In a report to the Washington State Transportation Commission
last week, new director Lynne Griffith showed that the former bus
lady gets it.
TRANSPARENCY A PRIORITY
You hear a lot of people talk about being up front, but few follow
through. I say you’re better off being truthful up front because
it’ll only get worse if you don’t. I don’t have to tell Griffith
“We need to just be more candid and direct and provide the
information because most people can figure out that there’s a back
story to what we’ve been offering,” she said.
After WSF figured out what happened to the Tacoma’s electrical
system that caused it to lose power off of Bainbridge Island, they
invited news folks to Eagle Harbor to explain and show the damaged
“You could literally watch the media move from who’s to blame to
being curious and interested in the problem we were confronted
with,” Griffith said.
Standard procedure with public agencies anymore is to submit a
public information request if you want to find out anything.
Whatever happened to just being able to talk to people?
I have a transparency tip. Stop sending out alerts about ferries
missing sailings or being late because of “operational
constraints.” When riders hear that, they assume there’s a staffing
problem, which isn’t always the case. It could be a medical
emergency or mechanical issue. Just say what it is, like you used
to. I think the policy was supposed to take the focus off staffing,
but it’s backfiring.
ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
Griffith is trying to pull together an outfit that was totally
fragmented when she took over.
“We need to unify the organization,” she said. “There is
divisiveness between management and labor, upper and lower decks.
It all hurts in achieving our goals.”
Griffith is stripping out second-level management positions so
everybody is directly accountable to her.
GROWING OLD TOGETHER
Forty-six percent of vessel workers are over 55 years old,
including half of the deck crews, 55 percent of engine crews and 62
percent of captains.
“A tsunami of exits are going to occur over the next 10 years,”
The agency needs to develop a succession plan and prepare new hires
to move through the system and earn their licenses so they’re
available to meet demand.
Griffith told the commission she’s asked for a 23-boat fleet
instead of 22, so it’s not so hard to maintain vessels.
“Maintenance is very good,” Griffith said. “They are very capable
and knowledgeable. They know what to do to fix these vessels. The
problem is getting at the vessels. If they’re operating 20 hours a
day, there’s really only two hours a night when maintenance teams
can do the work.”
She wants to retire the 34-car Hiyu.
“Unfortunately, we don’t use it because it really can’t help us on
any of the routes,” she said. “It’d be much better to have a larger
vessel in reasonably good repair we could pull in (to service) when
we have a disruption.”
WSF’s maintenance schedule shows the Hiyu being decommissioned in
early May, though I haven’t heard anything official about that.
The 87-car Evergreen State was supposed to be retired last year,
but was brought back for standby, and it’s a good thing. It’s slow
and small, but a lot better than the Hiyu, or nothing.
When the next two 144-car ferries enter service, the E-State and
sister Klahowya can retire. And if WSF gets the fourth 144-car boat
it’s asking for, the Tillikum can join them.
Vigor will deliver the second boat, Samish, to WSF on March 27.
It’ll be christened by the state’s First Lady on May 20 after sea
trials and join the fleet in time for Memorial Day Weekend, the
The third ferry, Chimacum, will come to the Bremerton route in
March 2017. Legislators seem inclined to fund a fourth. We should
know in a month.
Many boat interiors are tired-looking, and that’s not going to
change for awhile, Griffith said. The agency’s limited funds must
go toward keeping the ferries running and safe. But that doesn’t
mean they can’t be clean and comfortable.
Better galley choices wouldn’t cost anything. Vendors provide the
food and drink and recoup costs through their customers.
“I would love to see us look long and hard at what the menus are,
what are the available food selections,” she said.
Since Jan. 1, ferry workers have participated in nine lifesaving
events, from heart attacks to people overboard. Griffith said last
week. On Saturday, the Kaleetan crew plucked another man from the
water in Bremerton.
“It’s just natural for them to do it, just part of their job,”
Griffith said. “They don’t think of it as particularly