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Public process for ferries worked in our favor | Editorial

The ferry proposal we learned of last week is drastically different than the one first proposed by the state last year. Rather than overhauling the north-end schedule, the new proposal seems to reflect the community’s desire for even better service on the triangle route, which has frequent delays. We hope state lawmakers will now follow suit and approve the funds that will make this plan work.

This fall one of Vashon’s smaller ferries will be replaced with a larger one, giving the route greater overall vehicle capacity. Ferry officials initially said the boat swap would be a good time to add space between sailings on a route known for falling behind schedule easily. They proposed cutting several sailings a day and spacing out the remaining ones. While the state never released an official proposed schedule, some of Vashon’s volunteer ferry advocates leaked some draft schedules that showed wholesale rewrites on the triangle route the volunteers believed would be bad news for commuters and other ferry riders. They and other islanders cried foul, saying the frequent delays on the route should be addressed not by reducing runs but by improving the slow ticketing, loading and unloading at the Fauntleroy dock.

We reported the situation but didn’t hold our breath that the state would “fix Fauntleroy first” as some islanders demanded. At a well attended public meeting on the plan, however, officials vowed to do what they could to address islanders’ concerns, and now it appears they have. A proposed schedule released last week alters sailings by just 5 minutes one way or the other and deletes only a mid-day sailing from Southworth to Vashon. To make the plan work and to alleviate ferry delays, the state has requested funding to put more workers at the Fauntleroy dock and replace the state patrol cadet that was once positioned there to direct traffic, all things that should make dock operations go more smoothly and allow the ferries to catch up after delays. Should the state fund the positions, Vashon will be set for better ferry service, with a larger boat on the north end as well as quicker operations at the dock.

Sometimes government officials seem to hold meetings and take comments when they’ve already decided what they’re going to do. Washington State Ferries, however, has shown us that they’re able to listen and that sometimes the public process can work in our favor. To make this new and improved proposal work as intended, lawmakers in Olympia will have to approve the funding for more ferry and state patrol workers. While one Vashon representative has already said he believes the plan will have support, state Republicans, which have control in the Senate, have historically hesitated to fund transportation initiatives. We hope the importance of good service on this route is understood in Olympia and that WSF’s plan will come to fruition this fall.

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