Fixing what is broken on Vashon

It is simply unacceptable that Vashon — which was already too far down on the list for ferry service restoration — continues tosee its service degrade.

This week, we continue our coverage of the months-long investigations centered on the conduct of two Vashon High School teachers.

We’re devoting a lot of space to this story because no other news outlet is covering it, and it is vital to our community that we report fully and deeply on this matter still unfolding in the district.

But in doing so, we’ve had to set aside deeper coverage of another big story, which unfortunately will continue to play out throughout the summer — the announcement by Washington State Ferries (WSF), just last week, that it would not start to resume three-boat service to the Triangle Route in May, after all.

WSF now says that riders on the Triangle Route can now expect the two-boat system to remain in place for the time being, due to current and upcoming retirements that spelled an increase in WSF’s workforce attrition, and continued constraints in vessel availability.

In other words, it’s going to be a long summer, folks.

At a meeting of Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee last week, ferry officials listened to the committee members’ questions, as well as those posed by other islanders in attendance, but promised no fast fixes: Vashon — a community fully dependent on ferries as its only means of transportation on and off the island — would have to wait.

The only bright stop in the otherwise dismal public meeting came when ferry officials said WSF might soon be able to return the Cathlamet to Vashon, replacing the smaller vessel, the Sealth, currently in service on the route.

But we’ll believe that when we see it, at this point.

It stings especially that this is all happening as WSF’s annual peak-season surcharge is set to go into effect next week, increasing fares for vehicles on all routes by 25 percent. Pay more, get less.

But it’s worse than merely being expensive and inconvenient. It’s dangerous.

Since January 1, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue has experienced 96 occasions with simultaneous emergency calls, said Vashon Fire Chief Matt Vinci, who continues to report that the fire station is regularly emptied of first responders as firefighter/EMTs spend long hours on the ferry dock, waiting to return to Vashon after transporting islanders to mainland hospitals.

“The delay of a three-boat system will only compound the staffing and resource challenges that we face to provide timely and effective emergency services,” he said. “We are hopeful that WSF will find a quick solution to restore the three-boat system which is vital to our island.”

But for that to happen at all — much less quickly — islanders need to start making some noise.

It is simply unacceptable that Vashon — which was already too far down on the list for ferry service restoration — continues to see its service degrade. Summer is the peak season for visitors and summer residents to return to our island — an influx that our beleaguered island businesses badly need as they continue to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Justin Hirsch, a member of the Vashon’s ferry advisory committee — an advisory group of three islanders who meet regularly with ferry officials — has called the situation for what it is.

“Two-boat service is unacceptable as we move into our busy summer season,” he recently told The Beachcomber. “The allocation of resources to different routes within WSF is almost entirely politically defined, and we have waited too long.”

Hirsch and other ferry committee members invite more islanders to get involved in advocacy for better service.

To communicate with the group, email

And returning to our school district coverage — there’s also a chance for islanders to get more involved in service there.

There will be four open positions for the five-member school board on the November ballot — an unusually high number that could change the dynamic of district leadership for the better.

The district has invited those interested in stepping up for seats to attend a board’s work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 11, in the conference room of Chautauqua Elementary School, to learn more about the process.

Step up, Vashon.