This is the second in a series of three posts that spotlight critical issues related to WSF’s proposed vehicle reservation system in the San Juan Islands. These posts are being published in preparation for the WSF Community meetings scheduled for June 7.
If implemented, a reservation system will significantly impact vehicle travel throughout the San Juan Islands, yet information about the proposal has not been shared with the public to date. There are critical issues that need to be addressed and questions WSF staff needs to answer before moving forward. For example, we are concerned that much planning has already been done with no participation from any of the island communities, each of which has distinct needs that will not be adequately met with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ reservation program.
The critical issues are common throughout the islands, but the related questions vary from one island to the next. Each post will mention a critical issue and a question or two relevant to Lopez Island since that’s where we live. Residents of other islands are encouraged to think about each critical issue and formulate questions appropriate to your island.
Critical Issue—Community Input and Communication
Although assurances have been made that a reservation system will not be implemented without extensive input from the community, no residents or staff have been invited to participate in planning meetings to date. We are concerned that by the time the promised representative advisory committee is formed, the bulk of business decisions—e.g., round trip vs. one-way trip fares, penalties for missed reservations, percentage of boat allocated for reservations, year round vs. seasonal reservations—will have already been made.
WSF has statistics showing that even though we are third among the islands in population, residents of Lopez Island make more frequent use of the ferries than residents of other islands. This is probably due to our small population, lack of access to many services on the island, and our proximity to the mainland. We would hope that the advisory committee would take this disproportionate use into account when decisions are made regarding the number of spokespersons for each island. In addition, the meetings should be held on each ferry served island to offer opportunities for residents to participate in the planning process.
Please plan to attend one of the June 7 meetings. The evening meeting will be video-conferenced at the Lopez and Orcas libraries from 5 to 7 p.m. Each of us will be impacted directly, no matter what the final decision.