Support Vashon’s ferry service at public meeting

On Thursday, Dec. 9 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Vashon High School, officials from Washington State Ferries (WSF) will visit Vashon. Among other things, they will present a potentially devastating proposal to cut our ferry service.

As was the case two years ago, the governor has ordered a reduction of service system-wide to help balance the budget. As totally ferry dependent communities, the San Juan Islands and Vashon Island will bear the brunt of these reductions.

We need to have as great a turnout for the meeting as we did two years ago! We need to overfill the room at Vashon High School to show our dislike of the governor’s proposal.

Currently, the only way WSF can meet the governor’s demand is to downsize our ferry system enough to remove a Super Class ferry from service. For Vashon, this means the Evergreen State will replace the Issaquah on the north-end dock. The loss of the Issaquah will mean a 30 percent cut in service for Vashon in the morning and evening. This equates to over 700 vehicle spaces being removed daily.

On the south end, the runs added last year will be taken away.

At the beginning of the meeting, as Ferry Advisory Committee chair, I will take a straw vote. The question is: Does the majority support the existing schedule, with some boats off the posted times, or would you rather lose three round trips each day? This would mean an additional 500 vehicle spaces not including the 700 we lose with removing the Issaquah!

The issue we need to bring up is that the Evergreen State cannot keep the current schedule due to its age and wear and tear. This will mandate a loss of three additional round trips each day. That, plus the need to balance capacity with Southworth, will require changing the schedule to the 16 hours of daily operation mandated by the state Legislature.

My biggest bone of contention is that WSF has been required to make a 4 percent cut in its operating budget — or $18 million. We, the users, pay for 65 percent of the operating costs in tariffs. The current proposal does not take that into consideration.

Cuts should be made only from the 35 percent the ferry riders don’t pay for. Based on that premise, only $3 million would be cut, not $18 million. Additionally, the ferry system has cut more than $50 million over the past two years and is not getting any credit for all that effort.

I want to remind everyone that this proposal was directed by the governor and is not what the ferry system wants to do. It will be important to make the governor know how we feel again. Please remember that shooting the messenger does not help in this case. There will be time for questions and comments during the meeting.

If you cannot get into the room, as was the situation for some Islanders two years ago, please sign in and make comments so we can convey the message that we do not support the service cuts.

— Greg Beardsley is the chair of Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee.

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