“Operational considerations” have long been the words used in WSF’s email alerts to describe the reasons for just about everything. This is about as informative as conservations with a teenager:
“Where’d you go?” “Out.” “What did you do?” “Nuthin.”
Exhibiting a passion for getting useful information out, Washington State Ferries’ Director Lynne Griffiths revamped WSF’s alert system to give us information that can actually help in planning our travel. Here are those new alert categories and the information being included.
ADA: The elevators/accessible restrooms on the ferry or in the terminal are out of, or back in service.
Disabled Vehicle: Will give the expected departure delay time.
Dispatch/Staffing: Time delayed due to a shortage of crew.
Galley Service/Staffing Issues: The reason for no galley service with date and/or times.
Medical Transport: The medical emergency or emergency-vehicle boarding delay.
Miscellaneous Information: Hold-ups for reasons that don’t fit the other categories.
Necessary Repairs — Status Message: The type of ferry or terminal problem, and the status. E.g., assessing the situation, doing repairs or testing, along with hourly updates.
Safety and Security: Inspections, safety drills and law enforcement activity.
Search and Rescue/Recovery: Assisting Coast Guard search and rescue, and assisting a vessel in distress.
Spill Response: The cleanup progress and the sailings affected.
Tally System (now called Boarding Pass): WSF’s activated the tally system and if you cut into the line, you’ll go to the end of the queue.
Traffic: Delays due to vehicle traffic, downsized boat, marine traffic, unloading/loading commercial vehicles and train crossings.
Wait Times: The current “estimated wait time.”
Weather: Fog, high winds and rough seas.
Sounder Train: Reason Sounder is delayed or canceled and whether Sound Transit will be providing bus service.
Next Ferry Breakdown: Date/time/route. (Just kidding)
You can subscribe to WSF’s Alert system on the WSF website.
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Fare Raves and Rants
Fare proposals include eliminating the 7-feet-over-height charge for cars less than 22 feet and for vehicles configured for disabled riders when they’re on board.
Hooray! WSF is also proposing to continue increasing car fares at a significantly greater rate than passenger fares “to get people out of their cars.”
The latter goes against the vote of the appointed citizen’s tariff committee and deserves a big “boo!” While the increase doesn’t add a lot this year, over a decade it amounts to 38 percent.
From 2000 to 2010, fare hikes of 47 percent chased 4.4 million riders off the boats, and they haven’t come back. With fewer commuters deciding to live in West Sound and the crushing cost for commercial vehicles, those fare hikes hurt Kingston’s economy.
This fare strategy risks another decline (see chart). For every lost car fare, WSF would need 4.4 new passenger fares to break even, something that just isn’t going to happen. According to WSF’s surveys, the reason people drive on is that transit doesn’t go to their workplace or they need their vehicle at work.
In 1962, the state Supreme Court found that ferries and bridges had, since 1949, been considered as a single operational unit, integral with our highway system. A strategy to use ferries to “get people out of their cars” contradicts that purpose. If WSF was intended to be a transit system, it would have been built much differently, more like the hydrofoils that ply the fjords of Norway. Trying to change WSF and the communities it serves into something different risks serving no one well.
These fare proposals will be sent to the Transportation Commission for their decision in August. You can see what they’re planning and comment on proposals this month at the commission’s website, www.wstc.wa.gov.
— FerryFare is written by Walt Elliott, chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.