After a long run of difficult ferry news, there are some signs of hope for improved service in the future, including the funding of a new ferry in the next biennium and a cost-saving and efficiency study of the Triangle Route conducted by the Washington State Transportation Center, which will begin in July.
Next week, Washington State Ferries officials will come to the island to share information with islanders and hear from them about a range of topics, including fares, a review of what the Legislature did and did not fund, the new schedule on the Triangle Route and the upcoming renovation of the Fauntleroy dock. In a change from WSF’s recent poster session meetings, a format that frustrated many islanders, this meeting will include a panel presentation and time for community comment.
In potentially more hopeful news, WSF director Amy Scarton will be at next week’s meeting after a notable absence during the schedule change process. It will be her first public meeting on Vashon since September 2017, when more than 200 people attended a meeting after changes to the loading procedures at Fauntleroy and an extremely difficult summer of ferry travel. And, in the search for promising developments, it is good to know that Scarton herself tapped the Washington State Transportation Center to conduct a small study this spring on how to operate at Fauntleroy as efficiently as possible with the new schedule and to determine how best to get more people using ferries while leaving their cars behind.
While some of these developments are heartening, there are still plenty of challenges with ferry travel for islanders, and we hope many community members will attend the meeting, hear what officials have to say and speak up — passionately, if so moved, and politely.
In late April, the Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee held a meeting to hear how islanders felt about the new schedule and collect information on what they might need to pursue with WSF regarding schedule adjustments. The public turnout was disappointing: only two community members attended — and one did so believing it was going to be the meeting with the WSF officials.
At that meeting, committee member Justin Hirsch shared some of his perspectives about the new schedule, and we fully support the committee’s efforts to ask for changes to the Triangle Route schedule that seems to favor Southworth over Vashon in the late afternoon. We hope there will also be discussion of evening sailings from Vashon, as the new schedule greatly curtailed those.
Finally, from the time King County Councilmember Joe McDermott appointed Hirsch to the Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee last summer, he has had good ideas about streamlining some procedures, including that when ferries start to get behind, WSF should load walk-on passengers only once and load them last. This is not a radical new idea, and it is more than time it gets a fair hearing — and be implemented.
Ferry officials have promised to share information and listen at this series of meetings. Let’s be sure to hold up our end of the conversation and attend.
The meeting with WSF is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at Vashon High School.