Ferry altercation must be low point for Triangle Route

For now, we can let this busy season wind down and continue pushing for change — not one another.

  • Wednesday, August 28, 2019 9:50am
  • Opinion

The scene on the Fauntleroy dock on Saturday was certainly a low point for Triangle Route travelers, with three men and a gun in a potentially life or death skirmish. Let’s make a pact that we will all do our best to prevent anything close to that from happening again.

The incident, fueled by pent up frustration with Washington State Ferries (WSF), the rudeness of line cutters and bad decisions all around, resulted in an arrest — but it could so easily have ended in tragedy.

News of the incident appeared on Facebook while it was still happening, and comments streamed in, several blaming Washington State Ferries. Just a month ago, in this very space, we cautioned about health and safety improvements needed at the Fauntleroy line, including port-a-potties and a beefed up police presence to help with traffic at peak flow — and peak problems. That column even included comments from a WSF employee expressing concern about the unsafe line on a particular Friday, with people out of their cars waiving fists in each other’s faces and Metro buses driving into the oncoming lane to get through. There is concern all around, and yet, here we are, with a few more days of summer traffic still to go and what many have feared for a long time taking place: an angry man with a gun in the middle of a fight, cars and people all around on a beautiful summer Saturday afternoon.

The thing is, it’s easy to blame Washington State Ferries for some of its actions and inactions on this troublesome route. But change from them is not coming any time soon, so we likely have to seek change ourselves.

Of course change might be easier if we had a Community Council complete with a Public Safety Committee and members who could study the problem and recommend solutions. But we don’t. Still, we have a lot: smart people who care deeply about the island, a Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee with monthly meetings open to the public, and a director of the county’s new Local Services Department who indicated he is open to helping with Ferries. In fact, last January, he addressed the issue directly.

“On ferries and all issues, we can always be a voice for unincorporated issues,” he said.

We can hold him to that.

For now, we can let this busy season wind down and work toward making requests for next summer, complete with funding proposals and the assistance of our legislators in Olympia. What is that we want? Signage? Increased police presence? A reservation system? A miracle and the return of the bypass lane?

WSF spokesman Ian Sterling provided the statistics regarding line cutters since 2017, system wide. They tell a sobering picture — and indicate the problem is far more widespread than we Triangle Route riders might believe. In fact, the reporting phone line received 2,000 calls in 2017, 2,400 in 2018 and more than 1,200 so far this year. And the communities that appear to have the biggest problems do not include West Seattle. Mukilteo tops the list, with 656 calls in 2017 and 713 in 2018. Edmonds last year was the next highest with 538, followed by Bainbridge with 359. And Fauntleroy — just 175.

So let’s email and call with reported cutters, for sure, and call 911 for worrisome behavior, including unsafe traffic conditions, and at the same time plan for next summer.

And when tempers are flaring, let’s consider our reactions. Life is full of stressful events; that will never change. How we respond, though, is entirely up to us.

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