Tag Archives: ferry

Wrong-way bicyclists in downtown Bremerton worry reader

The in basket: Dan Wages and Michael Johnson are upset about two strategies use by shipyard workers in Bremerton to get to work in the morning. We’ll discuss Dan’s first and Michael’s in the next Road Warrior.

Dan says, “Every weekday morning at about 7 a.m. I see several bicyclists coming off of the Seattle ferry ride against traffic westbound on First Street heading towards the PSNS gate.

“This looks very dangerous,” he said, “in that cars coming down Pacific, which turns into First Street, do not expect two-way traffic on a one way street. I witnessed one accident a few months ago where a bicyclist struck a vehicle turning into the Kitsap Credit Union building’s underground parking and hear drivers of cars yelling at the bicyclists reminding them that they are on a one-way street going the wrong direction.”

He wonders if what the bicyclists are doing is legal and thinks the city of Bremerton is risking a “huge liability” if one of the bikes is hit by a car.

“There is no signage telling cars to watch for traffic going against the flow on this one-way street,” he said. “Bremerton police do not issue tickets for what appears to be an illegal action.

About a dozen bicyclists do this each day, he said.

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police traffic division didn’t waste many words on this, saying, that bicyclists must follow the rules of the road per RCW 46.61.755, which says they must comply with all laws applied to automobiles, except that they can ride on the shoulder or sidewalk.

“Our position is that bicyclists must comply with all pertinent laws or they subject themselves to potential enforcement action,” he said.

He didn’t address whether they have written any tickets for this, but it’s clear that a bicyclist in the roadway going the wrong way is violating the law. It sounds like they can get way with it on the sidewalk if they don’t run down any pedestrians.

When a K-9 officer…well, you know

The in basket: There I was, in line to board a ferry, watching a State Patrol officer lead his hyper-enthusiastic young black lab past the waiting cars, seeking the odor of explosives, when the strangest through occurred to me.

I never feel very poised when picking up the leavings of my own dog, a little Schipperke. Given how instrumental command presence and an aura of authority are to police officers, what could be more detrimental to that than pausing in their duties to pick up a pile of German shepherd poop.

I asked the State Patrol and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office what advice or directives their K-9 officers are given regarding that least adorable element of dog ownership.

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the sheriff’s office weighed in first.

“Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office policy for our K-9 handlers,” Scott said, “mirrors that of general rules of doggy etiquette for the general public: the handlers pick-up after their K-9 charges.

“The exception is when a K-9 is on an active track,” he added. “From time to time the excitement of a track may cause a K-9 to urinate or defecate. The handlers have to ignore it and focus on the mission at hand:  officer safety and tracking the suspect. In these cases the deposit is left where it is, although more often than not the item usually is deposited in an inconspicuous location.”

Next in was Sgt. Bill Ashcraft, the K9 supervisor for the WSP Explosive Detection K9 Detachment that covers the Olympic Peninsula, who said, “‘Service with Humility’ has long been the motto of the WSP and it covers just about everything we do, including K9 poop detail.

“This is not the ‘glory’ part of working a police dog but all K9 handlers take pride in the fact if you see dog doodoo it’s not from a police K9. We all carry scoop bag in our pockets.

“Before we work the K9s we try to make sure they have taken care of any ‘business’ that might affect their performance of duties, i.e. searching” Bill said .”These are extremely well-trained dogs and basically will do their business on command.”

Then he kicked in a little info on his team.

“The primary responsibility of the explosive detection K9’s is for the security of the ferry system but we do respond to bomb threats, evidence searches and security sweeps for large events and VIP visits.

“We have 35 explosive detection K9s in the state and 14 narcotic detection dogs that are spread throughout the eight districts in the state. The WSP has one the largest K9 programs in the country outside of the federal government.”

How goes the fight against ferry line cutting?

The in basket: I recently came across a year-old e-mail announcing the expansion of the state’s HERO program that lets civilians anonymously report traffic violations, including  the license number of the alleged violator.

The expansion was to include reporting of ferry line cutters, those forcing their way into an established line of vehicles waiting to board a ferry. Line cutting was made illegal in 2007, and calls to the HERO line to report the action were officially encouraged as of March of 2010,

At the time, Susan Harris-Huether of Washington State Ferries publicity office said, “As part of the HERO program, customers reporting line cutters will receive a card with the number 877-764 HERO (4376). The customer will be encouraged to call the number, and submit the violator’s license plate number and make of car.” The car owner will get a letter and information brochure from the state alerting the person to the report of line cutting and the change in the law authorizing a fine for ferry line cutting.

