Interisland ferry issues bigger than Superferry May 18th, 2009 by David Shapiro
Many in the community still have hope that the Hawaii Superferry will be back after legal and environmental issues are resolved.
But chances of that happening seem dim with the Superferry auctioning off its physical belongings and canceling its leases on O'ahu and Maui while its two ships are being refitted in Alabama for other duty.
It's too bad; without getting into the complex question of who was to blame for its messy departure, the Superferry offered valuable travel and shipping options to local residents and businesses and deserved a fair chance to prove whether it was economically viable.
UH law professor emeritus Dick Miller and Betty Sugarman make an interesting argument that in an island state like ours, a ferry is effectively part of the highway system and the state has a responsibility to promote ferry service between the islands whether the Superferry returns or not.
"Providing an inexpensive, reliable, and reasonably frequent way for members of the public to travel between our islands is almost as much a need and as much a compelling governmental obligation as providing safe, uncongested highways, and as providing rail service for residents of O’ahu," they argue.
"Of all the states, only Hawai’i’s landmass is divided so significantly among several islands. The ability that most citizens of other states have to visit other areas within their state by just hopping into their vehicles is just not available to us. Nor can our businesses inexpensively transport their products to islands other than the one on which they are located.
"To serve these needs the closest equivalent to a highway system would be inexpensive, reliable, and regular ferry service. It is the state’s job to fulfill this responsibility, just as all states assume responsibility for highways."
We're in the throes of battle fatigue from the Superferry conflict and nobody is likely to take up the cause anytime soon, but for the long term, Miller and Sugarman make good sense...
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