Letters to the editor | Nov. 16 edition

Readers write in about the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal and recent orca sightings.


New terminal needs second slip for future demand

I reviewed the current options for the Fauntleroy Terminal Replacement and believe they are making a big mistake by not having a second slip.

I commuted daily from Vashon to Fauntleroy for a dozen years until retiring last year and in my professional life was a business executive responsible for system analysis, so I watched the challenges of loading at rush hour at Fauntleroy with great personal interest.

The current dock reflects the decisions made when it was built almost 70 years ago. Planners then did not envision the huge increase in traffic since, and left us with the bottleneck we have lived with for many years. Do not make that same mistake.

These options are making that same mistake if the new Fauntleroy terminal does not have a second slip, and capacity to hold vehicles for two boats for now — much less future demand.

What are the forecasts for traffic demand in the lifetime of the new terminal? And how do we know even current demand when the ferry system doesn’t track how many vehicles are left waiting up the hill at the time a ferry leaves?

WSF knows how many vehicles it loads per sailing, even how many are left on the dock, but at busy times has no idea how many are waiting along Fauntleroy Way above the toll booths. It measures on-time performance since the Legislature thinks that is a key performance metric. In current conditions, that is a poor metric at best.

Obviously we also suffer from past choices by the Legislature to underfund new ferry construction, and the current staffing challenges. A replacement terminal at Fauntleroy that cannot handle even a three boat schedule now, much less demand 20 or 30 years from now, will be a bigger failure.

Dwight McCabe


Beachcomber article reminds us of orca complexity

I want to comment on the excellent article by Elizabeth Shepherd in the Nov. 9 edition of The Beachcomber. There are many things to recognize about this unprecedented visit by the resident orcas to inner Quartermaster Harbor. It is a great reminder of how little we know about orca behavior and preferences.

From what we do know, clearly preferred food availability and bioaccumulation of toxins in mother’s milk killing young nursing orcas are the greatest threats to the population growth of the resident orcas.

If I could communicate with orcas, I wouldn’t be warning them about sea kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders and slow moving boats within 400 yards. I would want to try and convince them that they try eating more shorter lived and plentiful salmon species year round to decrease toxins that harm their nursing babies from their preferred mainstay food, Chinook salmon.

My best guess for their displayed behavior while in the inner harbor is that they were acoustically mapping out new and unknown territory before staying for the night. Sonar mapping for humans involves parallel passes that resembles mowing a lawn. Tail slaps could provide added acoustical data beyond the more focused sound blast used for hunting.

If they return in the next few years, that will likely show that they’ve added this region to their repertoire. I hope that they come back soon.

Charlie Leahey