City efforts to make Chinatown walkable irk some merchants, drivers

Chinatown road changes were made for pedestrian safety, though not everyone is happy about them
Published: Jun. 26, 2017 at 10:00 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 27, 2017 at 2:48 PM HST
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CHINATOWN (HawaiiNewsNow) - Drivers are still adjusting to changes at several key intersections in Chinatown, where the city says it is trying to boost pedestrian safety.

But not everyone is thrilled about the project.

Crews have already installed bulb-outs that extend the curb about 7 feet into the roadway at four intersections in Chinatown. Three of them are along Pauahi Street; the city says the project came about based on feedback from the community.

"I'm excited to see the changes. It definitely seems like it's safer to cross the street, but making you work a little harder to drop things off, pick things up in front of the store," said Missy Owens, owner of Owens & Co.

Other businesses dislike the changes. The manager for takeout restaurant Char Hung Sut said delivery trucks now struggle to find parking, and customers can no longer pull up in front to run in.

"Everybody has been telling me how awful it is," said manager Jillian Jakahi. "Every customer says, 'Oh, there's no parking. We can't come to your place. We had to park two blocks away,'"

A city spokesman said the project did not remove any legal parking stalls.

"The reality is, those spots are illegal for a reason. The reason is, it blocks the line of sight of crossing pedestrians, and so you have that instance where a pedestrian tries to step out and they have to peek around the car," said Michael Packard, the city's Complete Streets coordinator.

Some people have complained that new signs that say "No Turns" except for cars, small vans and pickup trucks are confusing. Packard said the signage is for large vehicles that can no longer make the tight turns without crossing over the center line.

"The end goal is ultimately sidewalk extensions that take the concrete and extend them out there, but before we get there, we really wanted to test these things out, see how they work. see if adjustments and changes need to be made," he explained.

The bulb-outs include planters as well as bike corrals to meet the demand for additional bicycle parking. The city plans to install new signs to help people navigate through the neighborhood.

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