The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for March, 2010

You Can Afford an Electric Car

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

That’s what Plug In America said, anyway, in a press release they sent me this week.

It’s about Nissan’s all-electric Leaf. The company recently came out with its pricing. With federal tax credits, the base model plus an installed  home charging station will cost $26,380. But you won’t be able to buy one for a while. First, you already have to be registered. That allows you to make a reservation between April 20 and May 15. They’ll start taking orders at dealerships in August.

Plug In America, a nonprofict organization that works to speed up the shift to plug-in vehicles, says an electric car that costs about the same as a gas one will do just that. They say the Leaf will cost less than the best-selling hybrid Toyota Prius. That’s a bit of a stretch. I looked it up and Priuses range from $22,800 to $28,070.

I can’t afford either one, but it’s not too bad. I wonder how long it would take to make up the difference in gas.


Only Troopers Can Fine Ferry Line-Cutters

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Upon further review, the story I wrote last week about cutting in ferry lines has been overturned. You can’t get a ticket no matter how many times people report you. You can only be fined if caught red-handed by a state trooper. That’ll cost you $124.
Sgt. Trent Cain of the State Patrol’s Homeland Security Division pointed that out to me Tuesday. I wrote last week about ferry line-cutters being added to high-occupancy vehicle lane cheaters in the state’s HERO self-enforcement program. That’s where if you see somebody cutting in, you can call (877) 764-HERO and report them. This is what happens next, according to a Washington State Ferries press release from March 23:
After the first report, “an education letter and brochure will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. If a second complaint is logged, the registered owner’s information will be forwarded to the Washington State Patrol. A ticket for line cutting costs $124.”
I must’ve read that to say a third complaint would result in a $124 ticket. Sorry.
Cain said he doesn’t know what would happen after a third complaint. Whatever, it won’t be a $124 ticket.
“It’s our hope that we don’t have a third time,” he said. “If we do, we’ll address that accordingly.”
A caller who wants to teach a line-cutter a lesson might not be so quick to report someone if they know the worst that could happen is they’ll get some reading material in the mail. Not that people are vindictive.
The violator can call the same phone number or fill out an online dispute form and say they were falsely accused, but why bother if it doesn’t really matter?
Commenters on my story last week also pointed out that if you had it in for somebody, you could just report him three times and get him a $124 ticket. Others said the violator could get off it he took it to court and the caller didn’t show up. Those are good points I didn’t think of.
From reading the comments, readers weren’t buying that line-cutting is mostly by infrequent, uneducated ferry users, as WSF suggested. People do it on purpose, and it really ticks off everybody else.
“The anger and frustration toward these cutters has become increasingly violent and dangerous,” WSF’s press release said. We determined that drivers needed a safe and legal alternative to address those who break the law.”
And you know what irks ferry regulars just as much as line cutters? Those who let line-cutters cut in. They’re not being courteous; they’re being jerks to everybody else in line, commeters said. If caught, they should be sent to the back of the line along with the cutters.


A Look at Where Bremerton’s Former Passenger-Only Ferries are Now

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

While Ed has written about what happened to Bremerton’s former passenger only ferries, I got a firsthand look at one of them on Monday while I was in San Francisco. And like the Bremerton geek I am, I got photos and found a little information about our former MV Snohomish — now called the MV Napa — and added it to the captions. Click on the photo below to see more from a trip aboard the ferry.


Expect Traffic Back-ups at Bases

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

As part of a nationwide force protection exercise, Naval Base Kitsap has raised security measures at all gates. Expect traffic delays around Bangor, Bremerton and Keyport.


Trying to Unlock Keyless Entry Mystery

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Many people have learned through experience that when an aircraft carrier rolls in or out of Bremerton, their electronic garage door opener or remote keyless entry for their car might stop working.
It happened again Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, when the USS Nimitz popped in to pick up supplies and family members for a cruise to San Diego.
Chelsea Browning, office manager at Kitsap Garage Door in Bremerton, said she got 25 to 30 calls about remotes going on the fritz. She told them there was probably interference coming from the shipyard and it should go away soon.
It was more of the same at area car dealers. Aaron Taylor, service writer at Grey Chevrolet in Port Orchard, said 10 people came in or called because their fobs weren’t working, and Bay Ford service adviser Dawn Moore said keyless entries wouldn’t unlock any cars on the lot, including hers.
“To everybody who came in we said wait two days and they’ll go back to normal,” Moore said. “They wanted to buy new ones or buy batteries and we said you’re going to waste your money, don’t do that.”
The Navy checked with the Nimitz folks, who said it wasn’t them. Maybe the tugboats or Coast Guard cutters that accompany it were causing the interference.
It’s not that big a deal, really. People can just pop the key out of its fob and unlock the door manually, or get out of the car and operate the garage door. My car is too old to have a fob, and I’d just as soon not have electric windows and door locks, but that’s another story.
Even if it is the carriers, the Navy owns the radio frequencies that are being interrupted. Consumer gadget-makers, including those of garage door openers, have been allowed to borrow them if they keep their signals weak enough to accommodate the military, according to an old Washington Post story.
In 2001, keyless remotes wouldn’t work on thousands of vehicles around Bremerton, Port Orchard and Silverdale from March 21 to 26 and for several hours on April 12. Speculation was that the carrier USS Carl Vinson, which had recently returned to Bremerton, was causing the interference, but Navy officials said there was no evidence that a Navy ship was causing the problem. Nobody every figured out the cause.
And way back in 1995, the Nimitz’s radar scrambled the Kitsap Sun’s satellite data reception and it wasn’t able to print its stock tables. The Nimitz was preparing to go to sea after a long overhaul, and the crew was testing its systems. The paper and Navy had a deal that radar testing would only occur during the day because most of the paper’s material was transmitted at night.
The paper had similar problems two years earlier as the overhaul of the cruiser USS California drew to a close.
It has to be more than a coincidence that a big Navy ship is coming or going, or getting ready to come or go, every time the remotes go dead. It’d be nice to be the guy to pinpoint the cause, but maybe more fun for it to remain a mystery.


