Wednesday, March 12, 2008

HI Superferry: Locals Perspective on HSF

Yesterday's commentary on HSF by Lee Cataluna in the Honolulu Advertiser struck me as a pretty good example of the local perspective on HSF. Locals will give almost anything a chance, but I believe their patience as prospective consumers of this service was worn thin on this at the end of January-early February when the ridership declined to almost nothing. More comments below. Here is Lee Cataluna's commentary:
Posted on: Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"Lessons of history lost on Superferry"
By Lee Cataluna Advertiser Columnist

"In just a matter of months, the Hawaii Superferry has gone from heavy hype and polished promises to weather-beaten underdog status.

The Alakai is sitting in drydock undergoing repairs like a formerly promising race horse back at the farm healing shin splints. The vessel has been there since the middle of February and is estimated to stay there through most of April.

Didn't Superferry officials say they would have to take their business elsewhere if they stayed out of service for very long? Hmmm.

It was just last October when the Superferry execs were warning state lawmakers that if they didn't get back in the water soon, all would be lost. Close to 250 workers were laid off while court orders kept the Alakai from making interisland runs.

State lawmakers went into special session for the Superferry to enact legislation to allow it to operate while it proved its operations weren't going to harm the environment. Special session, because it couldn't wait until January when the regular session opened. Nope, time was of the essence.

And now, look. Waiting, idling, extended relaunch dates. It wasn't surfers in Nawiliwili Harbor or sign wavers on Maui who stopped the Superferry this time. It was the ocean and the vessel's design.

A mean person might declare "bachi," but that would be kicking them when they're down. Still, even a Superferry fan would have to acknowledge that fate sure caught up to the hype.
Turns out the Alakai isn't as unaffected by Hawai'i's notoriously rough winter seas as was promised.

Turns out it can actually stay in business through an extended waiting period while stuff gets worked out.

Turns out even on a calm ocean, the ride can be a queasy challenge even with Dramamine and the wrist bands.

Turns out when you take your car over to Maui but have to fly back to O'ahu, your car doesn't come home with you.

Perhaps Superferry, in its excitement to do something brand new and big, forgot to pay attention to the lessons of history.

1. Starting a new business in Hawai'i is tough.
2. You should probably make sure all the legal stuff is taken care of before you embark on, well, anything.
3. Hawai'i doesn't have winter, but it sure has winter surf.
4. Never assume you're exempt to any of the above conditions."

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. END ARTICLE

It's time to move it to Puget Sound, guys. There was another good AP article about the Washington ferries yesterday. It mentioned a quarter of all ferry ridership in the U.S. is in Washington state. There's your market, guys...not the rough year-around channel waters of HI. Do what you gotta do to fix it in drydock and move this one and the next one to Washington.

Hawaii can find another ferry company with half the gas guzzelling engine power and speed of these ferries to make use of the $40 million dollars in facilities we are stuck with. Let's just be honest, Linda Lingle does not have experience in picking marriage partners of any kin. Let's just make this an amicable divorce.

Aloha, Brad

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