Monthly Archives: April 2008

Riders Pay 100 Percent in This Ferry Financing Scenario

There’s still a long way to go in the state’s 2-plus-year quest for a sustainable revenue source. Here’s how I could see a few things shaping up based on what I’ve heard so far.
Studies show there’s too much non-operations stuff being paid for with fares. They’re going to try to trim that way back to a strict definition of operations and maybe they can get close to paying for what’s left with fares. Right now fares pay for 73 percent of operations. They probably can’t get all the way to 100 percent this way. I can see them making up the rest by raising fares on cars but not on passengers because they want to encourage drivers to become walk-ons and make their limited car space go further.
If fares pay for 100 percent of operations, then ferries could be considered the same as highways. People who don’t use the ferries could no longer complain that they shouldn’t have to pay for them. The state would be responsible for paying and maintaining them, but not for operating them. The gas tax, which has been raised 14.5 cents the past several years, is paying for specific highway projects so there’s not really any available for ferries now, but once those projects are built that gas tax will keep coming in. Then the ferries should get a good share of it. Until then, there needs to be some kind of funding bridge.
This is just my off-the-top-of-my-head possibility but it tosses out some of the ideas I think they’re considering.

Bremerton Stars in Ferry Ridership Report

It’s always kind of fun to look at the ferry ridership stats. WSF puts them out every quarter and then a final at the end of the year. The 2007 numbers are out, and the first thing I noticed was that Bremerton is the only route to gain riders over the year before.
In 2006, if I remember correctly, there was a slight gain in total riders in the system, the first gain since fares started going up dramatically in 2000. This year was ahead of last year through June, said planning director Ray Deardorf, but then there were the service disruptions caused by the retirement of four steel-electric boats in November.
2007 wound up falling 1.2 percent off of 2006’s pace. Bremerton was the only route to show an increase — 3.5 percent — outside of a miniscule gain for the international boat. Ferry officials couldn’t immediately explain it.
Bainbridge traffic fell 0.7 percent for the year, Kingston 1 percent, Southworth-Fauntleroy7 2.4 percent, Southworth-Vashon 9 percent and Port Townsend-Keystone a whopping but understandable 11.8 percent.
I don’t have an answer for the Bremerton gain. It had the same boats — a super and Issaquah boat — as the year before. Anybody have an explanation?

Tolls Considered for Puget Sound Highways

This is hot off the AP wire. Actually, it’s an AP rewrite of a Seattle Times story.
SEATTLE (AP) — What if all major roads in the Seattle area had tolls?
A Puget Sound Regional Council report says it could eliminate traffic congestion.
The council’s “Traffic Choices” report says GPS and mobile phone technology could be used to track drivers and charge them for almost every mile they drive.
The report says there are no technological barriers to congestion pricing, but it raises questions about public policy, fairness and privacy.
The three-year study involved an experiment in which cars had devices to track driving. Drivers paid variable tolls and kept money left over. They took fewer trips and drove fewer miles.
One example from the study for a projected trip between Seattle and SeaTac: The 13-mile trip would take 22 minutes without tolls and 20 minutes with a toll of $3.56.

Congestion Caused By Too Many Cars on the Road. Duh

From the AP wire Wednesday comes this story about the cost of people sitting in traffic. It says too many cars caused 40 percent of congestion, bad weather 15 percent and construction 10 percent. I wonder what’s responsible for the other 35 percent.

Washington highway delays cost $624 million in ’06
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Transportation Department estimates that delayed traffic on Washington highways in 2006 had an economic cost of $624 million.
A report released Tuesday says 40 percent of the congestion was caused by too many cars on too little road. Bad weather accounted for 15 percent and construction for 10 percent.
The department also reported:
Since 1980, the number of licensed drivers has risen by 76 percent, and miles traveled on state highways increased 110 percent.
In the same period, the lane miles of state highways grew 10 percent.
The state is in the midst of its biggest road-construction boom but struggling to contain costs as the price of materials increases.

