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WSF staff come to Vashon May 5 for Q&A on ferry issues

Islanders will have a chance to meet and speak with high-ranking officials from Washington State Ferries at a May 5 community meeting.

Ferry staff plan to discuss issues currently facing the large transit agency, including new vessel construction, on-time boat departures, the vehicle reservation system and planning for emergencies.

Attendees at the meeting will have a chance to chime in and voice their opinions or concerns.

Some issues, like the vehicle reservation system, won’t impact Vashon travelers much because there are no plans to implement such a system at the Vashon, Fauntleroy, Tahlequah or Point Defiance ferry terminals. But other issues could affect the ferry service to and from Vashon Island.

Though few Islanders have heard of the ferry system’s “emergency service planning,” it’s one of the most important ferry issues now facing Vashon residents, said Greg Beardsley, who chairs Vashon’s ferry advisory committee.

If certain vessels are unable to complete their routes, the ferry system’s emergency plans call for a shuffling of vessels that could leave the Vashon-Fauntleroy-Southworth route with two boats instead of three and the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route served by the Hiyu, a tiny ferry that can carry only 34 vehicles.

“Their plan is not very friendly to our routes,” Beardsley said. “Basically, if a boat goes down somewhere else, (the north-end) route could lose one.”

Another issue that Islanders should pay attention to is the ferry system’s plans to increase on-time service, he added. Since delayed vessels pose problems for workers as well as ferry riders who have schedules to keep, Washington State Ferries is considering cutting one or a few departure times from certain routes in an effort to make sure more boats leave on time.

But Beardsley said cutting even one ferry departure on local routes could mean trouble for ferry riders to and from Vashon.

“If we lose one, two or three routes a day, we’re going to have a lot more trouble getting folks back and forth,” he said.

Ferry officials, including ferry chief David Moseley, will visit Vashon for a community meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 5, at McMurray Middle School.

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