This is the third 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 the WSF website includes sweeping statements about supposed positive outcomes of a vehicle reservation system with no supporting facts and no discussion of potential negative impacts.
The critical issues identified in these posts are common throughout the islands, but the related questions vary from one island to the next. Each post mentions 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—Lack of Supporting Evidence
The WSF website states that the State of Washington will save $280 million in capital improvements by implementing the reservation system. It also states that reservations will:
- Reduce or eliminate traffic congestion on roads leading to terminals
- Provide predictable and convenient travel
- Increase business in ferry-served communities
- Reduce air pollution from idling vehicles
- Save money by mitigating the need for terminal expansion and/or added service
- Reduce traffic control costs and holding area maintenance costs
However, no evidence supporting any of these statements is provided. Here on Lopez Island, it appears that the opposite of most of these statements would be true. In the last two years, scheduling direct boats between Lopez and Anacortes has eased travel pressure in Anacortes and on the island, more than adequately addressing the first four bulleted items.
As mentioned in the first post in this series, the Lopez terminal area will require major retrofitting to enable implementation of a reservation system—expenditures that are not necessary if the rationale is truly the first four items in the WSF list of projected benefits. In addition, Lopez often operates with just one staff person. Implementation of reservations will require a minimum of two staff members at all times, and more during peak travel, more than doubling on-going traffic control costs.
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.