WSF’s fare study and the use of natural gas | Ferry Fare

Fare Study: This is a Transportation Commission project to improve the efficiency and convenience in paying fares (yea!). They can also use it to make us pay more (boo!).

The WSF staff and about a dozen very lucky citizens enjoyed Mirracole Morsels cookies at our December public ferry meeting. In case you were so unfortunate as to miss the soirée, here’s a summary along with my personal spin.

– Fare Study: This is a Transportation Commission project to improve the efficiency and convenience in paying fares (yea!). They can also use it to make us pay more (boo!). The best info on this can be found on the Legislature’s website in the Joint Transportation Committee section. Just Google “Joint Transportation Committee.” The commission’s report will come out this month.

If the commission makes moves to have us pay more, we’ll have to get our legislators to head these varmints off at the pass.

– Liquefied Natural Gas: WSF is moving ahead with exploring LNG as a ferry fuel. This will lower fuel costs and emissions. The Norwegians already have a LNG ferry fleet and are building more.

WSF is considering either retrofitting an existing ferry to LNG or building a new 144-car LNG ferry. The most recent information is on the Joint Transportation Committee’s webpage. We devoted last April’s Ferry Fare to LNG. Note that starting 2013, WSF will no longer have to pay a state tax on the 17 million gallons of diesel fuel it buys each year.

– New Boats: Kennewick, the third 60-car ferry, goes into service in the San Juan Islands this month. Chetzemoka will be moved to South Vashon Island to replace the historic Rhododendron. The normal summer lineup will be two 64-car ferries at Port Townsend with the third 64-car boat at South Vashon.  Building costs for these ferries were $80 million, $64 million and $58 million, respectively.  Workboat magazine gave the Chetzemoka an award for being one of the 10 most innovative boats of the year.  The reason she leans is that the stairwell is off-center and it’s designed to straighten up when the cars are loaded. The first 144-car ferry is being started this year for a 2014 delivery.

– Reservations:  Reservations will come in three phases. How and when each succeeding phase occurs will depend on the success of the prior phase. Here’s the plan if everything goes well:

Phase 1 (summer 2012):  Implementation at Port Townsend, the San Juan Islands commercial, and on Anacortes-Sidney.

Phase 2 (2013-14): All San Juan Islands traffic and commercial traffic systemwide.

Phase 3 (2015-17): All central Puget Sound traffic.  There will need to be different rules for each route for this to be acceptable to communities and riders. WSF is planning a public process for each route to work these issues out. Expect this to take longer than planned.

– Local Stuff: WSF paid for the new railroad crossing at Edmonds. At the meeting, WSF ran out of time to present on-time performance data with the new schedule, but provided a summary.

Five minutes late doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to catch the bus.  We’ll ask WSF for more detailed data.

– Issues raised by Kingstonians:

Things WSF will fix:  Closing the Edmonds toilets before the last boat leaves.  Not loading the boat promptly after the security sweep has been completed.

Things WSF will look into: Making their pay parking lot (across from the Filling Station) free on the weekends, better signed and more visible. Using the holiday schedule on all major holidays. We didn’t have it on Thanksgiving causing unused early boats and overloaded late boats.

Things that the Legislature would have to fix: Saving money by having only one boat at Port Townsend year-round. Having Bremerton riders pay the same farebox recovery rate as the system average. Removing the “built in Washington” requirements for WSF. This adds cost and makes us ineligible for federal funding. It seems unfair as the state Department of Transportation’s new Keller ferry for eastern Washington will be built in Oregon.

– WSF reported that the highway sensors on State Route 104 actually work and that they use them to measure back-up times.