Ferry’s iron man award goes to MV Sealth

The ferry Sealth received the equivalent of Washington State Ferries’ Fleet Achievement Award as the most reliable boat in the fleet. The 34-yar-old vessel made 7,049 trips, ran for 3,522 hours and traveled 52,157 miles while missing only five trips because of mechanical failure.

It beat out four ferries that didn’t lose a single trip to mechanical problems. The are the Chelan, Chetzemoka, Evergreen State and Hiyu. The latter two shouldn’t really count. The Evergreen State was supposed to be retired. It was needed as a backup boat, however, and ran more than expected but nowhere close to full time. I don’t remember the 34-car Hiyu ever leaving the dock.

 

 

Republican wants flags off ferries, especially rainbow ones

According to the Tri-City Herald, state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, wants no other flag besides the Stars and Stripes, the Washington state flag and maritime signal flags to fly on state ferries.

Ferry workers are Washingtonians of the Day

Washington State Ferries director Lynne Griffith will join Jay Inslee at 3:30 p.m. today to “recognize the many heroic acts of crew members who went beyond the call of duty to save lives.”

Inslee will name the visiting crew members as Washingtonians of the Day.

“From rescuing people in swamped kayaks and capsized sailboats, performing CPR on deck, to even delivering babies, these crew members go beyond the call of duty and sometimes risk their own lives to keep our citizens safe,” the governor’s office said.

Transit spokesman will push info, not agenda

For the first time in its 30-year existence, Kitsap Transit will employ a public information officer. You might think that’s a big deal for me, a reporter. For you, not so much.

Just the opposite. I go to the meetings. When I need to talk to somebody, I dial them up. That’s my job. Not being yours, you’re harder for the agency to reach. Even if you had time, you wouldn’t go to meetings. Transit needs to come up with other ways to engage you.

Until now, tasks normally handled by a public information person were split up. They were considered “other duties as assigned,” said executive director John Clauson.

“Right now it’s not something that’s a high priority of any one person’s job description,” he said. “We need to focus more attention on it.”

That might have been reinforced when a survey last year revealed only a minority of Kitsapers knew about a cross-Sound ferry plan the agency had been working on for years.

The going rate for a professional communications person starts at $88,000, as determined by a salary survey of like agencies, Clauson said. Intercity Transit in Olympia, a bit smaller than Kitsap Transit, starts at $75,000.

Are they adding this position now to push the cross-Sound passenger-only ferry plan, you might wonder. It crossed my mind. The transit board will decide soon whether to ask voters to fund the service. If yes, they’ll choose whether to put it on the ballot in April or November.

Upon further review, a PIO wouldn’t be plugging the plan. It’s not allowed.

“As a public agency, we can’t campaign,” Clauson said. “What we can do is provide information, as long as it’s factual. They’re not going to be a campaign manager.”

The prospective hire follows earlier marketing efforts that include a new logo and revamped website that’s more appealing and functional. Clauson holds quarterly community meetings. A website — www.kitsapferries.com ­— has been created to provide ferry plan information.

“There’s a lot of information that we need to share and we just need to do a better job of that,” Clauson said. “It’s very important to us to remember who owns Kitsap Transit. It’s not me, it’s the communities, and the communities have a right to know.”

Kitsap Transit plans to add two other new positions this year — operations supervisor and mechanic apprentice — and bump the ORCA coordinator from half time to full time.

Transit board member Leslie Daugs of the Bremerton City Council asked during a budget briefing whether it’s a good idea to be adding positions with the “fiscal cliff” looming. That’s where revenues are estimated to increase 3.5 percent a year while expenses rise at a 5 percent rate. Kitsap Transit could be in a deficit position as early as 2019.

Clauson said the deficit needs to be postponed through other means, such as replacing diesel buses with those that run on propane, which is cheaper.

Suquamish pitched for new ferry name

0609_KSLO_Tokitae1The fourth of this class of ferries — this is the Tokitae — could be named Suquamish.

The Suquamish Tribe might have gotten a break in its quest to have a new ferry named after it.

After Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman’s pitch to the state Transportation Commission Tuesday, Transportation Chairwoman Anne Haley disclosed an affinity for the Suquamish. Her great aunt wrote a book in the 1930s about the Chief Seattle and Princess Angeline. She feels a “kinship” with the Suquamish because of that, she said.

Forsman told her the book is rare and one of the better historic pieces about the tribe.
During the presentation, he said the Suquamish, unlike many other tribes, lived along — and relied upon — marine waters. They rowed canoes back and forth across Puget Sound to fishing grounds. They helped early settlers get established.

