PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Pearl Harbor perks are being axed due to the fiscal war in Washington. Cutbacks are leaving visitors and military families deeply disappointed.
One service that will soon be ending is a water taxi at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Once the shuttle is gone, there will be more commuters on the H-1. The gray boat taxi shuttles people with a military ID between Iroquois Point in West Loch and a landing across the Pearl Harbor channel. The 20-minute boat ride allows them to avoid rush hour gridlock on the freeway, but the last day of the free service will be March 18th because of forced federal spending cuts.
"The water taxi service that we have is not a validated requirement, and so as we've looked at our financial picture, we made a determination that it was in our best interest to eliminate the service," explained joint base commander Captain Jeff James.
Roughly 150 to 200 people use the shuttle daily during the work week, according to the Navy. The military pays the bill for the drivers, fuel, and maintenance of the vessels. Several riders posted Facebook pleas hoping to save the service. Some even offered to pay a fare, but Navy officials said there were no other options.
"There has been some form of a water taxi here in Pearl Harbor that goes back decades, but transportation from residences to places of work is essentially a personal responsibility," said James.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is also suffering since the National Park Service will delay filling key positions. The facility will close at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. starting on March 6. The boats that shuttle people to the USS Arizona Memorial will stop running at 1:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m. due to sequestration.
"Hopefully, they're letting people know, otherwise it's going to be pretty unfortunate for people hoping to come visit cause it's an awesome experience," said Los Angeles visitor Katie Hernandez.
"It sucks cause you would think something like this wouldn't be cut cause it's such an important event in our history. You think this would be the last thing to get cut. It's really surprising," said Los Angeles visitor Nicholas Gatti.
The Department of Defense is also looking at closing military commissaries one extra day a week. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam also cut back on cable television service in common areas like gyms and lounges.