Opinion

Continued feedback is needed for ferry service | Editorial

Islanders should consider joining the Ferry Riders’ Opinion Group (FROG) to help shape the future of the state ferry system.

During the height of the recent legislative session, The Beachcomber, along with the Island’s ferry advocates, urged Vashon residents to press state lawmakers to fully fund the ferry system. Many did so by signing petitions and writing letters, and some donated their time to Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee and lobbied in Olympia.

Thanks in part to those efforts, and the efforts of other ferry-dependent communities across the region, lawmakers avoided deep cuts to ferry runs and funded the ferry system through June of next year.

However, the victory doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels. We should continue to voice our opinions about the ferries, knowing that when we speak out loudly enough, those in power listen.

There’s a way Islanders can influence important decisions made about the ferries without taking time to compose a letter or travel to Olympia. The Washington State Transportation Commission recently launched its biennial ferry rider survey, an online questionnaire that asks ferry riders how they use the ferries and collects feedback on topics such as route schedules, fare prices and fare collection. (see story, page 5) Islanders need only join FROG onlineto be emailed the survey later this month. Information collected in the survey will be used by a range of officials and elected leaders who make decisions about the ferry system.

Aside from the continued search for permanent ferry funding, much is still happening that could affect our experience on the boat. This issue of The Beachcomber includes an article on Vashon’s two oldest ferries, which are having mechanical problems that will prevent them from keeping up during the very busiest times of the year. Since these aging ferries are slated to be replaced, WSF is unsure if it will repair them.

Three new 144-car ferries are needed to replace the aging Evergreen State fleet; two of them will go to Vashon. However, funding has only been secured for two of the boats, and Islanders should urge the state to prioritize funding the final boat’s construction.

What’s more, the state is also considering significant changes to how fares are calculated and collected. Officials are looking at a plan that would involve charging vehicles by the foot while passengers and walk-ons ride free. Whether that sounds to you like a spot-on idea or a big mistake, the state can only make the best decision with feedback from those on the water every day.

We encourage those Islanders who are already a part of FROG, as well as those who would be new to the group, to take a few minutes this month to tell the state about their experiences with the ferries and their preferences for the future. It’s an easy way to influence the future of the ferry system we rely on so heavily.

 

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