WSF: Come out and join our live chat group
By VAL TORRENS
North Kitsap Herald Columnist
June 23, 2008 · Updated 4:36 PM
Washington State Ferries (WSF) is conducting another set of meetings to get ideas and information from users on how the system should operate. There is no better time to provide input to a government entity than when they ask for public comment. That said, the public needs to do its part.
Too often the public shows up to such meetings loaded for bear. People are more than ready to tell elected officials and government representatives what is wrong with the direction they are going or the decisions they are making. Rarely do the selfsame people provide any possible ideas or scenarios that they think would work better or solve the problem.
If one really wants to make headway, one does need to do exactly that: Give some thought and consideration to what may be the solution to the problem(s) facing the agency seeking comment. Any idea is better than none and certainly better than a litany of complaints and castigations that do nothing to further resolution of the issue(s) before folks.
For example, the Transportation Commission has proposed several times that WSF fares should be changed to get people off peak demand times by charging higher rates for commuter hours. Clearly, this is an idea that comes from people who do not know or understand what it means to commute by a boat.
Boats are not buses and do not operate with the same frequency. Commuters, when asked in the recent survey, made it clear that while some could shift their work hours, it would not be enough to get them outside of the peak times. After all, how many people can start work at 10 a.m. and leave at 1-2 p.m. or be able to get home after 8:30 p.m.?
But, the bottom line is the bottom line. How to increase revenues for the system? To a great extent, all the available opportunities for raising revenue within the WSF system have all been tapped. There is onboard and terminal advertising and food vendors from whom WSF gets a percentage. The fares have already reached the point of diminishing returns as ferries have lost ridership due to its high fare structure. The only place really left to get revenue is from the state coffers.
Still, if there are other ideas, then now is the time to bring them forth. The ideas should show where the money can come from and how much impact to the system it will have. This means members of the public will have to do some work to support their ideas. Otherwise, it is likely the idea will go the way of many – to the round file because the WSF, like many government agencies, does not have the staff nor time to do the background work required to demonstrate the feasibility of the idea. Frankly, from my viewpoint, the best source of reliable revenue is from the state. The Transportation Commission needs to recognize that WSF is a twofer: a marine highway and a mass transit system. WSF should be able to get funding from both the highway and transit monies. Legislation brought by local representatives, like State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D — Poulsbo) who tried to get WSF more of the highway tax dollar than is currently received, should be actively supported.
Regardless of whether folks agree with this position or not, ideas and input are needed. It is not a time to complain but a time to engage in thoughtful discussion as to how to make WSF a better system. The only other thing that would make this approach even better is to hold some meetings where the rest of the riders live: Silverdale and Poulsbo.
No ferry/bus commuter can attend terminal area meetings because there are no commuter buses running after the meetings end.
The North End’s meetings will be from 6:30-9 p.m. June 24 at Kingston Yacht Club.