Critical Issues Related to Ferry Reservations – Lack of Supporting Evidence

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.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Critical Issues Related to Ferry Reservations – Lack of Supporting Evidence

  1. Brian Churchwell

    My name is Brian Churchwell, Deputy Program Manager for WSF’s vehicle reservations system (VRS). I hope those interested in this topic can make the meeting on Thursday, June 7, from 11:35a-2p aboard the inter-island ferry. There’s a lot to discuss and I think many concerns will be alleviated. First and foremost, no decisions have been made about how to implement VRS in the San Juan Islands. Before doing so, WSF will form a partnership group in September with the community to talk about the ins and outs of VRS and how it could work best in the islands.

    1. Adrienne Adams

      Thank you, Mr. Churchwell, for participating in this discussion. Although we have heard numerous assurances that residents of the San Juan Islands will be able to participate in the planning process for reservations, it is very evident to me from Monday’s rollout that a significant effort has already taken place the design and implementation of the reservation system. While there seems to be room for some tweaking of route-specific policies, the basic structure, assumptions, and policies seem to be firmly in place.

      The Vehicle Reservations Planning Final Predesign Report Appendices contains many comments completely opposed to the idea of reservations. Yet WSF has continued to press on full steam, assuming that reservations will be implemented on any route that WSF deems it appropriate, regardless of community needs.

      There were many community meetings in 2009 in Edmonds & Kingston in preparation for the Final Report, yet that route is not the first to be used as a test case for extending reservations to routes that have never had them—the San Juans get be the guinea pig. Here’s a quote from the 12/09/2009 meeting:

      “(Tom Wag[g]oner) I would go to the San Juans and make it work. If you go to Bainbridge you will get killed politically with one goof up. Go up there and figure it out, show that it can work. Don’t go to Bainbridge.”

      So is it practicality or politics that has chosen the San Juans for the dubious honor of “figuring out” the reservation system? The San Juans have, with the introduction of dedicated boats, just started settling down to reasonably stable and predictable summer travel routine. We no longer have so much anxiety about being able to leave the island and return home in the midst of the tourist crush. Yet now we will can look forward to soon dealing with an untested, complicated, and confusing new system.

      Perhaps you can understand the trepidation our communities feel about the reservation system, and why your assurance that “many concerns will be alleviated” is not terribly reassuring, considering that until this week we have been kept completely in the dark.


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