The fine is $124, but only a law enforcement officer can impose it after witnessing a driver cutting in line. Otherwise, it’s essentially a warning that someone has objected to the driver’s behavior and made a report of it.

I asked how it has been working.

The in basket: “Actually very good,” Susan replied.

“We had 416 reported line cutters in a year.  Of those, 61 percent were at Mukilteo, 17 percent  at Edmonds, 10 percent at Clinton and 5 percent at Kingston. The rest are scattered throughout the system.

“The customers have been positive,” she added. “It gives them an outlet for their frustration and a letter goes to each person reported after we check to make sure they are not on our preferential loading list (medical, carpool etc.)”

I asked if some activist at Mukilteo might account for the disproportionate number of HERO calls from there. Last year, before HERO calls reporting them were authorized, Susan had said, “On summer Sundays, WSF receives an average of 45 line-cutting complaints at the Kingston terminal and 25 at Mukilteo.

Susan said the source of each call is unknown, as they are made anonymously.

‘No Idle Zone’ signs sprout at ferry terminals

The in basket:  I noticed a sign I’d never spotted before on the railing at the Southworth ferry terminal while waiting for the ferry one recent Sunday.

“No idle zone,” it said. “Waiting? Turn off engine.”

Idling one’s car unnecessarily is a known pollution cause, so the reason for the sign wasn’t hard to imagine. But I wondered if I’d simply overlooked it before, whether Southworth was the only terminal displaying it and whether disobeying it could incur a fine.

The out basket: Marta Coursey of the ferry system says, “The ‘No Idle Zone’ signs were installed within the last year system-wide (at every terminal) at the specific request of Assistant Secretary David Moseley.

“We have received a number of customer and community comments about the issues around idling cars for long periods of time, including the discomfort of our customers and the related air pollution in the surrounding communities.

“Mr. Moseley charged our terminal department with posting the signs in order to encourage our customers to stop idling their cars unnecessarily. They are advisory signs and we do not enforce the policy.”

WSF sees errors in Chetzemoka reports

The in basket: During the run-up to the ferry Chetzemoka’s beginning service from Port Townsend, I thought I heard one of the Seattle TV stations call it the most expensive ferry ever built in this country.

Can that be true, I asked ferry spokespersons. It’s only about half the size of the Mark II jumbos our ferry system had built, although that was many years ago.

The out basket: I don’t know if ferry public affairs already had it written, but I almost immediately got back the following news release claiming seven inaccuracies in reports about the new ferry:

The Chetzemoka: setting the record straight

While we have appreciated the generally accurate coverage of Washington State Ferries’ new, 64-vehicle Chetzemoka ferry, there are a few inaccuracies in various media reports that we would like to address. With today’s 24-hour news cycle, information is reported quickly and often repeated again and again and/or picked up and used by others.

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka has an unanticipated or unintended incline to one side (list) that is noticeable while the boat is sailing, making it inefficient and creating safety concerns.

·         Correct information: The 1 percent list is part of the design to maximize the number of trucks/oversize vehicles the vessel can carry, and is due to the location of three stair towers and two elevators on one side. Based on the design, the ferry has no list when loaded with vehicles. As part of the vessel’s certification process, the U.S. Coast Guard performed a vessel-wide stability test and deemed the Chetzemoka safe. The Island Home, a Massachusetts ferry whose design was used for the Chetzemoka, also has a designed-in 1 percent list that is eliminated when the vessel is loaded with vehicles. There is no plan to add ballast (weight) to counter this list when the vessel is not loaded.

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka is the most expensive ferry ever built in the United States.

·         Correct information: WSF’s Jumbo Mark II ferries cost $86 million each. The Kennicott (Alaska) cost more than $80 million. The Hawaiian Superferries, the Alakai and Huakai, came in at $85 million and $91 million, respectively. (The Chetzemoka cost $79.4 million.)

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka was supposed to cost $65.5 million but, instead, cost $80.1 million.

·         Correct information: Final cost of the Chetzemoka was $79.4 million. The original budget was $76.93 million (including construction, risk and contingency, and construction management). The $65.5 million figure was the construction bid from Todd Shipyards. It is a standard practice in capital budgeting to include contingency and risk costs and construction management. There has been an additional $663,000 of work on the Chetzemoka that will be charged to the three-vessel procurement program. When the Legislature funded the second and third vessels with a $136.3 million budget, WSF combined that with the $76.93 million Chetzemoka budget, giving us one budget for all three boats totaling $213.2 million.

