Public transportation is crucial for a healthier community

We will have to keep getting creative with county and state decision-makers to build solutions.

The car is a quintessential piece of American culture — an expression of identity, a tool for moving things and getting places, and for many of us, a feeling of total freedom to explore the world on a whim.

Well, except when the engine starts making weird noises. And don’t forget your monthly payments. Have you changed the oil recently? Oh, don’t tell me a headlight just went out again…

It turns out that the cost of being able to go where we want, when we want, is literally quite costly. Cars are necessary and convenient for many, but they’re also often environmentally dreadful, personally expensive, and contribute to sedentary lifestyles and accidental deaths. They also require a ton of public infrastructure.

That’s why options are nice. And on Vashon-Maury Island, we could build a community where many of us don’t need a car to get around, through a combination of safe bike- and foot-friendly roads, robust public transportation by land and sea, and yes, keeping room for the personal motor vehicles that many of us will continue to rely on.

This week’s paper has two page one stories on the subject — one details a reworked bus schedule coming to the island in April that will help midday travelers but offer fewer trips in the morning and evening. The other shares the highlights of legislative injections into our ferry system, including millions to boost water taxi service between the island and Seattle.

Improving public transportation betters all of us, in ways that aren’t always immediately obvious. Imagine, for example, an island with bus routes that run along Wax Orchard Road and Westside Highway, and across Point Robinson Road nearly to the lighthouse.

That would mean more options for people going into town for a drink on Friday night — so instead of risking lives on the road, a person can ride the bus guilt-free. It would also incentivize water taxi usage for those who don’t live near Vashon Highway.

Imagine robust, three boat service on the Triangle and regular water taxi service throughout the entire day. That would mean medical appointments kept, high school students safe, jobs secured, and aggravated grunts and curse words reduced.

There are many ways to boost public transportation. The truth is, we will have to keep getting creative with county and state decision-makers to build solutions that are cost-effective and which will actually be used.

Along the way, we need to use the things we build — so let’s ride the water taxi and the bus. Continue sharing feedback with King County and Washington State Ferries (WSF) about the bus route changes and ferry service. If we respond to insufficient public transportation by simply giving up, then we’ll only lose what meager options we still have.

And of course: The Beachcomber thanks Islanders for Ferry Action, our state legislative delegation, King County and state leadership, and most of all, the Vashon-Maury community, for working to improve our transportation on-and-off-island. Let’s keep that momentum going!