The town of Suquamish was among the first ferry terminals. An early private ferry was called Suquamish. Today, many Suquamish commuters rely on the ferries for their economic well-being, as well as social connections.

Supporters of the other two names in the running — Sammamish and Cowlitz — will make presentations Wednesday. The commission is collecting opinions from two survey groups. Washington State Ferries personnel and the ferry advisory executive committee will chime in. The decision will be announced at the Transportation Commission’s March meeting.

This is the fourth of four new Olympic-class ferries. The others are named Tokitae, Samish and Chimacum. With boats already named Salish and Samish, it could be fun to add Suquamish or Sammamish to the mix.

State knows about Highway 166 settling

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One of you readers mentioned in the comments to my Tracyton Beach Road story earlier this week that Highway 166, the road between Port Orchard and Gorst, is settling. I called WSDOT’s Claudia Bingham-Baker and she asked the maintenance crew to take a look at it. Here’s the photo they snapped.

She says they’re aware of it and plan to level and patch the road this summer.

I don’t know if this is related to the mudslides along there that would close the highway almost annually. It took several years, but the state seemed to get that under control.
 

Bridge tolls can’t be removed with the snap of the fingers

A petition posted on change.org last week seeking to freeze or eliminate tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge generated an energetic response and much misinformation. I’ve attempted many times to explain the situation, but it’s apparently hard to comprehend. Maybe casting the information in the form of a quiz will make it easier.

1. What was the original cost estimate for the bridge?
A. $729 million
B. $350 million
C. $2.1 billion
D. $175 million
Answer: The state estimated in 1998, before negotiating a deal with builder United Infrastructure, the cost would be $350 million.

2. What did bridge construction wind up costing?
A. $729 million
B. $1.5 billion
C. $400 million
D. $1 billion
Answer: The construction cost was $729 million.

3. When will the bridge be paid off?
A. It was funded by state taxes.
B. It was paid off years ago.
C. 2030
D. Never
Answer: The bridge will be paid off and all other obligations satisfied by July 1, 2030.

4. What will be the total cost, including interest?
A. $729 million
B. $1.5 billion
C. $1 billion
D. $3.2 billion
Answer: The final payout will be $1.5 billion. That includes $684 million in bonds plus interest.

5. What happens after the bridge gets paid off?
A. Tolls will remain to pay for other state projects.
B. Tolls will be reduced to the amount needed to operate and maintain the bridge.
C. Tolls must legally be removed.
D. Tolls will remain to help pay for basic education.
Answer: Tolls must legally be removed. State taxes will pay for maintenance, like on the old bridge.

6. How often are toll rates increased?
A. Every July 1
B. Every couple months
C. When tolls start to fall short of paying for bonds, maintenance and operations
D. When state officials want a pay raise
Answer: Toll rates are raised when necessary to keep up with bond payments that increase each year.

7. How many times have toll rates been raised since the bridge opened in July 2007?
A. Eight (annually)
B. Twice
C. Twelve
D. Five
Answer: Five times, from $1.75 the first year for transponders to $2.75 the next four years to $4, $4.25, $4.50 and $5 each for a year. The toll plan in 2002 foresaw tolls of $3 the first two years, $4 for three years, $5 for three years and $6 beginning this year for the remaining 15 years.

8. How much would a full-time commuter with a Good To Go pass pay a year at the current rate?
A. $3,000
B. $4,500
C. $850
D. 1,300
Answer: Assuming 260 weekdays in a year, the annual cost would be $1,300.

9. What percent of tolls goes to pay the bonds?
A. 85 percent
B. 15 percent
C. 100 percent
D. 45 percent
Answer: In fiscal year 2014, $54 million of the $64.1 million in tolls — 85 percent — went toward debt service.

10. What else can tolls pay for?
1. State mega-projects
2. Pierce County road maintenance
3. Ferry operations
4. Bridge maintenance and operation
Answer: Only for maintenance and operation of the new bridge

11. An advisory election was held in 1998 whether people believed a toll bridge should be built. What areas were included?
A. Kitsap Peninsula only
B. Kitsap and Pierce counties
C. Kitsap, Pierce Clallam, Jefferson, Thurston, Mason and King counties.
D. The entire state
Answer: All of Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson and Thurston counties, most of Pierce and portions of Mason and King

12. What was the result of the advisory vote?
A. 53 percent approval
B. 95 percent approval
C. 19 percent approval
D. 33 percent approval
Answer: Transportation Secretary Sid Morrison interpreted a narrow 53 percent margin as a public approval to use corporate bonds to finance a new bridge. Eighty-three percent of Gig Harbor/South Kitsap voters were against it.