At Least Ferry Riders Here Aren’t Getting Searched

The Associated Press rewrote a Seattle Times story about ferry riders between San Juan Island and Anacortes getting tired of being bothered by border cops. Check it out below.

Searches anger some San Juan ferry riders
FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. (AP) — Some San Juan Island residents are angry about Border Patrol inspections that began in February on the ferry run to Anacortes.
Residents say the searchers and questioning are intrusive and unnecessary on a domestic route. Federal agents say they’re looking for terrorists trying to smuggle through the San Juan Islands.
Of the 43 people arrested since February, 38 have been from Mexico.
Friday Harbor Mayor David Jones says there’s a surge of indignation among people who are repeatedly questioned about their citizenship.
Some residents have asked the American Civil Liberties Union for advice. One ACLU lawyer, Matt Adams, says unless they have a reasonable suspicion, immigration agents don’t have a right to detain anyone already in the country.

Rogstad Was Good To Me

I see that several commenters to a story about Traci Brewer-Rogstad resigning from the ferry system’s No. 2 post are taking pot shots at her despite having no knowledge of her at all. I understand it’s popular to rip the ferry system in general, and it’s set itself up for that. But it strikes me as being in bad manners to criticize somebody personally unless you have a good reason to do so.
I didn’t deal with Traci much. She mostly worked up north. But she always responded quickly when I called and she gave me good, straight answers instead of trying to beat around the bush. Plus she’s a commuter on the Bremerton ferry. She knows what it’s like.

Scalping Tickets for PT Ferry

Within minutes after my story came out the other day about a pilot reservation system for the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry, wily workmates were scheming about how to job the system. One idea was to reserve a bunch of spaces and then go and scalp the confirmation numbers at the dock or put them on craigslist.
The fact that half of the reservations can’t be made until the day of sailing prevent some abuse, although the day starts at 4:30 a.m. and somebody could get up early and try to grab them all up.
I would think the ferry system has already thought of this and has a way to prevent it.

Everybody Can Use Narrows Ramp Now

Word just out of the DOT says that you no longer have to be a carpooler to get onto Highway 16 using the Jackson Avenue on-ramp.
Most of you don’t care or even have any idea what I’m talking about, but for those who drive frequently from Tacoma, it’s a pretty big deal.
The ramp has been restricted during the evening commute since January 1997 because traffic was backing up there and flowing into the neighborhood and blocking people’s driveways. People used the onramp — the last one before the bridge — the get around congestion on Highway 16.
Now that the new bridge is open and traffic is moving freely, there’s no longer reason to restrict the onramp, according to DOT.
Starting Monday morning, all vehicles can use the on-ramp.

PT Would Prefer to Wait for Island Home Boat

Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond and Ferries Director David Moseley visited Port Townsend Monday and I’ve been told that they were going to be told that the community would rather wait wait for a bigger boat than build one based on the 50-car Steilacoom II.
Now that the only bid has been rejected for a Steilacoom II boat and the job will have to be reopened, it can’t be built in time for the Hood Canal Bridge to be closed in May and June.
In that case, they may as well suffer without a car ferry for six or seven months, provided there’s a passenger ferry or some sort of mitigation, I was told.
I hope to find out more tomorrow, but I’m in the middle of a couple other stories right now.

Would They Wait for the Right Boat?

Washington State Ferries folks sound like they would never leave the Port Townsend-Keystone route in another lurch after they abruptly retired the only boats that could operate there and left it without a car ferry for three months. That wouldn’t be fair to the communities and it would be really bad PR for the ferries.
However, my impression is that the communities would prefer a 60- to 80-car, 1,200-passenger Island Home-class ferry than a 50-car, 325-passenger Steilacoom II-style boat. An Island Home boat is like a new version of the route’s beloved Steel-Electric ferries that were retired in November.
The problem is, it would take longer to get an Island Home boat built. The state has to give back the leased Steilacoom II to Pierce County, and there would be a 6- or 7-month gap before an Island Home boat could be built.

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