Ex-rocket scientist hopes civic help just what ferries need

HANSVILLE — Making changes to Washington State Ferries, including to its operations and business plan, could take several rocket scientists dedicating all their brain power to the complete the task. One has already joined the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee, and is hoping her efforts will assist in the overhaul the residents say the system desperately needs.

KFAC member Linda Paralez — who, during her illustrious career, worked as a NASA rocket scientist — presented an update on WSF and the community and legislative efforts to restructure it at the Greater Hansville Area Advisory Council’s Tuesday meeting. Attendees were anxious to provide support. Her current business revolves around assisting organizations to become more efficient, so her suggestions for improving WSF are based on both what the government has attempted to accomplish and how a business can improve productivity. She also took time to touch on some of the behind-the-scenes activities as well as more publicized ones, such as the fare increase in May 2007.

“The ferries as a system don’t have enough revenue from the ferry services to fully and adequately fund the operating and maintenance cost of boats, terminals and other infrastructure,” she said.

The slides of her Powerpoint presentation illustrated in more detail how these factors are under pressure. The bottom line, she said, comes down to the need for more funding approached from a different point of view than the system currently has. After Initiative 695 passed in 1999, income to run routes dropped significantly, and since then WSF has attempted to regain losses through fare box revenues. In December 2007, a ferry summit was held in Bremerton to address the frustrations with the system, and new ideas and brainstorming arose out of that.

“What can this group do?” asked GHAAC Chairwoman Judy Foritano after the presentation.

“What people have done in the past, and I’m hearing this second hand, is there have been bus tours to lobby things coming up,” said KFAC member and Hansville resident Dennis Cziske of ferry legislation. “And hearings can come up with almost no notice, so you have to be ready to head down there at the drop of a hat ... Watch the legislation closely.”

He also strongly encouraged the council take up a letter-writing campaign, either as a group or individually, to ensure governmental representatives know exactly how different communities and residents feel about WSF. Members said they would do what they could, and will continue to monitor the situation and provide support when necessary.

“I think they are laying low on a lot of answers to the questions regarding the ferry service because of the House transit committee,” Cziske said. “They are clearly in love with concrete and asphalt and dislike water. They have not let us as ferry riders have the funding that controls the ferries ... Many times, even the ferries don’t know where to go for a lot of things.”

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