearby. Yes, we like it hot. But I digress. The point is that Oahu people love to visit the Neighbor Islands and are sure to try out the ferry.

The fares should indeed fill the ferry with fans, just as opponents are planning their next moves in the ongoing struggle. Anyone who protests will find Oahu even more strongly polarized against them because of the attractive fares.

Who knows what the effect of bulging boatloads of tourist vehicles will be. No doubt many Maui residents who were neutral on the issue will move one way or the other.

The tourists will come, day after day, and they'll be staying awhile. The concept that the impact is small because as many cars go out as come in is erroneous, because families stay multiple days. And even as they leave, they are replaced as new boatloads discharge into the harbor area.

So the math would be something like this: the number of new vehicles added as a result of Superferry operation will be approximately the average number of cars/motorcycles/mopeds on each trip multiplied by the average length of stay. That many vehicles are added to the island and the number may remain relatively constant.

What might be worse could be the newly discovered effect of weather on the barge used to load or unload passengers. I imagine it can't be used at all if the swell is too high. This could leave a huge crowd in the tent at the harbor unable to get on board and desperately looking for presently non-existent bathroom facilities.

If they can't get on board on their planned departure day, they could end up driving around the island like cockroaches looking for a place to hide. Maybe for a couple of days, if the ferry is full due to low intro fares or if the weather remains bad.

Who knows, maybe some disgruntled Oahu tourists will pick up signs and join the protest.
 

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Comments:

with the cost of oil hanging around $100/bbl,sooner than later there will be a fuel surcharge. After the introduction price,it will probably be @ $90-$100 per person each way.
Unless they're willing to keep losing
money indefinitely,which I doubt
 


I seem to remember there were days last winter when Young Brothers had to hang because the Kahalui harbor was too rough to enter. The Novo virus express had to detour recently because someone( with MECO) was trying to clear an unused oil line at the harbor for the palm oil deliveries expected sometime next year for the Blue Earth Biofuel plant and dumped oil into the harbor ? The twenty year old pipe had a pin hole in it. Dah. And no one bothered to check to see if the pipe was primed?
Are we on a ship of fools here? Virus, oil spills, and harbors with surfing pontoons just a few things special legislation has rough, in a few weeks time. Actually I think the cruise line used another venue to sneak in.
 


Since I live on Oahu I was totally unaware of what the harbor is like.

So not only do we have chancy conditions on the water, but the "ferry terminal" is a cheap tent.

Someone please tell me if I'm right about no toilets. I'd be happy to consider posting any photos of the facility if someone has taken some, with credit to the photographer.

Or even a short video tour.

If the barge starts dancing around on the water, videos of that might be cool, too.

If there are already pics or videos posted somewhere, please point me to them.

Thanks!
 


There is video of the pontoon fiasco on Maui Daily (Akaku: Maui Community Television's new community-based news and events program, you could call and see what there is to see) Its b-roll of the pontoon and the surrounding area including the tent...808-871-5554, Dave Coennen is the Producer of the show and could probably hook you up.
 

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