Traffic Shifting at Nalley Valley

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Crews will be making some big changes this weekend to the Highway 16 through Nalley Valley in Tacoma.

Westbound Highway 16 traffic will be shifted onto a new temporary roadway, and the ramp from westbound Highway 16 to Sprague Avenue, which carries 12,000 cars a day, will be closed until the project is completed in about a year.

The changes will cause slowdowns to continue. Drivers should plan for delays from both directions of I-5 to Highway 16 and on westbound Highway 16 at Union Avenue.

Westbound Highway 16, which carries 65,000 vehicles a day, will be closed overnight from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday as the changes are put in place.


Get Those Ferry Names Handed In

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Now that the first new 64-car ferry has been named, along with the class of ferries it will be part of, it’s time to name the second ferry now that Todd Shipyards is starting to build it. The state Transportation Commission, which oversees naming things, has established some guidelines.

Last fall, it approved naming the first ferry “Chetzemoka” after the S’Klallam chief. A ferry had also been named that in the old days. Then a fourth-grade class at Port Townsend’s Blue Heron Middle School (yeah, they have fourth-graders there; I looked it up), named the new class of ferries Kwa-di Tabil class, which means “little boat” in Quileute.

Then the Island County Historical Society and Swinomish Tribe touted the name “Squi qui” for the second boat. Squi qui was a key figure in the Lower Skagit Tribe that occupied central Whidbey Island in the mid-1800s. I think that’s why the Transportation Commission came out with some guidelines.

They include:

Carry statewide significance and repesent the state’s image and culture.

Represent such things as state symbols, tribal names, bodies of water, geographic locations, cities, counties or relate to nautical heritage.

Consistency with existing WSF fleet names.

Have broad familiarity, be easy to pronounce (can you say Kwa-di Tabil?) and not be offensive.

You can submit suggestions until April 30. After that, there will be a review and public comment process. Final selection will be during the commission’s July 13-14 meeting in Olympia.

For more about ferry naming, go here.


Who Should Pay for Ferry Fuel Spikes?

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

That was the question asked recently of members of the Ferry Riders Opinion Group (FROG), which wants to get input from as many folks as possible. You can sign up at www.ferryridersopiniongroup.com/public.

Anyway, 40 percent of ferry riders said they’d want all state taxpayers to foot the bill by shifting more gas tax revenue to the ferries. That would require taking money dedicated to highway projects or maintenance, or increasing the tax on gas. Eleven percent said they’ve be willing to pay a surcharge to cover it, and 8 percent said they’d be OK with a combination of a surcharge, fares and state subside increases.

I could maybe imagine a fuel surcharge if diesel prices out of nowhere rocketed past $4 a gallon like a few years ago. But this biennium that we’re in the middle of, Washington State Ferries budgeted about $30 million too low. Somebody just blew it, whether it was ferry people or the the oil price soothsayers that the use. If they would have budgeted more realistically, there would have been enough money available, so I wouldn’t put that on the riders.

There was talk that a surcharge could go into effect on May 1 to cover that deficit, but now it looks like the Legislature will take care of it in the supplemental budget. I think they’re also going to pass something that directs WSF to use more than one soothsayer when predicting future fuel prices.

And everyone, go sign up for FROG and make your opinions known.


Chetzemoka Takes to the Water

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Washington State Ferries’ new ferry Chetzemoka was placed in the water last week. Work began in July and the 64-car ferry should be running between Port Townsend and Keyport this summer. Here are some photos from DOT.


Put a Sail on That Ferry Boat

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

It’s hard to envision a passenger ferry with sails, but it makes some sense. A guy in California is hoping to sell ferry companies in the Bay Area on the idea, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jay Gardner, with Wind+Wing Technologies, says it would cost between $3 million and $9 million to build a wind-assisted” ferry and it would cut fuel use by at least 40 percent.

The sails aren’t like the canvas ones on a regular sailboat but are made fo carbon composite materials and are more like airplane wings.

There’s another company in Australia, Solar Sailor, that makes ferries with sails covered in solar panels. That way, while the ferry is stopped, as it often is, it’s still generating power.