Category Archives: Transportation

Seattle Needs the Ferries More than We Do

seattleferry.jpgPhoto comes from here.

Thursday morning at a meeting of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council the local cities’ and county’s electeds agreed that stable ferry funding has to be our legislative delegation’s top priority in the 2009 session.

To make sure it happens, the group is planning to study the impact ferries have on the Seattle economy as part of an effort to gather legislative allies for the cause.

“This has got to be a spiritual cause for them,” said Bremerton mayor Cary Bozeman.

“We’ve got to be evangelists,” said Lary Coppola, Port Orchard mayor.

Kitsap County commissioner Steve Bauer suggested a strategy of gathering data about how the ferries matter to the eastside economy, then creating a presentation to make the case, all in an effort to add allies.

Nine legislators represent Kitsap County. Add three more for Vashon, three for Clallam and Jefferson, three for Island County and three for the San Juans. That’s 14 of 98 in the House, seven of 49 in the Senate. Those 21 probably won’t need much convincing.

It will be the legislators on the receiving end of the ferries, from Pierce to Snohomish, that will be key to the strategy. “They don’t have this on the radar from an economic sense,” said Bainbridge Island mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

The KRCC officials referred to a study that showed tourism accounted for a bigger share of ferry traveling than previously estimated.

Coppola said the ferry case will have to be made to Seattle business groups that it wouldn’t be good economically for them to see the ferry service continue to be threatened. “They’re going to make the case to their legislators, because they’re going to understand it’s money out of their pocket.”

Bauer said if the ferries stopped tomorrow it could have a bigger negative impact on the Seattle side than it would over here.

Kitsap’s Appointments to the PSRC

Tomorrow, I’ll be attending a meeting of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, at which members will outline a process for evaluating Kitsap’s membeship in the Puget Sound Regional Council. You can read the most recent story about Kitsap and the PSRC here, but in a nutshell, South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel and members of the community, most notably Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, have questioned the value of Kitsap’s membership in the PSRC.

An evaluation by county staff shows Kitsap received roughly $31 million more in funding for regional transportation projects from 1992 through 2007 than it would have if it had operated as its own independent planning organization. But critics and Angel say that PSRC takes away local control. Angel was among a handful of PSRC members who recently voted against that entity’s Vision 2040 plan.

Because the question of whether the PSRC is good for Kitsap has been raised, all local entities involved need to be able to weigh in said Mary McClure, KRCC’s executive director. McClure and others have suggested that an equally timely discussion would be how Kitsap can increase its effectiveness on the PSRC, which also includes King, Pierce and Snohomish County.

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown, who serves on the PSRC’s executive committee, would like to see more involvement on the part of Kitsap’s committee appointees to the PSRC. Just by showing up and taking part, they can exert significant influence despite Kitsap’s relatively small size compared to the other counties, Brown said.

Here’s a list of Kitsap appointees to the PSRC (below, I’ll list Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council’s 2008 membership so you’ll know who fits where).
KConPRSC.pdf

Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council 2008:
Chair
Council Member Carol Arends
City of Bremerton

Vice-Chair
North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer
Kitsap County

Members:
Kitsap County
South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel
Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown

City of Bremerton
Mayor Cary Bozeman
Council Member Will Maupin
Council Member Nick Wofford*

City of Bainbridge Island
Mayor Darlene Kordonowy
Council Member Debbie Vancil
Council Member Kim Brackett*

City of Port Orchard
Mayor Lary Coppola
Council Member Carolyn Powers*

City of Poulsbo
Mayor Kathryn Quade
Council Member Ed Stern

Suquamish Tribe (Membership Memorandum of Understanding in Progress)
Council Chair Leonard Forsman
Rob Purser*

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe
Council Chair Leonard Forsman
Rob Purser*

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (Membership Memorandum of Understanding in Progress)
Council Chair Ron Charles
Doug Quade*

Port of Bremerton
Commissioner Cheryl Kincer
Commissioner Bill Mahan

Naval Base Kitsap (ex officio member)
Captain Reid Tanaka
Tom Danaher, PAO*

Mary McClure
Executive Management
McClure Consulting LLC

Economic Stimulus Round Two

Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling on the federal government to offer a second economic stimulus program, one that would result in the rapid repair and building of sewers, bridges and roads. She issued a press release that argues:

In Washington alone there are 156 water and sewer projects worth more than $350 million, and 29 statewide transportation projects that would cost $75 million. All of these projects have gone through the design and environmental review process and could begin construction within weeks.

