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Kingston residents feel like ‘cash cows’

KINGSTON — Kingston residents turned up in droves March 24 to speak out against being made cash cows for the Washington State Ferries.

The discussion occurred during a public meeting with WSF officials at the Kingston Yacht Club. It stems from rumors of a surcharge during peak commute times.

“Kingston is sick to death of being continually asked to tighten their personal belts and cough up more money so that WSF can implement things like wireless services on the boats or electronic fare box systems with no real financial benefit or cost savings,” said Annie Humiston, Kingston resident and member of the Kingston Citizens Advisory Council.

Walk-on passengers now pay what drive-on passengers paid seven years ago, she said. “These are people who are living in a ferry-dependent area and just trying to make a living. They are not cash cows.”

This was the first of three public meetings scheduled over the next 10 months to discuss WSF system changes affecting Kingston over the next 30 years.

David Moseley, new assistant secretary to the Washington State Ferries, said his main goal for the meeting was to get to know the thoughts of the community.

“Listening is my primary purpose today,” Moseley said. “We are using this meeting to figure out the issues on this particular route.”

State Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge), officials from the Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol were all in attendance.

Nancy Tietje, also a member of the Kingston Citizens Advisory Council, expressed deep concern for the traffic that accumulates into a gridlock to Four Corners during the summer.

“Highway 104 regularly gets completely blocked to the point where a fire truck can’t even get to a lit trashcan on fire,” she said. “We are past the point of a crisis. We need action to address this situation.”

This issue is seeing more heat as the projection for growth becomes more of a reality.

According to WSDOT Ferries Division revised ridership forecasts, the Kingston/Edmonds route is anticipated to grow at a faster rate, seeing a 39 percent increase in ridership by 2030. Other ferry routes are expected to see a 15 to 20 percent increase with the exception of Port Townsend/Keystone and Fauntleroy/Southworth routes, expected to see a 60 to 63 percent increase in ridership.

Many voiced a need for a more reliable schedule and ferries that leave on time. Some suggested bringing back the Aqua Express foot ferries.

“Legislature strictly has said not to engage in foot ferries,” Moseley said. “I don’t want folks to leave thinking we might be considering getting them back. It is a clear business decision provided by the Legislature. They have said the ferries are bimodal which is where we need to be.”

Moseley said his goal is to focus on just the basics — to keep the vessels floating. “We are the highway over the water for the people who need it,” he said.

Moseley also shared four main goals for the system changes. First, he said WSF is stretched to its capacity in terms of boats and needs to build six more over the next four years. Second, they need to preserve the current state of the working fleet. Also a sustainable finance plan, ridership and level of service needs to be established. Lastly, Moseley said he wants to create an accessible open dialogue with the community, elected officials and local leaders.

The next open meeting is scheduled to be held in June at the Kingston Yacht Club.

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