May 7 is boating’s opening day. Yea! It’s also time to remember to stay clear of our ferries. The editorial cartoon on page 4 was an actual announcement.
I’m not making this up.
Boaters must be dead slow when within 500 yards of a ferry and get no closer than 100 yards. If you find yourself inside 100 yards, like if the outboard fell off, call the ferry or the Coast Guard on channel 13 of 16 for instructions.
When the ferry’s at the dock, stay at least 25 yards away and don’t go under the dock. The ferry throws a big wake under the dock. Last year in the San Juans, the wake threw a rower against the pilings. The rower lived but the rowing shell didn’t.
THANKS: To Irene Dodge, a new terminal manager here on the Kingston/Edmonds route. With only a few weeks on the job, she replaced the shabby trailer in the holding area with a sharp, windowed ex-tollbooth. The trailer was a weather shelter for holding lot crews. The new booth restores the view from our new Washington Avenue park, lets crews monitor the lot, and provides a place where riders can ask questions.
Where’s the savings?: Riders have been asking why ferry fares aren’t dropping along with fuel prices. The simple answer is that WSF hedges most of its diesel purchases and the Legislature only gives ferries the gas money that it needs.
WSF has hedged about 80 percent of fuel purchases for this year, 66 percent of fuel for 2017, and 16.6 percent for 2018. By this strategy, WSF “walks into the market” rather than making a one-time annual hedge. The Legislature’s fuel budget for WSF’s is based on that hedge price and future estimates from Washington’s Transportation Revenue Forecast Council. The council’s quarterly report can be found online and has loads of interesting info.
Since WSF’s fuel budget can only be spent for fuel, any surplus (e.g. $6.7 million this year) gets reallocated elsewhere in WSDOT. If there were a shortfall that the Legislature wouldn’t cover, WSF could theoretically add a fuel surcharge. That, however, would be so difficult to do and unpopular and nearly impossible.
The financial big picture for WSF is that labor costs are 50 percent of the budget, fuel costs are 22 percent, and the other costs don’t change much over time. Gas prices started dropping in 2012 and soon afterward labor costs started going up, so they mostly cancelled each other out.
Overall costs have risen with inflation at about 2-3 percent per year, which matches our annual fare increases.
Passenger Ferries are on the Ballot: Kitsap residents will get to vote on this longstanding project. One engineer has been working it for 16 years.
Communities served by these ferries would see different benefits. At Southworth, the direct Seattle service eliminates changing boats at Vashon and reduces travel time. A Bremerton passenger-only ferry will increase the frequency of service. Presently, if you miss your evening Seattle-Bremerton boat, it’s an awfully long wait for the next one. On Bainbridge Island, it’s a step in reducing the traffic congestion on SR 305 and the possible overloading of walk-ons. Jefferson and Clallam County riders won’t have to fight Bainbridge traffic to get to Seattle.
Here in Kingston, passenger-only ferries offer more than convenience. A direct connection to Seattle, the No. 1 jobs market in the U.S. (Forbes magazine), could reverse our downtown business slide and aging demographic. With amenities like Kingston High School and Village Green, Kingston should be attractive to young families and professionals who necessarily find their work on the other side of the Sound.
— FerryFare is written for the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee by its chairman, Walt Elliott. firstname.lastname@example.org