Long waits for ferry travelers in last Friday’s commute — complicated by traveling Sesame Street fair semis and parked cars in the ferry line — provided a stark reminder of some of the glaring health and human safety needs on the route that have been neglected too long: bathroom access and an increased police presence.
Making needed changes will likely require our state legislators, Washington State Ferries and the City of Seattle, and, of course, more money, but attention to the human needs of people in the summer lines at Lincoln Park and on Vashon is long overdue.
Two months ago, a panel of Washington State Ferries representatives, including head of Ferries Amy Scarton, came to hear from islanders’ about their ferry concerns. At that meeting, Joe Ulatoski, known to many as the grandfather of disaster preparedness on Vashon, stood up and addressed what he said should be a simple issue.
Ulatoski, in his 90s himself, told the WSF panel that the island has an elderly population, and it is “damned difficult” to be in line, especially on the hill on Vashon or along Lincoln Park, and not have access to bathroom facilities.
He asked for port-a-potties in both locations.
“I think that is a doable issue,” he said. “Just think about it.”
No doubt, in last Friday’s long queue — and numerous other times — many people have been at a standstill in ferry lines, very much thinking about how good it would be to have a restroom available long before they reach the dock.
Ulatoski has blazed quite a trail on Vashon, and the appearance of port-a-potties for desperate travelers could only add to his legacy. It is time that Washington State Ferries take action on this “doable issue.”
WSF spokesperson Justin Fujioka manages the Ferries’ Twitter account and fields a variety of tweets from angry passengers. Last Friday, amid the Sesame Street semi situation, he said he watched the line on WSF’s cameras for about 20 minutes. He saw an altercation between drivers, people out of their cars, waving fists — and Metro buses crossing the solid center line.
“It was very unsafe,” he said.
Washington State Ferries would like to be able to have a larger officer presence at the Lincoln Park line to help with angry drivers and line cutters, he said, but does not have the funds to do so.
He did not know how much money would be needed to secure an officer on a regular basis, but did say that WSF pays $86 per hour for the officer that directs traffic near the dock. We can do the math and see that even a part-time officer would be money well spent.
Many challenges lie ahead for the Triangle Route, no doubt. But surely, we can write WSF and our legislators and urge them to work with Ferries to supply basic bathroom facilities and funding for another traffic control officer at peak traffic times.
And who knows? Bathrooms and human safety could actually be common ground for Vashon and Southworth passengers to work toward together, making the Triangle Route better for us all.