·         Inaccuracy: The original engineer’s estimate to build the Chetzemoka was $49.5 million.

·         Correct information: The original $49.5 million engineer’s estimate was calculated assuming there would be competition. At the start of the process, four shipyards were interested. Three removed themselves for various reasons, including bonding and apprenticeship goals. A $58.2 million engineer’s estimate was used at bid opening, using the labor rate of the single source bid. The final construction bid was $65.5 million, or 11 percent different from the estimate.

·         Inaccuracy: WSF crews say the Chetzemoka is plagued with problems.

·         Correct information: The captains and crews who have trained on and are operating the Chetzemoka are pleased with the vessel’s performance. A number of media outlets have interviewed the captains and crews of the vessel, who are very forthright in their approval of the vessel.

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka’s propellers are inefficient.

·         Correct information: The Island Home has fixed-pitch propellers like the Chetzemoka, which operate well in challenging waterways with currents and restricted harbors in Massachusetts. WSF developed procedures and engine-control protocols during several weeks of sea trials to ensure efficient operation. The vessel is operating on WSF’s most challenging route, with strong cross currents at the narrow, shallow Keystone Harbor.

·         Inaccuracy: WSF needs to get out of the business of designing and building vessels.

·         Correct information: WSF does not design or build vessels. Elliott Bay Design Group designed the Chetzemoka and Todd Pacific Shipyards built it.

Hey, where’s Bremerton’s ferry holding area camera?

The in basket: Marty Miller e-mailed me a copy of Washington State Ferries’ map at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/cameras/pop_cam_map.cfm, showing where it has cameras producing images of the holding areas at its terminals, allowing people to get some idea how many vehicles are waiting to board. He noted that Bremerton doesn’t have one and asked when it will get one.

The out basket: It does have one, says Susan Harris-Heather of the WSF public affairs office. You can see the images from all the terminals online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/cameras/  and Bremerton is included.

She said she’ll notify the system’s Web techs of the omission from the Web site Marty checked and get a camera icon for Bremerton added to it.

Ferry traffic in Kingston needs to use holding lane

The out basket: Cliff Durant wrote on Aug. 12 to say, “I was at the parts house in Kingston this evening. When I attempted to leave, the ferry traffic was backed up through town and as far as I could see out of town.

“The big problem was that no one would use the ferry holding lane,” Cliff said, “therefore stopping all traffic into town. I waited at least 20 minutes when I finally persuaded a driver to back up enough so I could get into the two-way left-turn lane and get where I wanted to go. There were times when cars were trying to go both ways in the two-way left-turn lane.

“Since the use of tally slips, people quit using the holding lane in town,” he said, “and when it backs up out of town they don’t use it there either. I called (9-1-1) and reported it and was told that is just the way it is when the ferry traffic backs up. I said someone needs to direct the traffic into the holding lane and was told there wasn’t anyone available.

“This happens quite often,” he said, “and doesn’t need to if the ferry (traffic) would just use the holding lane. Maybe signs advising the use of the holding lane would help.”

The out basket: The State Patrol manages traffic around the ferry terminals, so I asked its local spokeswoman, Trooper Krista Hedstrom about this.

“This does occur from time to time when the boat off-loads and the traffic lights stop traffic in both directions,” she said. “That will cause some gridlock. During the evening rush hour (during the summer only) there can be a 5-10 minute back-up, which is self-correcting when the boat loads.

“The problem is there is a mixture of commuters and leisure travelers that have absolutely no clue what to do regardless of our direction,” she said. “WSP does routinely direct traffic when it causes a back-up, however this issue typically corrects itself once the boat loads.  It usually takes more time directing everyone onto the shoulder than just allowing the traffic jam to self-correct itself.”

Why can’t cars leaving ferry use ramp to Washington Avenue?

The in basket: Tim Trembley, a 20-year commuter on the Bremerton ferry, says, “I have a question about the exit ramp from the ferry terminal to Washington Avenue.  

“Back when the state was surveying people about the tunnel project, we were told that drivers would still be able to exit to Washington Avenue after the tunnel was built.  Then, after the tunnel was built, we were told that in order to kept cars and pedestrians separate on Washington Avenue that all traffic exiting the ferry would have to use the tunnel.  

“Then they re-routed the ferry drop-off traffic down Washington Avenue. So what is the ‘official’ reason offloading traffic can’t use Washington Avenue? Is this the state’s ramp to nowhere?”

