WSF boggles the mind–A letter to the editor

For those of you who have been “in the know” about the ferry system for some time, today’s post may not include new information. But readers who are learning more about WSF will be interested in reading Wayne I. Smith’s letter to the editor that appeared in the South Whidbey Reader on 12/30/10. The full text of his letter follows:

Dec 30 2010, 7:23 AM

To the editor:

Once again, Washington State Ferries is brandishing a “study” — this most recent, from out-of-state experts and members of the Passenger Vessel Association. Like others before it, this new study doesn’t seem to offer many practical ways to save our money or improve operations.

Consider the study’s proposed “cut off” time for boarding passengers who live, work or visit on Whidbey or other islands served by WSF.

It’s standard procedure that both wheel houses on any ferry are constantly manned, and that the deck crew remains at the ready until departure. It takes 30 seconds, at most, to release the mooring lines. Engines are never shut down.

So despite the “study’s” forecast, it’s hard to see where fuel or personnel cost savings could be actualized. Other than to succumb to bureaucratic social engineering passions, why impose an arbitrary time limit that punishes those who arrive prior to scheduled departure, but after the “cut off”?

Boats should depart on time if they are on schedule. And when running late because of weather or inadequate load-unload availability, they should depart as soon as possible, with the master increasing speed to regain schedule as practicable. Let the master decide what is best — that’s what he’s paid to do.

I’m in agreement with the proposal that masters should be considered a part of the “management team.” In fact, I’d go one better — ideas of all operating personnel should be considered.

If this concept was practiced, I doubt there’d be the problems that plague the Chetzemoka. Just look at the Chetz, aka “I-Lean,” with its permanent list and inadequate rub rails.

Why is there no way to wash windows on the outside; and why, in service but a few short weeks, have some of its runs been cancelled? This vessel class costs more than any in the WSF fleet, past and present, yet it can’t stand the gaff. And our government wants to build more?

The drumbeat for a reservation system persists with the WSF’s newest study, despite ongoing objections from those who rely on the ferries.

Reservations might make things simpler for those who sit in ivory towers or just don’t ever travel on roads or highways. But the rest of us require realistic solutions; reservations belong to theaters, fancy restaurants and the WSF round file.

In like manner, the “fare box” should not be considered a penalty box. Ferry fares should pay for actual operating costs — crew, fuel, terminal personnel, etc. But because our ferries are part of the state highway system, vessel overhauls and repairs, terminal construction and new vessel construction should be borne by all taxpayers, just as we all pay for state roads and freeways whether or not each individual taxpayer uses them. Ferry fares should be calculated for each run so all users throughout the system pay their share.

Looking at overall costs for the Clinton-Mukilteo run, the mind boggles. WSF spent about $3 million to expand the dock or holding lot in Mukilteo, yet continues to pay a high monthly rental/lease fee to boot. Once WSF expanded the lot, it then had to hire additional personnel because of its lack of planning and foresight of traffic flows. (Plus, there’s all those rented honey buckets, another unanticipated consequence.)

But wait — it gets worse. Now the state is wasting more money by tearing out the sidewalks to install a left-turn lane. Meanwhile, more tax dollars are going in the drink while WSF dithers about studying the possibilities of relocating the terminal (yes, another separate study is coming).

Read WSF’s response to the PVA’s report at

And the entire PVA study can be read at HYPERLINK

Wayne I. Smith


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About sjbrooksyoung

Susan Brooks-Young has been involved in the field of instructional technology since 1979. She was one of the original technology users in the district where she taught and has continued to explore ways in which technology can be used to facilitate student learning. She has worked as computer mentor, technology trainer, and technology curriculum specialist. Prior to establishing her own consulting firm, Susan was a teacher, site administrator, and technology specialist in a county office of education in a career that spanned more than 23 years. Since 1986, she has published articles and software reviews in a variety of education journals. She is also author of a number of books which focus on how school leaders can implement the NETS*A Standards. Susan works with educators internationally, focusing on practical technology-based strategies for personal productivity and effective technology implementation in schools. Susan and her husband live on Lopez Island, WA.

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