Opinion

Another ferry survey is in the works

Remember that 12-page ferry customer survey two years ago? Many people were unable to participate in it because it was done on a hit-or-miss basis while people waited for the ferry.

Now, the Washington State Transportation Commission is considering surveying ferry customers again, and this time, its approach is actually forward-thinking and a remarkable departure from past unsuccessful practices.

The State Transportation Commission is appointed by the governor to address transportation issues throughout the state.  The Transportation Commission provides a public forum for transportation policy development. It reviews and evaluates how the entire transportation system works across the state and issues the state’s 20-year transportation plan. As the state tolling authority, the commission also sets tolls for state highways and bridges and fares for Washington State Ferries. 

I am cautiously optimistic about what the commission is building in the way of an information database. The beauty of its approach is that it will provide hard data, accessible by not only the Transportation Commis-sion, but by legislators and other agencies. Think how this will affect decision-making!

 The commission is working to create both online and paper surveys so that people who heretofore weren’t able to participate in surveys will be able to do so.  Anyone can participate on a first-come-first-served basis. 

The survey was just launched; you can enroll and take it at www.ferryridersopiniongroup.com.

Staff will be distributing announcements on the ferry with the address of where to request the paper versions as well. Some of the questions may be omitted in the paper version because of complexity, so people will be encouraged to participate online.  

Here are some of the commission’s objectives:

• Develop a database of at least 14,000 participants willing to provide feedback on an on-going basis. (Count me in!)

• Send out short focused e-mail/Web surveys on a variety of issues about every three months or so, instead of just twice a year to those who just happen to be riding the ferries at the right time.

• Create route-specific databases to see the needs of each ferry community

• Eventually, provide a way to capture data from a wider variety of ferry users, including groups like retirees, those who attend school on and off island, commercial and business users who don’t use the ferries daily but are dependent on them for their businesses AND potential ferry users

• As more participants join, they can, once they fill out the initial demographic survey, choose online to participate in any of the previous surveys that are still open to more feedback

Some of the potential general areas of interest that they could explore in the surveys include:

• Pricing

• e-ticketing

• Dock operations 

• Transit connections

• Capital improvements

• Funding issues

• Local government

I strongly urge everyone to visit ferryridersopiniongroup.com, select your top 10 to 15 items and add any other suggestions.

— Kari Ulatoski chairs Vashon’s Ferry Outreach and Advocacy Committee.

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