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Wording may change on Clinton ferry traffic signs

"Writing anything by committee is confusing, even something as simple as a traffic sign.The North Sound Ferry Advisory Committee last week pondered a plethora of sign possibilities aimed at better informing motorists in Clinton how to proceed to the ferry dock.New signs were installed this spring, but the public reception was cool. We haven't actually found one sign that means the same thing to everyone, said Susan Hill of the Department of Transportation at the July 19 meeting in Freeland.Hill presented numerous sign options concocted by a committee of DOT personnel. The committee came up with 48 ways to say drivers should not use the outside lane in Clinton unless they're getting into the line of cars waiting for the ferries.The Ferry Advisory Committee seemed united on one thing: signs that tell drivers to stay off the shoulder should be dumped. The definition of shoulder was a hotly debated issue, but the consensus was the outside lane isn't the shoulder even if it has undergone extensive striping in an effort to keep people from driving in it. The feeling was that most drivers consider the shoulder not even part of the road.Hill didn't seem happy with that stance because shoulder is used in the entire (ferry) system, she said. The DOT has been trying to make signs uniform throughout the system.Hill polled the crowd of some 25 people and their preference was unanimous. Whidbey Islanders were united that the best sign states: Ferry Waiting Only, Use Only When Ferry Backup is Present. That would be placed above the outside lane, and precludes the use of the word shoulder.It may not have been what Hill wanted to hear. The DOT committee preferred another choice: Shoulder Driving Illegal, Ferry Waiting OK When Backup Present.Hill didn't commit to accepting the Freeland group's recommendation as other ferry advisory committees will also be consulted. But chances are agreement will be difficult to achieve.Do you ever feel you're trying the impossible? asked one man.Other items brought before the Ferry Advisory Committee included:* A short report from Traci Brewer, North Region Terminal Operations Manager, that ferry ridership declined 4 percent system-wide in June compared to the prior year. Explanations include service cuts made last year and increased ticket prices. Foot passenger traffic on the Clinton-Mukilteo route was down an eye-opening 15 percent while autos were down only 1.8 percent. Ferry officials find the numbers puzzling. That's counterintuitive to us, said Terry McCarthy, acting director.* The ferry system is compiling an on-time performance data base, and by October officials will know the exact arrival and departure times of each boat.* Brewer said State Ferries will soon begin accepting credit cards. The program will be tested at Anacortes beginning in the fall and be implemented system-wide early next year. Asked if processing cards could slow down the ticket sellers she replied, If all goes well it will not.` "

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