13. How has bridge traffic been since the new bridge went in?
A. Flat
B. Better than expected
C. Worse than expected
D. Nobody keeps track
Answer: Traffic has grown year to year, but not to the level expected. Forecasters in 2002 projected 2015 traffic to be 17 million, then dropped it to 16.4 million in a 2005 forecast. Actual 2015 traffic was 14.4 million. Fewer transactions contribute to more frequent toll increases.

14. Has the new bridge improved traffic congestion?
A. Not enough to warrant the tolls
B. It’s so much better that I don’t mind the tolls.
C. You can’t tell the difference except during commute times.
D.  I’d rather wait in traffic.
Answer: It would often take an hour to travel from Interstate 5 to the bridge between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Now it takes 6 to 7 minutes, according to DOT. It used to take 40 minutes to go from Rosedale Street to the bridge from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Now it takes 7 to 8 minutes to motor all the way from Highway 302.

15. Where can you find financial and traffic information?

A. You need a security clearance.
B. Online at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolling page
C. It’s on the Internet someplace but hard to find.
D. The information is not available to public.
Answer: On the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolling page

The petition is directed at the state Department of Transportation and Transportation Commission, which can’t freeze or eliminate tolls. Toll revenue would have to be replaced by other funds to pay for the bridge, and only the Legislature can do that. It had a chance with passage in June of a $16.1 billion transportation revenue package, but help for Narrows toll-payers wasn’t included.
Local legislators and the citizen advisory committee have worked to keep bridge costs at a minimum. Most recently, Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, led an effort to defer payment of $57.6 million in sales taxes on construction costs until the rest of the bridge is paid off. Tolls would be collected an extra six to eight months, but rates would be less.
Despite what many might believe, there’s no good way to freeze or remove the tolls.
“There isn’t any other means to pay that bridge off that I know of,” Angel said. “That’s why I tried to do naming rights. That’s why the last session I got all the sales tax diverted to the very end. There is no fix that I can even see out there. We might be able to do some minuscule things here and there, but those tolls pay for the bridge.”

Bainbridge ferry rider a real life-saver

ferryblog

Washington State Ferries employees have taken part in several potential life-saving events this year. Last time I checked, it was up to 18 incidents. Last month, a rider got into the act.

Kevin Halverson became the first member of the public to receive WSF’s Life Ring Award for saving another passenger on Oct. 5.

Halverson, who makes the reverse commute from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, was on his way back home that afternoon, sitting in the galley area, when he heard that a person couldn’t breathe or talk.

Halvorsen quickly responded and performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the food blocking the person’s windpipe. The passenger left quickly after the incident and nobody got his name.

As a way to say thank you, the crew hosted Halverson for a vessel tour on Nov. 9 and presented him with the Live Ring Award.

Ferries filling 61 percent of car space

What percentage of ferry vehicle space gets used?

If you travel at commute times or sail away for the weekend, you’d think almost all of it. It’s not uncommon to wait an hour or more to drive aboard during those times.

The answer is 61 percent, which is still pretty impressive considering the boats run practically all day long.

Individual routes ranged from 45 percent full for Seattle-Bremerton to 66 percent for Mukilteo-Clinton. Bremerton is largely a foot route. Seventy-four percent of riders are car passengers or walk-ons.

Riders always complain that they need bigger boats, like on the Bainbridge route, but they really don’t. It’d just be a waste of fuel and labor costs.

Bremerton, however, is bumping up to a new 144-car Chimacum in 2017, whether it needs to or not. It can grow into it.

Bainbridge has similar characteristics to Bremerton because it’s going the same place — to a major city. Sixty-nine percent of its customers are passengers as opposed to drivers.
Only 43 percent of Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth riders are passengers, 48 percent  on the Edmonds-Kingston route and 56 percent for the system overall.

Almost never does a ferry reach passenger capacity, though it might seem so in early morning when the booths become beds. The day of the Seahawks’ parade after winning the Super Bowl was a notable exception.

Though an average of 61 percent of the system’s car decks are filled at any time, just 12 percent of passenger space is being used. It ranges from 7 percent at Point Defiance-Tahlequah to 18 percent for Anacortes-Sidney, British Columbia. It’s hard to put fannies in up to 2,500 seats.