Afterthoughts: Wait For It
Let’s see if these Mainland innovations can save us some time.
I was sitting in L.A. traffic with a friend when we passed a large digital screen with a list of prices. I asked what they meant and, turns out, Southern California has something called Metro ExpressLanes, which are basically HOV lanes that single riders can pay to use. The signs display prices based on traffic congestion and length of your trip. Typically, fees help pay for road construction and maintenance.
We don’t have any tollways here. Hawai‘i lawmakers considered building tollways on O‘ahu as recently as 2007, but it seems the rail project was selected as our traffic solution, and that was that.
Now, I’m not a fan of paying more for anything, but I will if it’ll save me time. I despise being late. We already allow motorcycles and electric vehicles with single passengers to use HOV lanes—why not expand that to include drivers who are willing to pay?
Of course, the more people use these lanes, the less effective they become, and we already have plenty of days when traffic is slow across every lane. Plus, there are legit concerns over price gouging, privatizing public roads, management, etc. But it’s one of many time-saving things that seem to work well elsewhere that maybe we should try here.
PhotoS: Aaron K. Yoshino
Another example: apps that show wait times. At Disneyland and California Adventure Park, I strategized by picking up fast passes for attractions with the longest waits, then hit a bunch of short-wait rides in the meantime across both parks to maximize my park-hopper ticket. What if local festivals and events had that? Or shave ice trucks? Last time I went to Shave Ice Tege Tege on Kaua‘i, I waited in line to order for an hour, even though there were only a few people ahead of me. (It was worth it, but I would’ve brought a book if I had known.)
In a similar vein, I was thrilled to find that a restaurant I went to for brunch in L.A. had a digital waiting list so you could check remotely how many parties were ahead of you in the queue. They still phone you when your table is ready but being able to check periodically without bothering the host meant I knew exactly how much time I could spend shopping or drinking cold brew at another café while I waited. I’d love to see more restaurants use that here.
I’m also a fan of digital roadway signs that show traffic times, and L.A. has a bunch. I recently noticed one on a drive from Ka‘a‘awa to Waimānalo, telling me it was 12 minutes to Nu‘uanu Avenue, and there are others across the island. They’re obviously most useful when posted in areas where you still have time to decide which route to take—should I get on the H-1 to go to UH, or head through Kaimukī? We could use this on every major highway.
Other things should go back to the Mainland, including dockless e-scooters and bikes. I get that they’re quicker than walking and it’s super convenient to drop them wherever you please, rather than spend time looking for an open docking station, but they’re a huge eyesore in every city I’ve seen them in, from L.A. to Portland to Seattle. Those are time-savers we just don’t need.