Trying times with ferries call for islander involvement

  • Friday, January 4, 2019 12:52pm
  • Opinion

On Vashon, these last months have felt like Ferry Season, with Washington State Ferries changing the schedule — and all that process entailed — some islanders lobbying hard for the pendulum schedule, all capped off by the UW Evans School releasing its report on how to improve ticketing and loading procedures at Fauntleroy.

Against it all, we had last week, three days of ferry disruption because of dock damage and WSF’s decision to go to the difficult two-boat schedule.

It would be nice not to have to think about ferries except when riding them, but that is not what the current situation calls for. Now more than ever, we hope that islanders will stay informed and get engaged, if they have not before, on ferry issues.

On this week’s front page we have a story about the Evans School study of Fauntleroy operations. The article only skims the report, and we encourage all those interested in ferry issues to read the whole document. At 60 pages, it is easy reading but far more extensive that we could include in this week’s story.

The report urges lawmakers to fund some changes “as soon as feasible,” including those that would make ticketing before the tollbooth possible and decrease the bottlenecks that happen there.

The study also contains valuable information on the importance of improved data collection and analysis as well as community engagement. After seeing substantial shortcomings in both during the schedule process, we would welcome improvements in those areas nearly as much as in ticketing and loading. We also fully agree with the report’s recommendation that before outreach begins for the rebuilding of the Fauntleroy dock, WSF outsource community engagement and repair to a neutral third party. After the sometimes acrimonious schedule process, a skilled, neutral party would be welcome.

Significantly, Washington State Ferries has said it looks forward to working with the Legislature on implementing the report’s recommendations. We hope the agency will keep its word. Either way, we believe our lobbying efforts with lawmakers will likely be needed in the coming months. We need to be prepared to participate.

Finally, in the absence of a community council — which we still hope will come together again in some form — we would like to see a group coalesce and focus on the needs of the business community and residents who do not commute at peak hours to determine how they will be affected by reduced ferry service off the island. We each have our own perspectives, but as we go forward, we believe it will be important to learn about and advocate for the needs of the many islanders the new ferry schedule leaves behind.

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