WSF to host public meeting in Kingston

KINGSTON — Commuters concerned Washington State Ferries might change without their say will have a chance to voice opinions on the matter this Tuesday. Meetings are regularly held around the Puget Sound to garner input, and this time will be held in Kingston, giving locals an opportunity to be heard.

House Bill 2358, passed during the most recent Legislative session with help from its primary sponsor, 23rd District Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), effectively froze ferry fares after the last 2.5 percent increase to give state officials time to examine how the service is run. A recent audit conducted by Ernst and Young, contracted by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, showed WSF needed to change its business and service plan to implement more effective service to the Puget Sound area.

“We gave some input on the agenda and we really want the ferries to hear input from the communities,” said Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee Chairman Walt Elliott. “This is a way for them to be aware of what’s going on.”

Twenty-third District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), who has lobbied hard for changes to the system to benefit commuters and riders, said she was uncertain whether her schedule would allow her to attend the meeting. She is working on several pieces of legislation and bills for the upcoming session that could help the metamorphosis of the ferry system. She did encourage any and all residents who could attend to do so, voice their opinions and use the opportunity to connect with WSF officials.

“The other issues that came out with the audit will take time,” she said of alterations coming after the state’s report. “I’m glad we have the meeting on the 25th. It will be a good chance for the community to respond to the audit and discuss some of the changes coming.”

Elliott said this will keep the various state organizations from “churning” away at issues the public should have a chance to comment on. The meetings keep the process somewhat transparent, and will provide the opportunity for residents, especially commuters, to make sure their concerns and thoughts are being heard. At several previous ferry meetings, tempers flared and extreme measures — in the form of an air horn — were taken to silence the audience.

Elliott said he didn’t expect a similar response next week because there aren’t any specific, heated issues on the table, such as fare increases.

“The reason it is important for the public and people to show up is the leadership in Olympia, many of the people would be pleased to go forward without public participation,” he said. “If the ridership wants a voice, this is the chance. Ferry riders don’t have a lot of experienced leadership, and we in the West Sound will be most affect by anything changed... When these processes go forward, the west sound ridership has to be involved, because the impacts are on them.”

Washington State Ferry meeting

6:30 p.m. Sept. 25

Kingston Cove Yacht Club

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