Part 5: Cars for Families with Children and Elders
High five! We’ve arrived at the last article in the series.
Hopefully, highlighting local lifestyles involving family, the outdoors, and dogs reveals higher density conflicts and the need for space and private vehicles in Hawaii.
Although walking is healthier than driving and mass transit has a lower carbon footprint, we need our cars to transport aged and disabled family members to medical appointments and children to after-school activities in a timely manner.
Families need cars for safety and time management
Families with after-school activities (usually sports, tutoring, and music lessons) have three consideration: food, equipment, and arriving on-time. Each is related to using a personal vehicle.
A typical family schedule:
2:15 p.m. school pau
2:30-4:00 p.m. pick-up, after-school snack, pick up instrument or other materials, drop off school stuff, change into uniform, drive to practice/Kumon/class
4:30-6:30 p.m. sports practice or one-hour class
Go home, bathe, eat dinner, do homework
Reasons parents or grandparents drive kids to activities
Activities are scheduled too close together to wait for the bus, eat, change, pick-up and drop-off what you need, and go. Kids younger than high school-aged don’t usually carry everything they need throughout the entire day.
Multiple kids have activities in different locations, i.e., baseball here and dance class there.
Athletes haul heavy water bottles and large, unwieldy equipment bags to practice. Biking to the field wearing such a bag harks back to the newspaper delivery boy days. Now imagine biking in hilly Pearl City, Kunia, Diamond Head, or Makakilo.
Rushing drivers (probably parents) who turn without looking for pedestrians and cyclists threaten the safety of kids who walk or bike to school and practice.
Because sports practice finishes after dark for two seasons, parents and grandparents feel safer driving kids.
Young athletes are sweaty, dirty, smelly, tired, and hungry after practice. Parents want them to go home, bathe, and eat as quickly as possible so they can get ready for the next day.
They are also less alert when tired and hungry and should not get on the bus with strangers or in an Uber or Lyft, alone with one stranger.
Kids often eat and change in the car. They can’t do this in public transport or in an Uber or Lyft vehicle.
What about the need for quick and flexible family transportation?
Apparently, not even urban planning experts have quite figured it out. How does higher density living work for families? I asked Allison Arieff, Editorial Director of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). She uses BART (San Francisco’s light rail system) for most things and carpools for her kids’ activities. Hmmm, carpooling still uses cars.
Kupuna have places to go too
My 97-year-old mother-in-law is a busy lady! She wants to go to the bank, the dentist, the market, another bank, another market, and Longs, all on the same day. Her daughter is her driver, advocate, and medical translator.
Popo and my sister-in-law could travel via TheHandi-Van or bus but it would take forever and they have so much to carry!
They bring a rolling cart for groceries in Chinatown and a cooler in the back of the car to keep raw meat and fish from spoiling. This is not a quick trip with easily transported items.
Don’t forget the wheelchair.
Taking Popo out is a Big Deal. I’m getting exhausted writing about it.
The older generation also prefers to use cash and I don’t want your mom or mine getting on the bus or in an Uber driver’s vehicle with wads of cash.
Little kids and elderly need clean, easily accessible bathrooms for frequent handwashing and emptying small or finicky bladders. Banks, markets, and stores often don’t have public restrooms and public transportation has long wait times.
I remember one aunty was distraught over missing TheHandi-Van because the driver did not wait for her to get to the pick-up point in the hot sun, and the next one wasn’t due for four hours.
So, they need to get in their car and head over to their destination immediately after using the bathroom and leaving the house.
Locals love to grind (eat plenty) with our family and friends: after our kids’ games, tailgating at UH football games, at funerals and weddings, graduation, and baby luaus.
You name it, we bring food. (I love this about Hawaii and compensate poor food-prep skills with excellent fill-my-opu skills.)
We made Costco in Iwilei the busiest Costco in the world with our love of food, family, and finding a good deal. You don’t want to haul all that toilet paper, steak, kakimochi, and the new HDTV with you on the bus!
This all sounds nitpicky and specific, but this is the reality of middle-class family life in Hawaii. We manage with the help of family and friends.
Taking all these things into account, higher density housing and mixed-use buildings seem best suited for hipsters, not families or the elderly.
Even in neighborhoods with centrally located activity and town centers like Manoa and Mililani residents still drive to sports practice, the bank, and the library for safety, convenience, and time-savings.
Locals like living together, helping each other out, and seeing the grandkids.
If we have the space, if we have the money, we work it out.
Transplants, people who wish to avoid the commute, and those who want more privacy live away from family. On paper, without considering ohana culture, higher density housing seems like a good idea.
Planners are not thinking about how people really live and thrive. Multi-generational living and legally renovating houses to create separate spaces for rentals, as locals have been doing for years, increases housing density while fitting our needs.
What housing solutions do you see in Hawaii’s future? What type of housing do you prefer?