An Islander’s Perspective of this Hawaii Superferry Fiasco

Note: Hawaii’s Superferry system was closed down. See our guide to Hawaii’s  inter-island travel.

We’ve all been keeping our eyes on the Hawaii Superferry launch issues.  Protests have even made the national news.  Some people may be scratching their heads and wondering how on earth a $75 million ferry was ever commissioned with such opposition.  Dave Zuls, our friend and long time Hawaii resident with an opinion, graciously offered to share some perspective about how and why things in Hawaii move at a different pace.  Here’s what Dave says:

imageYou’ve probably been reading about problems with the Hawaii Superferry getting turned back, etc.  I don’t believe the Superferry issues will cause a problem for Hawaii visitors.  In my opinion, air travel and car rentals are still the way to go while on vacation. 

Some things look great on paper.  For example, people need to get from “Point A” to “Point B”, so, let’s just build a road, or start a ferry service, etc.  However, Hawaii is a little different than most places. Change is slow and we like it this way. Sometimes people fail to consider this when planning new businesses. People live in Hawaii for their own reasons and most people seem to like it here, just the way it is. No need to make changes. No need for more hotels or strip-malls or freeways or ferries, etc. Things are great just the way they are.

To illustrate this point, we only need to take a look back on all the issues with building the H-3 Highway on Oahu.  This highway is just a few miles long but it took 37 years to build at a cost of over $1.5 BILLION!  Do the math, and you’ll see that this stretch of road cost about 80 Million per mile! We needed a new road but didn’t want it to ruin the natural beauty of the island or disturb historical artifacts, etc.  So, it took a little longer than expected.  These two articles will help you to understand the history and issues that came about with building the H-3.

I’ve been speaking casually with the neighbors, coworkers, and people at church and at the market, etc, and no one seems overly concerned about the fate of the Superferry. We’ve lived without the Superferry for this long so we can do without it for a while longer. I’m neutral on the situation and so is just about everyone I speak to.

However, some people are very passionate about the issue.  Here is a link to one of the main protest web sites. They raise some good points about why it might not be such a good idea to just casually ferry hundreds of cars between the islands every day.  Here are some of the main points:

· Might cause traffic congestion. The roads are choked already.

· Might hurt the Humpback Whales.

· Mongoose (We hate them) They live on Oahu but not on Kauai (Yet)

· Might be easier to conceal and traffic drugs between the islands in cars

· Pests like Fire Ants that live on one island may spread more easily to others

· Spread of invasive plants like Miconia.

· Military uses. Few people want more heavy armored vehicles on the roads or off road.

Here are some videos of the protests on Youtube.

The two things that Hawaii has going for it is the unique culture and natural beauty. The people of Hawaii want to preserve those two things the best they can.

It is just my opinion, but I don’t think that more hotels, freeways and ferries will improve your experience as a visitor or my experience as a resident very much. It would be handy in some situations but we could live without it if we wanted to.

It’s just one of those things that has advantages and disadvantages. It will be interesting to see what happens. 


A big mahalo to Dave for helping us to understand the resident’s perspective! I think it is fascinating. What do you think?

  1. Thanks Sheila,

    It reminds me of some people I met from Denver who moved here to start a business. They were on vacation and suddenly realized there are no Hot Dog carts in Waikiki or downtown Honolulu versus downtown Denver which seems to have them on almost every corner. So… They sold the house, purchased a bunch of Hot Dog carts and shipped everything to Hawaii just to realize why there are no Hot Dog carts. Basically… Getting a permit for something like that is a real challenge. Why? Well…most people just don’t want to see Hot Dog carts on every corner. It kind of ruins the mood.

    You could argue all day that it’s unfair because there are people selling all kinds of things from small carts all over Waikiki and the Hot Dog vendors are given a raw deal, etc…

    Most people love Hot Dogs but I don’t think your visit would more pleasant if there were Hot Dog carts all over Waikiki. Do you?

    No one here anti-business or trying to stop progress, etc. We just like things the way they are. We like to carefully consider new ideas and think about how it might make things better or worse for our visitors. It can be frustrating sometimes.


  2. Well, darn, there goes my dream of opening a krispy kreme stand on Waikiki. (Just kidding!)

    That really is interesting! Have you ever heard the expression “it is what it is”? I think that applies in this situation.

  3. Yeah… It’s just one of those things… The H3 is a critical part of our infrastructure now. We needed to build the road. I have no doubt that the people who protested the construction for 30 years are driving on it now.

    Same with the Superferry… I think the Superferry would provide a great service. I’m sure most people will wonder how we lived without it after it’s been in operation for a while. However… I can easily see both sides. I hope they can sort things out with the protesters soon.

  4. Dave – I agree. I’m really hoping that both sides can find a happy medium. I feel bad for the employees of the Superferry and for the passengers that were stranded after the launch was botched.

  5. When I lived in Tahiti many years ago, most people got around the island and moved goods on various ferries to most of the outer islands, since it was too expensive to move people and goods around by plane.

    When I moved to Hawaii, I surprised to find out there were no ferries at all. There are now so many cars on Oahu that I am not sure what is going to happen 20 years from now. I wish a monorail like the one at Pearlridge Mall on Oahu or fast monorail like the one at the new Las Vegas airport terminal could transport people quickly between hubs in populated areas. There needs to be a quick way to transport Oahu visitors between the Honolulu airport and Waikiki to unclog the freeway.

    Hawaii should have more electric buses that move people all over the island.

    I would like to see a railroad track on the North Shore linking Wahiawa and Kualoa, or a large ski lift moving people near Dole Plantation and Laie over the mountain, it would provide a scenic view and it wouldn’t ruin the environment or become an eyesore (it would act as a bypass). The Waianae coast also needs a bypass or an alternate route. This could free up traffic along the North Shore, especially where poeple on the side of the road to look at turtles, etc.

  6. Christian – Interesting ideas and solutions for new transportation on Oahu.

  7. A tradition on Maui is the canoe clubs who use the harbor, they have not really been considered in the superferry equation. Also there is no where to camp and fish on Oahu so Maui could expect to be flooded with campers and fishermen taking up the few spots that residents now use. Not much talk of this as most people don’t know much about it. No PARKING at all at Maui for cars, they expect 500 people to be “dropped off” and not have traffic issues? You can’t open a hot dog cart without enough parking in Maui. What if they could build the supper bridge to all islands, would we want that?

    I’m not against the idea of a ferry, just upset that money talks and Oahu wants Maui to be ruined like Oahu is.

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