State ferry Spokane: More than good looks |FerryFare

The most obvious result of Spokane’s fall overhaul is the gleaming new job and signage. Less noticeable but perhaps more important are the eight life rafts that have been added to bring Spokane up to 100 percent capacity. Yea!

Two public transportation forums took place in Kitsap this fall, one in Bremerton with WSF Director Amy Scarton, and another in Kingston with County Commissioner Rob Gelder. Rex Carlaw covered both and contributed his notes.

Surveys: The Washington state Transportation Commission’s online survey tool, the Ferry Riders’ Opinion Group (FROG), serves to support planning, decision making and assessing customer satisfaction. Secretary Scarton agreed to address criticism that questionnaires had been skewed to obtain preordained results. Starting in 2018, the Transportation Commission will be engaging your Ferry Advisory Committees in reviewing survey plans and questions. We’ll go over this topoc in detail in a future FerryFare.

Spare boat: After last summer’s disastrous performance by WSF because of vessel breakdowns and a lack of ships, Scarton plans to request that the superferry Hyak not be retired when the new MV Suquamish comes into service late next year. Warranty work on the new Olympic-class vessels is planned, along with normal maintenance, and a 22-vessel fleet is not adequate for the 19-vessel summer schedule. Keeping the Hyak a couple of years beyond the current plan would greatly ease the difficulties that occur when there are breakdowns such as occurred in recent months.

Hybridization: The Tacoma, Wenatchee and Puyallup are approaching 20 years in age (built 1997, 1998 and 1999) and when their life-extension work is planned, it may include a battery component, using new technology common in European ferry systems such as in Norway. WSF uses 1,000 gallons of fuel per hour, or 5 million gallons per year, and one-quarter of that amount is burned by these three largest ferries in the fleet alone, so savings could be achieved when this refit is carried out in a fairly near time period. It was commented that the source of the electricity used determines whether there is less pollution with a hybrid ferry than a standard boat.

Fares: Attendees made recommendations that senior and youth fares be made available at kiosks and online and that enforcement would be a better solution to combat their misuse than the current restrictions. The entire group agreed that the current fare structure of WSF is far too complex and in need of consolidation and simplification.

Congestion: Measures being considered to alleviate ferry traffic congestion on SR 104 continue to follow what we reported on in October. Even if funding can be found, the more costly measures are years away. In the near term, we may get a camera that looks from the toll booths up Highway 104. That would allow us to tell if the boat “space available” shown on the WSF website will still be available when we get there. Other measures that could be near term are signage for ferry traffic to wait on the shoulder, downtown traffic calming, and portable toilets at 104 and Lindvog Road.

Reservations: Extending reservations to include all commercial traffic has been delayed until after the Wave2Go ticketing system is replaced. That will take until 2021 or beyond.

Passnger-only ferry: Kitsap Transit’s Seattle-Kingston passenger ferry will operate all day, six days per week in the high season, and five days per week in the off-season. It will have a back-up boat. Kitsap Transit may run trips for events if there’s sufficient demand. Currently, Kitsap Transit is looking at adding a third park-and-ride lot to the two lots at George’s Corner and Bayside Church. It would be near the Highway 104/Port Gamble Road intersection.

Merry Christmas from your Ferry Advisory Committee.

— Walt Elliott is chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee. Contact him at elliott