The 1993 law requiring that WSF ferries must be built in WA is a bone of contention for many who wonder what the overall cost for this requirement actually is. A recent report from the Washington Institute of Public Policy looks at the pros and cons of current law. Learn more here.
On September 30, the San Juan County Council sent a letter to Governor Inslee regarding proposed reductions in ferry service that will impact Anacortes, the San Juan Islands, and Sydney, BC. An article in the journal of the San Juan Islands includes background information about the proposed cuts as well as the full text of the letter. Click here to access the article.
In light of recent calls (again) to privitize the WA ferry system, I thought readers might find this article from the Vancouver Sun concerning the partial privitization of BC Ferries very thought provoking. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1mLf4tg.
In an opinion piece published March 5, in the Islands’ Sounder, State Senator Kevin Ranker offers his thoughts on the current state of transportation funding in WA and our state’s transportation infrastructure. While he writes about the recent service disruptions in the San Juan Islands, he makes it clear that this is a statewide problem. The full article is below.
Poor ferry service is ‘unacceptable’ | Guest column
Mar 5, 2014 at 12:48PM
by SENATOR KEVIN RANKER
The level of unpredictability and lack of ferry service in recent months is unacceptable. As a frequent ferry commuter myself, I share the frustration other riders have with the inconsistent and uneven service. I also agree that the responsibility for this lies not as much with Washington State Ferries, but right here in Olympia.
The problem is that Olympia treats our ferry system differently than the rest of our state’s transportation system. That mentality is the first thing that must change. In addition to that, there are three steps that Olympia must take to make a noticeable difference in our ferry system.
First we must pass Rep. Jeff Morris’ bill to build a third new 144-car ferry. I am championing this effort in the Senate. There have been efforts to divert the money in the bill from construction of a third vessel to operations, but we have been successful so far in keeping the bill focused on construction of the third 144-car vessel. Know that I will work every angle I can to make this bill and this boat a reality.
The second key to a fully functioning and sustainable ferry system in the San Juans is to make sure that one of the three new 144-car ferries is permanently dedicated to the San Juan route. I am proud to have led the effort in the Senate two and three years ago to secure funding to build the first and second new 144-car ferries. While the first boat is dedicated elsewhere, the second boat is supposed to come to the San Juans for the spring, summer and fall when it is completed in late 2015. I am working with our state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson to make absolutely sure that boat remains in service to the San Juans year-round by the end of 2015. This is critical if we are to have more reliable service. Securing the third new 144-car vessel will help make this a reality as that boat can support needs elsewhere in the system in the winter.
The third issue we must tackle is a transportation revenue package. We can build all the new boats we want, but if we don’t have the money to operate them, we will still have poor service and increasing fares. Currently, transportation is one of several political footballs being kicked around the capital. It’s cliché to say it, but there are no Republican roads and there are no Democratic bridges. We all depend on our transportation system and any solution for an issue of this magnitude will have to be of the bipartisan variety. Unfortunately, a transportation revenue package cannot happen without revenue and there are some that argue that we cannot raise taxes, no matter what the cost. I would argue that ferries will continue to break and bridges will continue to fall until we have a bold and thoughtful discussion that creates a new revenue package to support our state’s transportation infrastructure.
The funds allocated by the legislature since 2000 are not enough to adequately operate our state’s ferry system. Our entire state’s transportation infrastructure is woefully lacking and upgrading it is not only a matter of commerce and transportation, it is a matter of public safety.
If we were to pass a transportation revenue package, we could not only have a third ferry, but we would be able to backfill ferry operations and capital accounts so that we have a sustainable and reliable ferry system.
I cannot stress enough the good this would do for our state. As politicians, we should not be afraid of thoughtfully discussing revenues and taxes in an election year, we should be afraid of what will happen if we don’t.
It’s time to put politics aside and get this job done.
People forget that Washington state ferries were once a private enterprise. The state stepped in when Puget Sound Navigation proposed a 30% fare increase, then brought its ferry service to a halt when the request was refused (read more here).
Some folks are calling for partial or complete privatization of WSF. The BC ferry system is partially privatized, much to the dismay of residents who rely on the system. Here are a couple of recent articles readers may find of interest related to this topic.
Are Ferry Execs Hosing Tax Payers? (Note: The full title is misleading. The article actually suggests it’s BC execs who are hosing the public.)
“Inaction is a terrible way to deal with important issues like this.” Gov. Jay Inslee
Rather than allow a vote on the transportation package approved by the House on Thursday, the Republican-led majority refused to take any action, killing the plan that would have funded a third 144-car ferry and helped with operational costs for the next decade. Additional projects would have included highway and bridge projects across the state. More information is available in this article from the Seattle Times.
Something must be done about our aging transportation infrastructure. The increasing number of ferry service interruptions due to mechanical problems is a regular reminder to those of us who live in ferry-dependent communities.
Thank you for your letters, emails, and telephone calls. They did make a difference with members of the House. We’ll keep you posted on next steps.
Here are press releases from Governor Inslee, Senator Ed Murray, and Senator Eide about this:
June 27, 2013 Press Release By Governor Inslee
Jaime Smith, Governor Inslee’s Communications Office | (360) 902-0617
Statement by Gov. Jay Inslee on the Senate Majority’s failure to act on a transportation plan for Washington
“I’m beyond disappointed in this inaction. The failure by the Senate’s Republican-led majority to act on the transportation plan stops us from making important investments in maintaining and preserving our roads and bridges and ensuring the safety the public deserves.
It is hoped that the legislature will have passed an $8.8 billion transportation budget before the regular session ends today. However, operating and capital budgets are not likely to be passed, meaning a special session will need to be called.
The transportation budget is a compromise that includes a 2.5% fare increase and money to finish building the two new 144-car ferries. Two items I wonder about are $21.7 million to convert the Hyak to a hybrid propulsion system and the Senate’s $250,000 proposal to bring ferries into the Good To Go! payment system. This last idea could seriously impact fares for a single car-driver as the current system has no way to account for the number of people in a car and using Good To Go! is supposed to be a way to eliminate staff at toll booths. This means there would be one set fare per car regardless of the number of passengers. Hopefully this will not make it into the final bill.
More information is available in this article from the Kitsap Sun.