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Island panel urges state to maintain Vashon’s ferry service

The Island’s ferry advisory committee has sent a letter to the state urging officials to consider the economic impact a reduction in ferry service would have on Vashon.

In a letter mailed this week, the committee told David Moseley, who heads Washington State Ferries, that the Island’s complete dependence on ferry service needs to be factored into any decision the governor and the Legislature make as they try to find a way to shore up the financially ailing system.

The state ferry system has crafted a draft long-range plan with two options — one of which, Option B, would entail a reduction in Vashon’s ferry service. Option A also proposes several operational changes — including a no-fee reservation system — but does not reduce Vashon’s level of service.

The Island’s ferry advisory committee said it will work with state officials to implement Option A. But because Option B would reduce service on both the north- and the south-end routes, the Vashon panel will “vigorously oppose” Plan B, should it take the form of a bill in the Legislature, the letter states.

“It would be absolutely disastrous for Vashon residents and our community,” the committee wrote.

The fact that hundreds of Islanders attended a meeting last week where Moseley discussed the two options underscores the ferry system’s importance on Vashon, the letter stated.

The economic impact of reduced service would be enormous on Vashon, the letter added.

“Forty percent of us commute off-Island for work; an increasing number of people commute to Vashon for work; our local businesses depend on delivery of goods from off-Island; and many people travel to Vashon to enjoy a getaway,” the letter states. “Our ridership base differs from that observed in your recent surveys; we are much more ferry dependent.”

Ferry officials will submit its draft proposal to the Legislature later this month. Last year, the Legislature told the ferry system to craft a proposal to address its ongoing fnancial troubles — a situation that stemmed from the Legislature’s decision to do away with Washington’s motor vehicle excise tax, which provided considerable funding to the ferry system.

Escalating fuel costs and the system’s aging fleet and capacity problems have added to the system’s financial woes.

The letter — signed by Greg Beardsley, Robert Brooks, Lynn Greiner, Bob Hawkins, Jake Jacobovitch, Alan Mendel, Vickie Mercer, Jan Stephens, Kari Ulatoski and Chet Whitman — acknowledges the system’s financial difficulties.

But, it adds, the system has a mandate to “develop a service program responsive to the needs of ferry customers. ... Plan B falls far short of reaching this goal.”

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