This is fiction, but it could become fact.
Able was an artist. If it weren't for a Social Security disability check and food stamps, he would have been a starving artist. The disability didn't prevent him from painting and hustling the result. He wasn't that successful.
Able had a rust-bucket Maui cruiser good enough for runs to the grocery and other in-town errands. The ancient station wagon wasn't reliable enough for runs up the mountain over to the other side.
"When it conks out, I want to be close to home," he once said.
On this particular day, he had a hot lead on a possible customer. A friend told him there was a woman looking for a big painting to hang in her shop on Front Street. A drop-by visit to his place in Wailuku found him adding a decent aloha shirt to his paint-splattered shorts. Able called it his business outfit.
"Got to get over to Lahaina," he said.
"Need a ride?"
"Nah. I'm going public."
"Not this time. The bus takes too long, makes too many stops along the way. I'm taking the train." He grinned. "It's a great ride. Super views of the ocean and the mountains. I'm taking my camera. And, it's fast. I love barreling by those cars creeping along the highway."
The train had been talked about for years. It finally got built when someone remembered how the Central Maui transmission line was built. Without the water it carried from Waiehu, Kihei and Wailea would have stayed a lightly populated, desert wasteland.
Financing was a four-way deal. There was money appropriated by the Legislature after a lot of wrangling. The county came up with more funds. The remainder came from two South Maui developers with land and little prospect of selling or building.
The idea was picked up by a particularly courageous member of the County Council. Selling politicos and the public on the chance to give Maui a much-needed alternative to driving from the airport to Kapalua or Makena became a mission.
Airport landing fees funded a line from OGG to the Puunene hub. The airport trains would sail straight through on branches to Wailea on one side and Kapalua on the other. There was one short stop in Maalaea where a big parking lot was filled with cars driven that far by west side hotel and resort workers.
It was a rare tourist who turned down the chance to ride in air-conditioned comfort to a hotel or condo. Baggage was automatically transferred from plane to train to connecting buses on the other end. Once settled in, tourists could rent cars at the resort.
The Maui Rapid Transit train was a rubber-tired monorail. Tracks ran from pylon to pylon about 50 feet in the air. It was powered by electricity, most of it generated by the train's wheels, the rest from Maui Electric. Pretty ordinary technology. Under the tracks, which also carried storm-proof utility lines, the route was one long park except for the section through the pali. A narrow asphalt path on one side of the pylons was popular with runners and cyclists. On the other side, there was a horse trail.
In the pali section, the route ran above the old road perched above the modern road. At one time, the state Department of Highways talked about cantilevering two lanes out over the ocean or double-decking the Honoapiilani Highway. The train eliminated the need. The old road was made useable by bicycles, horses and human feet.
The MRT came in for its share of criticism. The ILWU hotel members swung the vote when they realized how much easier and cheaper it was to ride rather than drive to work. Workers in the construction trades also lobbied for the train.
The project, hailed by travel writers as a beautiful addition to the island, was financed with federal, state, county and private funds. Once convinced the train was a financial asset, the resorts chipped in. When the total ran short, the MRT board remembered how the Golden Gate Bridge was financed during the Great Depression and sold a limited number of shares to the public as an investment in Maui's future.
Able jumped into his cruiser. It coughed to life. He drove to a free parking lot outside the Puunene terminal. It took less than an hour on the train to make the run to Lahaina. Able was on his way to making a sale. Along the way he collected a series of Maui images he would turn into his most lucrative paintings.
You've just read a piece of fiction, but it could be fact.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.