Surely there are those who would argue that those projects wouldn’t be waiting so much for money if the Legislature and the governor had their priorities in proper place.

Nonetheless, this isn’t a proposal the governor is inventing on her own. The governor may be answering a call put out by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

George Behan, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, said some members of Congress tried to get infrastructure funding as part of the first economic stimulus package, the one you’re going to use to beef up that stereo system in your car. The idea is that repairing the bridges and roads and building sewers and the like, things that create a stream of paychecks, is better than sending a single check.

It’s something Dicks favors. “Norm has always supported infrastructure programs because of the enormous impact on job creation,” Behan said.

Behan said the transpo committee authorized an advisory letter asking states to come up with a list of projects in which construction could begin right away.

I’ve asked the governor for a list of local projects. A spokesman from the office said they are in the process of compiling a statewide list. I have a transportation list and none of them are in our area. The closest is cable replacement of the Murray Morgan Bridge in Tacoma.

UPDATE: I just received the list of sewer and water projects and there are several in Kitsap County. I’ll see if I can find a way to post the lists. No promises, though.

The governor’s press release follows:

Continue reading

Ferry Frustration in Bremerton

Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman, in response to another ferry mishap this morning, is pitching this as a “My Turn” entry for our paper, which may happen. You get to read it here first.

First of all as a elected public official in Kitsap County I feel compelled to apologize to the ferry riding public for being part of a elected delegation that has allowed the financial and structural demise of a once wonderful Washington State Ferry System. I remember as a young boy riding the Kalakala from Seattle to Bremerton, what a great experience. It is not the experience our Bremerton riders have today.

Let me be clear, the Washington State Ferry system is in crisis and could collapse unless the officials charged with the responsibility of operating the system come together and demonstrate courageous leadership. This crisis did not start last month, it has been going on for the past 20 years yet neither the Governor’s office nor the State Legislature have been willing to face the problem. Instead they have passed the problem on to the next Governor or the next legislative session. The former Director of Transportation who had responsibility for the ferry system had little interest in solving the ferry problem, he was more interested in funding the state highway system.

Now where do we go from here. We must step up to the challenge and solve the problem. The following actions must take place right now. First the Governor must show concern and leadership on solving the ferry crisis. The buck stops at her desk. Second, the nine legislators who represent Bremerton and Kitsap County must come together as a body and fight like heck to provide adequate funding for the ferry system. I watched as this delegation came together to fight the NASCAR project and they were very successful. They must do the same on the ferry problem. Third, we must keep working on reinstating the passenger only ferry system to provide an alternative to the Washington State Ferry system for our Kitsap riders. I believe we can bring this service back in the next 24 months and we are working on it everyday.

This is a challenge that will be solved, there is no option.
Mayor Cary Bozeman

State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, represents the 23rd District and responded to a constituent:

I have to tell you that all nine of your legislators are fighting to get the ferry system turned around.
I have sponsored, Rep. Rolfes has co-sponsored, 3 bills – to do away with the 30 minute lock-out; an extension of the expiration date from 90 to 120 days, and 2718 which restores the language for frequent user discounts. That of course does not address the problem of ferries and getting premium service to Bremerton. We are meeting constantly with Paula Hammond and Steve Reinmuth – what has happened for many years before we came to the legislature we cannot undo – but we are working hard to make sure there are new boats (the first will be out in 14 months) and restoring service.

It took years for the ferry system to get where it is today, and all nine of us are doing all we can to make it better. I appreciate how passionately all of you feel, and I promise I will do my best to make it better.

On Ferries, “And Another Thing . . . “

State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond visited with commuters on the Southworth run this morning and listened to their comments.

Since I don’t live down that way or commute, the only thing I think I would tell her is to get one more run between Seattle and Bremerton between 10:30 p.m. and 12:50 a.m. To repeat an unending complaint of mine, I hate being at the Mariners game and having to choose between staying until the end of the game or catching the earlier boat.

And another thing . . . (Go.)

UPDATE: The Kitsap Sun has an audio feedback program available to you. On the ferry story the Sun is asking, “Has your commute been affected by the route changes from either Bremerton or Southworth terminals? Call the Kitsap Sun reader voice mail box at 415-2683 to leave your story of what traveling is like these days. Messages left may be used in an audio presentation at www.kitsapsun.com.”

A Common Sense Solution for Speeding

A reader sent this video to me. It’s in German, I think.

With Bremerton set to embark on the use of traffic cameras for stop-sign runners, here’s a solution for speeding the city could consider in the future. I found a translation on the Web, but I can’t verify that it’s accurate. It’s below the video.

