Working to reduce congestion at Edmonds | FerryFare

Last month, Edmonds updated the progress of its Waterfront Access Study. This is about finding a solution to the five-way cluster of cars, trains and pedestrians at the ferry landing.

Malfunction junction: Last month, Edmonds updated the progress of its Waterfront Access Study. This is about finding a solution to the five-way cluster of cars, trains and pedestrians at the ferry landing.

Untying this traffic knot is critical to the future of our run. Trains stop ferry traffic for about four minutes and it takes a few more minutes to clear out the backed-up cars. With the number of trains doubling by 2030, we’re counting down to when ferries won’t be able to keep up with the schedule.

In 1992, planning started to move the terminal to Point Edwards, about a mile south of the current terminal. WSF bought the UNOCAL (Union Oil of California) property just south of the Edmonds marina and a multimodal transportation hub was designed. Ferry traffic would use a bridge over the tracks. With design and environmental work done, in 2009 the Legislature pulled all funding for terminal expansions.

Since then, a number of other options have popped up. They include overpasses and underpasses; expanding the dock to hold more cars; elevating the upper holding lot or moving it to the other side of the tracks; and even a  train trench.

You can peruse these proposals at the Edmonds Waterfront Access Study website. The pack has been winnowed down to 11 options. This summer, the task force will trim that down to three and  pick the best prospect by September. WSF and WSDOT are on the task force; the project should become a part of their upcoming long-range plans. Those wanting details, please read on.

The Best Laid Plans …: WSF is conjuring a successor to its 2009 Long-Range Plan.  This plan will go out to 2040, which includes replacing our Jumbo ferries.

Before 2009, ferry planning was aboveboard. A Level of Service (LOS) standard was set for the number of sailings we’d have to wait to get on a ferry at the busiest times (one boat for Kingston-Edmonds). New boats were planned to keep waits under the LOS with the projected growth. (Yea!)

In 2009, planning shifted to strategies that would herd us to underutilized space. (Boo!) The LOS was redefined as the percent of boats that were filled to capacity. If 25 percent of the boats for the day were full, strategies would be kicked in to move riders to other boats. Regardless of wait times, adding capacity would only be considered if 75 percent of the boats were full in the summer and 65 percent at other times.

Here are some of the plan’s strategies:

– Increase fares and reduce frequent-user discounts at peak times.

– Shift riders from vehicles to walking-on by increasing vehicle fares.

– Discount passenger fares.

– Improve transit.

– Implement a reservation system to reduce holding lot needs.

– Use fares to move riders from overloaded to underutilized routes (i.e. Bremerton versus Bainbridge).

Hang on to find out what’s going to happen this year.

First, WSF’s going to rethink its strategies to change our behavior.  Some are no-brainers, while others would just infuriate riders and achieve little.

Next is to address system reliability, which has become the elephant in the room. That brings us to replacing the Jumbos.  Do we replace the two Jumbos (390 cars) with more frequent sailings on three 144-car ferries (432 cars)? Note that for three boats to be an option, the Edmonds traffic crunch has to be solved. With ferry finding still uncertain. sustaining service without escalating fares needs to be a priority.

WSF is committed to engaging the community in this decision making and will hire a consultant to bring the public into the planning process. Stay tuned.

Have a ferry fun-filled Fourth!

— FerryFare is written by Walt Elliott, chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee.

State law directs Washington State Ferries to work with its 12 ferry advisory committees to develop ferry schedules, resolve customer problems, and understand regional issues.

Contact Elliott at elliott