The out basket: I don’t know if many people take advantage of the fact they can continue past Second Street, the designated ferry drop-off point, and curve onto First Street to get closer to the ferry terminal to drop off or pick up ferry passengers. It’s not intended that they do.

But Brenden Clarke, project engineer for the tunnel, explains the rationale for allowing so little use of the ramp:

“The driving force behind the decision to route all vehicle traffic through the tunnel is overall safety – for pedestrians and motorists,” he said.

“Pedestrian traffic downtown continues to increase as a result of recent development in Bremerton, new parks, a marina, condominiums and local businesses.

“The primary issue that concerns engineers is the three streams of traffic that conflict at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection during peak-commute times: buses exiting the transit station; pedestrian traffic (ferry riders, shipyard workers, business patrons); and vehicles offloading from the ferry.

Additional considerations, he said, are:

– There are line-of-sight concerns for buses and off-loading vehicle traffic at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection due to grade separation and a retaining wall between the ferry terminal and the transit deck.

– Off-loading vehicles have only a short distance to get into the appropriate lane approaching the tunnel. This creates potential for weaving conflicts (a recognized accident cause) or vehicles stopping and blocking off-loading traffic while waiting for a gap to enter the proper lane.

– Line of sight is less than ideal for off-loading vehicles because the lanes wind around the piers supporting the transit deck.

The ramp was constructed to full standards, he said, in case an accident or something else closed the tunnel and all traffic had to use the ramp to Washington. Otherwise, only bicyclists can use it.

Arriving at which ‘destination?’

The in basket: I don’t use the state ferries much, but in recent trips to Seattle on the Southworth run, I noticed that the once-awkward welcome-aboard speeches, which include safety instructions, have been turned over to tape recordings done by Seattle radio personalities. Crew members used to do them and they frequently weren’t confidence inspiring. It’s an improvement.

When we arrived in Vashon, there was another recorded message, but the speaker didn’t identify himself, and the message began, “You are arriving at your destination.” Return to your cars and make sure you have all your belongings, he instructed.

I knew that I wasn’t at my destination, of course, but it seemed like a stranger to the ferries, going to Fauntleroy, would hurry to his car and fret about still being aboard when the boat left. Shouldn’t the recorded announcement specify which destination you are arriving at when there’s more than one, I asked myself.

The out basket: Then I asked Susan Harris-Heather, long time spokesman for the ferry system. She said she’d never had a complaint from any ferry system newbies who were misled and discomfited by any confusion about where they were, caused by the recorded messages. 

Putting different messages aboard the boats on the tri-corner Southworth run, as in the multi-terminal San Juan Island run, would be difficult because the boats move around so much from route to route that there probably would be more confusion, not less, she said.





Ferry line cutters citable even if just a few cars are waiting

The in basket: Bob Metcalf said he’d had contrasting experiences when trying to catch the ferry in Bremerton and Bainbridge.

In both places he was in the left lane of the approach when a sign told him he had to be in the right lane to board the ferry. He had no problem getting over in Bremerton, but when he merged right on Bainbridge, a woman ferry patron honked at him. 

When they were both through the toll booths and stopped, she got out of her car and walked over to his, scolding him and saying that had an officer seen what he did, he and the person who let him into the line could be cited for violating the state law enacted a couple of years ago to discourage cutting into the long lines at ferry terminals, like those at Bainbridge and Kingston.

Bob said the line wasn’t long on that day on Bainbridge, though. He guessed there were only three cars behind the woman he merged in front of. 

The out basket: The woman was half-right, says Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the state patrol here. 

The driver of a car heading for a ferry who cuts into the line of waiting cars is subject to a $124 fine, regardless of the number he or she may have passed before moving right. 

“They will also be (told) to go to the back of the line of cars waiting for the ferry,” she said. But the violation must have been seen by the citing officer, and would not become a part of the motorist’s driving record.

Susan Harris-Heather of the ferry system said a driver who cuts into line can wind up paying a price in inconvenience even if an officer doesn’t see it and issue a  citation.

The WSF ticket sellers are empowered to order a driver to the back of the line (without a citation) if two other drivers from the line-up say the first driver cut in back in the queue, she said.

“The driver who allowed the vehicle to merge in would not be cited for anything,” Krista said. 

And those with preferential loading (vanpools, buses, bicyclists, motorcyclists) can bypass the line. Those with disabled plates or placards usually can’t, Krista said.

“Typically, a driver with a disabled placard would have to wait in line like everyone else.  There are exceptions, however, such as a legitimate doctor’s note explaining the medical emergency or a physician-approved medical waiver.”