“What are you doing Gisela? The camera is already running. Come here. I will show it to this guy! He won’t drive through here any more. Gisela, don’t film the flowers, come here! He’s coming. Let me hold the camera. Boy oh boy!!!! Great !!!”

This entry was originally posted on the Bremerton Beat blog and probably should find its way to the Road Warrior blog.

Induced Demand on the Ferry

Ed Friedrich continues on the theme the state auditor started with his performance audit of Washington State Ferries.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the state could save money by cutting ferry runs that fail to fill vessels to capacity.

But an audit recommending that Washington State Ferries look into it has stirred a debate about cost savings versus customer service.

I wanted to look at something else following Wednesday’s Associated Press story. That story had this:

The Office of Financial Management, which also responded to the audit, said it was premature to assume cost savings of $10 million in the first year could come from service cuts.

“Not all the passengers will catch the next boat,” the agency said. “This, in turn, means revenue decreases.”

OFM is saying you take away runs and riders don’t stick around to wait for the next boat. So I contacted a couple of economics professors at the University of Washington, asking whether WSF could actually increase demand (ridership) by adding runs rather than decreasing them. I believe some people choose not to take the ferry because of the infrequency of the runs, especially from Bremerton.

First off, any theory is difficult to prove, according to econ professor Richard Startz in an e-mail. The principle of supply creating demand is valid, he wrote, but:

“The issue is whether people would switch to ferry use, if they knew there would always be an accessible run when they needed one. My guess is that it would take a heck of a lot of switching, and that this isn’t realistic.”

The concept of induced demand is frequently used in transportation discussions, particularly when it comes to adding freeway lanes (or another bridge). Adding a freeway lane, for example, might increase the total number of drivers by about 1 percent in the short term. But because of the additional lane, the freeway will seem less crowded. Over time, however, development and job relocations end up making the new freeway as slow as it was before, some argue.

Theo Eicher, also from the UW Deptartment of Economics, equated the roads with the boats.

Induced traffic demand is a basic principle of transportation that has been nicely highlighted by the proposals for the new 520 bridge where the plans see only a marginal reduction in congestion because the additional lanes induce additional automobile traffic (as citizens switch from to their cars rather than use public transport). Given the limited options that ferry users have, I would expect this induced demand to be smaller – although in the long run it may influence location decisions and overall ferry demand.

Ferry Efficiency

Every regional blog with the possible exception of CK should be interested in Wednesday’s story about the state auditor’s opinion that Washington State Ferries could save money by cutting runs.

The performance audit of the agency reveals, to probably no one’s surprise, that the ferry system runs inefficiently. Surely you’ve been on a near empty boat yourself. Perhaps you even crossed your fingers in hopes that WSF wouldn’t take that run away.

The audit recommended that at times when there are two runs sailing at 45 percent capacity or lower, that one of the round-trip runs be removed from the schedule, allowing the remaining run, ideally, to have a 90 percent vehicle capacity usage.

This raises the question of how efficient we really want our government to be. We do reduce the number of cops on our street during hours in which crime isn’t as big a problem, but we don’t ever have zero cops out there. Besides, police forces are not there to create revenue. People assume tickets generate a lot of revenue for cities, but from what I’ve seen they don’t create anywhere near the cost of having police. Furthermore, is there any way to estimate how much it would cost to not have police protection.

On the other hand, utility services are supposed to be self-sustaining. We want those services to have zero impact on the general fund.

So should the ferry system look at the recommendations and decide it needs to make wholesale changes, or should it, as hit has, accept its inherent inefficiency. Could you argue that the cost of eliminating multiple ferry runs would drive the costs up elsewhere so much that it would no longer be worth it?

Our story only mentioned the last run between Bremerton and Seattle, but the entire list includes lightly traveled trips to and from Kingston, Bainbridge Island and Southworth.

In the spring, summer and fall the auditor suggests cutting the last boat home all week and the first morning run on the weekends. During the spring one of the runs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. would be eliminated. During the winter he suggests cutting the first and last boats every day and two round trips in the middle of the day.

The proposal for Kingston would be similar. Bainbridge would lose no midday runs, but would see cuts for the early and late runs, while Southworth could see cuts all over the schedule.

Purely out of self interest I get a bit peeved at the suggestion that Bremerton needs fewer runs. I’m already ticked that I have to leave Mariner games early to make the 10:30 p.m. run, unless I want to wait until 12:50 a.m. just to get on the last boat. My friends who drink in Seattle aren’t thrilled with the idea of that last ride home being eliminated.