Opinion

WSF reservation system on Vashon may work

But the Fauntleroy and Vashon docks pose challenges

Would a ferry reservation system work for Vashon? The Transportation Commission, appointed by the governor, has been pushing this approach to find ways to fund the ferry system.

Washington State Ferries (WSF) was mandated to ask the question, given the traffic congestion at a number of ferry docks and the challenge of filling every boat to capacity. And how can they do this andkeep ferry tolls reasonable (which they aren’t now)?

It was obvious that a presenter at a June 25 ferry meeting had little understanding of the situation at Fauntleroy or the challenges of the Vashon/Southworth/Fauntleroy triangle run. References to Coleman Dock in Seattle rather than to our own docks and those at Fauntleroy and Point Defiance did nothing to instill a sense of confidence in how a ferry reservation system would work for our Island.

The 35 or more residents that took time to attend on that beautiful evening (instead of going to the first concert at Ober Park or other outdoor activities) really deserve our thanks. Attendees broke into smaller groups and, as discussion ensued, the reservation system gained some momentum. There was quite a spectrum of opinion.

I was highly skeptical of any reservation system because of the underlying challenges faced by the Fauntleroy dock and the lack of reliable service on the south end.

Lack of a holding place on the dock, the prospect of tourists taking precedence over residents, the potential of an additional surcharge on a single ticket that costs over $18 without a much-needed commuter discount, and the potential that we would be in competition for space with those that needed to depart the Island daily to earn their mortgages were just a few of my concerns. That and the inadequate explanation by the consultant left me pretty ambivalent.

It wasn’t until after the meeting, when I talked to those who had been at David Moseley’s table and read e-mails from those who kindly sent me their notes, that I began to see the positive side. After all, could it get any worse?

Here are some of the benefits to a possible reservation system (not costing us any more money): filling each boat to capacity (making WSF more money, I hope); those with commitments off-Island wouldn’t have to plan two to three ferries ahead; payment over the telephone, either full fare or using discounted cards (penalty for no-shows would be a deduction?); weekends wouldn’t be two-hour nightmares; and reservations could be limited to a certain percentage of each boat.

Reluctantly, I’m now considering the possibility of how this might work. We need to work closely with WSF to come up with a reservation system tailored to our ferry-dependent community.

What if we tried a couple of different “pilot” tests? WSF would have to gather some data on our specific runs, not combine our numbers with Southworth, to work out an equitable arrangement. The ability to drive up to the dock instead of waiting in a long line of mixed Vashon and Southworth cars on Vashon would be essential.

If WSF did their homework and we worked together to find a way to offer a real service to our residents, based on real data from the cameras they are installing, can there be a solution without increasing capacity?

I propose we invite the consultant and WSF over (after they have studied the situations at Fauntleroy and Point Defiance) and we work on finding a solution. It has to work with public transportation, too, providing reasonable alternatives to those not working directly downtown on a daily basis.

Is a reservation system a good idea? Would it work on Vashon? The response is a resounding … maybe!

Kari Ulatoski chairs the community council’s transportation committee. Islanders interested in ferry and transportation issues should e-mail her at kulatoski@centurytel.net to be added to the Vashon transportation outreach e-mail list.

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