While Honolulu may have been tagged as having some of the worst traffic in the nation, the gridlock occurring on Oahu’s North Shore—specifically in front of Laniakea—has left many North Shore residents fuming. Much of the traffic at Lanis is credited to the flocks of tourists indiscriminately crossing the streets to catch a glimpse of the Hawaiian sea turtles that frequent the beach. As a result, traffic grinds to a halt at Lanis in both directions, turning what should be a 10-minute commute from Sunset to Haleiwa into a trek that could last 45 minutes.
“I understand how beautiful Hawaii can be to tourists seeing it for the first time and I know just how important tourism is to our islands. But the traffic from the tour groups at Lanis has gotten absolutely ridiculous,” said the North Shore’s Fred Patacchia. “I literally won’t go to Haleiwa during the day because I don’t want to spend almost an hour-and-a-half of my day sitting in traffic to go a few miles.”
In response to the growing complaints from North Shore residents, state transportation officials created a 19-member task force equipped with a $1.7-million-dollar budget to study the issue and provide recommendations. After 18 months, their proposed solution was to remove parking altogether at Lanis.
“I’m kind of baffled that that was the best solution that they could have come up with. It almost seems like a knee-jerk answer. If this proposal becomes a reality, it’s not going to go over very well with surfers, who I don’t think are really contributing to the problem all that much,” added Patacchia. “I don’t have an answer on how to fix it, but I know that there’s got to be something with a little more forethought than simply blocking off the parking area completely.”
In a story reported in the Star-Advertiser, Doug Cole, an executive member at the North Shore Community Land Trust, also questioned the thought process behind the proposed plan to close off the parking lot.
“It’s good that people [tourists] are getting out there and enjoying a beautiful place,” said Cole. “But by eliminating parking at the area you’re not just stopping visitors from accessing the beach, you’re stopping residents of this island. I don’t think that’s right.”
To balance the needs of local North Shore residents while simultaneously promoting tourism in the area, it’s clear that transportation officials will need to go back to the drawing board and find a solution that not only alleviates the traffic for local residents, but also allows tourists and surfers easy access to some of the North Shore’s most iconic beaches.