Saturday, February 02, 2008


Ferry: Monday maybe, we wonder about reporting

by Larry Geller

The Superferry website advises today (Saturday) that it expects the ferry to sail on Monday. Repairs, weather, what's going on? Have stranded vehicles been repatriated?

First to a court document (tnx to Dick Mayer):

A report filed with the court in Maui by Deputy Attorney General William J. Wynhoff on January 31 appears to be a traffic analysis. Strangely, I find actual counts or analysis of counts to be a bit lacking, and wonder how Judge August will react.

The most amazing thing I noticed was the parenthetical statement at the middle of page 2:

Exhibit "B" is a report as to Superferry bookings, including vehicle bookings, for January 2008. (Actual counts may be more or less but the difference is minor).

This amused me when I examined Exhibit "B", which includes bookings for days when the ferry did not even run (others have noted this before I did in the emails). Clearly, "actual counts" are not linked to bookings. Also, when the ferry carried passengers or vehicles back that had been stranded by cancellations, were there bookings for those vehicles, and are they counted or not?

And finally, where are independent counts? Can one rely on this data?

In Exhibit A we learn that the highest demand (provided by HSF staff, not independently) was on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, and although it says "passenger loads" at the top of the paragraph, no passenger loads are given. Only vehicle counts, and they are very low, given what the ferry company said it needed to realize in order to operate:

HSF Patronage

Actual passenger loads were provided by HSF staff for the four days when observations of ferry operations were made. The highest demand was observed on Monday, January 21 (Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday) with 135 vehicles, of which 41 were returning to Kahului and 94 were departing from Kahului. Based on conversations with staff, this was the highest demand to date since HSF service restarted after its stoppage in November 2007. The remainder of the observations showed total vehicular demand ranging from 59 vehicles to 80 vehicles with an average split of 40% returning to Kahului and 60% departing from Kahului.

And then, a strange pronouncement with regard to the impact on intersections:


The intersections of Ka'ahumanu Avenue & Pu'unene Avenue and Ka'ahumanu Avenue & Wharf Street currently operate at an acceptable LOS during all peak periods, both with and without the addition of HSF-related traffic. Therefore, the Hawaii Superferry would not have an impact on the operation of either intersection.

The conclusion that "the Hawaii Superferry would not have an impact on the operation of either intersection" seems strange to me, in light of the data. It would be better, I submit, to conclude that passenger loads have been so low that traffic has not yet been impacted.

Meanwhile, back in the press, the Advertiser ran a story today minus a byline which appears also to be based largely on ferry company report. For example:

Bad weather forced the Alakai to remain dockside from Sunday through Wednesday this week. During that time, Hawaii Superferry performed routine maintenance inspections, during which the need for repair work on the vessel's structure encompassing the auxiliary rudders was identified.

That's fine, except that KITV reported that the cracks were discovered Monday. So it seems that the ferry has been out for the crack problem Monday through Sunday, in addition to the weather issues.

Why does all this matter? It matters because the press (at least the newspapers) seem to have suspended the natural suspicion that journalists traditionally have about corporate-provided information. Although I focus on the Advertiser coverage here, that's partly because the Star-Bulletin seems to be absent on the issues. I can't comment on something that's not there. The S-B was so quick to laud the ferry and celebrate the success it was handed by the Governor.

There has been much speculation in the blogosphere on the nature of the cracked rudder problem, but no digging by the paid press. At least, not anything that has come out in print. TV coverage is limited. We depend on the newspapers for some deeper analysis. In fact, many of us actually pay for our newspaper subscriptions, we have a right to expect better.

Considering the vast sums planned for harbor improvements and the ongoing handout of expensive tug services, the fate of the ferry is something taxpayers ought to be concerned about.

Let's not forget the divisions that the ferry has wrought in the community. It's one reason, I think, that I keep writing about it. The wounds are very fresh and still very deep.

Maybe there is a better way to provide Hawaii with interisland transportation. Tepid reporting of daily cancellations don't serve readers very much.

As to the Attorney General's report... I don't know what to say.


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A "crack problem", eh Larry?... I'll let you all write your own jokes.

I didn't think of that.

Ok, I'll try.

According to a secret source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he/she was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, the unnamed large capacity passenger vessel has a major crack problem.

In response to this, another anonymous source who might have been in the Department of Transportation or might not, may have hinted that the DOT, if that's who said it, may request the Legislature to provide an exemption to the Coast Guard safety rules to allow ships to sail while a study (projected to take a couple of years) is conducted to see whether crack should be legalized. Oops, sorry, that's another bill.

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