Community

Officials tell concerned ferry riders they’ll look to remedy situation at Fauntleroy

By NATALIE MARTIN

Nearly 100 islanders showed up at a Washington State Ferries meeting last week, largely to express concern over a state proposal to rewrite the north-end ferry schedule.

The state announced in September that it will add a larger ferry to the north-end triangle route next fall and at the same time eliminate some runs throughout the day, adding more space between the remaining runs. The new boat configuration and sailing schedule, officials say, will allow the ferries to carry the same number of cars or more throughout the day while more easily keeping to the schedule on a route that has become known for frequently falling behind.

“We want to do something that improves the schedule and increases capacity,” said WSF director David Moseley at the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at McMurray Middle School

While public comments at the meeting — one of the ferry systems biannual community meetings — ran the gamut, many islanders said they were concerned the new schedule would be less convenient and result in longer waits at the dock.

“If you do the schedule you’re looking at now, the line is going to be backed up to Morgan Junction,” said Trudy Rosemarin.

Many who commented suggested the state could accomplish the same thing by making changes at the Fauntleroy ferry dock. Loading and unloading, they suggested, could be done faster if there were a state patrol cadet directing traffic again at the end of the dock and if cars could be processed more quickly through the toll booths. Some also noted their frustration when the ferry leaves on time but with cars waiting at the dock and room on board, and several people said they were worried about safety at Fauntleroy as offloading cars entered busy traffic on Fauntleroy Way without direction from a cadet.

Moseley and WSF Planning Director Ray Deardorf defended the schedule rewrite, saying the current schedule has been problematic for years and the change made sense as the new boat — which will also take more time to load and unload — is added to the route.

However, in what some ferry service advocates called a welcome turn, the state officials said they would plan to maintain the current schedule during peak commute times and only cut runs during non-commute hours.

“There will be a lot more options we look at between now and April,” Moseley said, referencing when the state plans to present a proposed schedule. Many islanders have seen draft schedules leaked by ferry advocates that show a complete schedule overhaul, something Moseley said at the meeting is now off the table.

And while the ferry representatives noted some factors at Fauntleroy are out of the state’s control — such as the state patrol’s de-funding of the cadet that directed traffic and the Metro bus stop located at the busy intersection — WSF would work to find some solutions.

Moseley said he would look for state funding to replace the cadet, a cost of about $320,000 a year, and to add more staff to process cars at the dock, a cost of about $150,000 a year.

“We know that we heard from the community … that looking at ways to make the Fauntleroy dock work better is important to commuters and important to users of this route,” Moseley said. “We hope we can achieve some success in the budget coming up for 2014.”

Greg Beardsley, the chair of Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee who has fought against the schedule change, said he still believes the state should make changes at Fauntleroy before proposing a different schedule, but he also was pleased with what he called an apparent “change of heart” on behalf of ferry officials, who in the past have not seemed as open to examining problems at the dock, he said.

“We’ve been talking about fixing Fauntleroy for a great number of years and not much has happened,” he said. “I don’t blame David (Moseley) completely. He hasn’t been given the tools and money to do a lot of things.”

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