This Space for Rent

Sometime I just can’t

I’m been, for the last 20 or so years, a life member of the Hawaiian Railway Society, so I’ve been able to watch (increasingly from afar as I am no longer a well-to-do computer programmer) how the society is keeping the last bits of the OR&N functional. Mainly via the society’s newsletter (the website is, um, not useful), so sometimes the news is useful, other times it is not.

Recently, HDOT decided that they wanted to expand a suburban street (a new suburb; HRS’s yard & shops are at the Ewa (island directions; from Honolulu, you go either Diamond Head (anti-clockwise) or Ewa (clockwise) along the coast. The directions get a bit wonky when you overshoot the offending landmarks) side of Ewa (light farming & Barbers Point NAS) but as Oahu built up the farmland & the NAS were converted to subdivisions, so of course the DOT wanted to build More! More! More! roads because G-d knows that Oahu doesn’t have enough traffic already. And where to put the road? There was a big wide open space just Ewa of Ewa with the HRS’s yard on the Diamond Head side, so of course HDOT proposed to route a new surface (no bridge, of course, for reasons) road through the Ewa end of the yard.

Land is hideously expensive on Oahu, so having the yard condemned out from under the HRS would have been a complete disaster. So the HRS swung into action and went into full complainy mode about it, and when the governor caught wind of it he (as best as I can tell from the article in the HRS newsletter) told HDOT not to be stupid and not to do it under his watch. (And, for heaven’s sake, there’s an El being built just a couple of miles east; there’s absolutely no reason to make it easier for people to drive up to H1 and sit in a parking lot when they can just hop on the El and ride into town.)

This was announced in the most recent HRS newsletter, which was good to know, but then for some completely unknown reason the reporter lunged off into conspiracy theory land and started reporting that “some government bodies” were trying to do some unspecified evil things to the HRS and that “we can’t afford to relax”. No details, not one bit. Just “some goverment bodies” which are “trying to tell” the HRS how to do MOW. Very much unlike the issue with HDOT, where the government agency was mentioned and the offending action was described.

Jesus, Ahahele I Ke Ka`Aahi-editor, what’s the point of letting this sort of vague McCarthyesq insinuations take up column inches when you could instead of said more about HDOT being told to stop or even explicitly mentioned the alleged government bodies and their alleged demands about how the HRS should do MOW.

So I sent the HRS a piece of mail asking if they could just not do this shit:

In the “Thank You! You did it!” article there’s a vague ominous mention about “some government bodies” trying to tell HRS how to do MOW. It’s implied that these anonymous government forces are trying to drive HRS out of business, but it could just as easily be that someone forwarded a best practices document along to the HRS (because it’s not the only railroad in the state) or that there’s an issue with damaged rail/suspiciously sourced ballast that came to this conveniently anonymous government agency, or even a note from the department of labor about ergonomics.

Whatever the case may be, I don’t think this is particularly useful because it says nothing. It’s very much unlike mentioning that the DOT was saying “hey, nobody will miss the last island gauge railroad yard on Oahu so let’s just shove this city street across it”, because in that case the HRS said what this problem was and how to deal with it. Here, it’s just “be afraid”, but of what nobody knows about what.

If there is actually a problem, please please please say what is it, and where it’s coming from, and then the membership actually has a fighting chance of being able to do something productive about it. “We can’t afford to relax”, indeed. We can’t afford to come across as a bunch of poorly-informed anti-government lunatics when we’re preserving an important part of colonial Hawaiian history.

-david parsons, 662-L