In the last couple of weeks, talk has started again about a ferry system for Hawaii.
Sen. Daniel Inouye started the discussion when he told Civil Beat that he still had dreams for "a reasonable ferry system that one can afford to pay (for)."
The senator acknowledged there would have to be federal involvement, saying the Department of Defense should have a "stake in it." The current budget crunch could delay any federal participation, but Inouye envisions help in a couple of years.
Inouye believes a ferry system would be a boon to the state.
"We have islands that are separate," Inouye is quoted as saying in the story. "Politically, that's what I want to be able to change, at least with a transportation system. We're going to get one."
We, of course, backed the last attempt at such a system, the Superferry. That failure showed that any new system would require a cooperation of the state, the feds and private enterprise.
The benefits are obvious: Farmers and crafters can get their products to other islands quickly and inexpensively; families would be able to travel interisland affordably; there would be the ability to conduct business between islands in real time; and, as Sen. Inouye envisions it, some folks may even be able to live on one island while working on another.
We remember a Maui family packing up the car with their son's belongings, going by ferry to Oahu, driving to UH-Manoa, unloading the belongings at a dorm and returning home that night.
Simple, affordable and efficient.
Any business plan for a new ferry system, though, will have to learn the lessons of the failure of the Superferry. An environmental impact statement has to be done before it sails (as the environmentalists proved last time, it doesn't matter if the airlines and other maritime interests didn't have to prepare EIS's). The operating costs of the vessels have to be supportable by the revenues that can be generated. That probably means smaller ferries.
The benefits make it worth exploring. But, it is not a slam-dunk that a ferry system can can float in Hawaii's waters.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.