Hawaii’s poor forgotten on Farrington

A long, slow commute on Farrington Highway

A long, slow commute on Farrington Highway

Carol Forsloff—“That’s a long way to drive, isn’t it?” The young Walmart clerk looked surprised when I told her I live in “Makaha.  It is about 18 miles from Kapolei, the new city on Oahu and a 20 to 30 minute drive.  But in many ways, it is a forgotten area by people who live from the middle of the island, beginning at Kapolei and into Honolulu, just as occurs in other places where there are a preponderance of poor people, ignored when they need to be remembered in order to participate more fully in the overall economy.

The new rail system planned for Oahu that is supposed to allow speed trains to pick up passengers, then take them to town or areas closest to jobs, begins at the closest urban area to the Waianae Coast, which is Kapolei.  Makaha is the last town on the Leeward Coast, and therefore the most distant from where the rail is to begin.  The buses are normally full beginning in the early hours of the day and through the afternoon, with many people having to stand because of a lack of available seats by the time the bus reaches the Waianae Shopping Mall, about 10 minutes drive from Makaha Valley, then weaves around to pick up more passengers in back of the Mall near the terminal areas for the rural routes, before proceeding down Farrington Highway.  The bus trip can take more than 40 minutes to Kapolei most of the day.

For mainland people, traffic is often a problem and buses filled with folks who cannot drive or who have no car come through the poorer areas.  This means the distance and time it takes to get to work is longer for people who make the least money and need their jobs the most.  The closer an individual lives to the urban centers, the more expensive the housing becomes, especially on the island of Oahu where housing can be scarce and costly.

Despite the needs of the rural people, educational centers and special projects related to transportation often do not reach the people who need assistance the most.  People who lack jobs have transportation problems, long commutes and therefore long days away from family responsibilities.  This can lead to emotional and physical health problems that contribute to the difficulty poor people have in gaining a foothold into the middle class.

While there are new improvements to the roads and new housing being developed, the back roads of Waianae into Makaha remain cluttered with empty or dilapidated homes due to lack of jobs and the increasing commutes to the nearest employment centers.

Waianae boasts the highest percentage of Hawaiians on Oahu at 60% of the population.  These indigenous people are also among the most poor, even as the islands celebrate the Polynesian culture that is forgotten by politicians and planners when they should be promoting it instead.

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