Opposition to ferry reservations still runs strong

David Moseley, assistant secretary for Washington State Ferries, tries to calm the concerns of residents upset over the proposal to create a ferry reservation system Thursday night in Clinton. - Brian Kelly / The Record
David Moseley, assistant secretary for Washington State Ferries, tries to calm the concerns of residents upset over the proposal to create a ferry reservation system Thursday night in Clinton.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

CLINTON — Enough already.

That was the message to Washington State Ferries on Thursday, when South End residents continued to voice strong objections over the proposal to create a reservation system for travelers using the ferry system.

David Moseley, assistant secretary for Washington State Ferries, wrapped up a series of community meetings with a two-hour visit to Clinton this week. His evening ended as did his previous two appearances here had; with a highly animated discussion about the pros and cons — mostly cons — of starting a reservation system.

Some in the crowd of roughly 30 strong said they were tired of hearing ferry officials push the proposal.

Moseley, however, pointed out that the ferry system is examining the idea because the Legislature wanted more details on how a reservation system would work after it was highlighted in the ferry system’s long-range plan.

Two routes — the Keystone-Port Townsend and Anacortes-Sidney, B.C. runs — already have reservation systems. Earlier this year, lawmakers in Olympia asked ferry officials to complete a “pre-design study” that would detail how a reservation system could be used throughout the ferry system.

“What they have not asked us, or authorized us to do, is to implement the reservation system on any additional routes,” Moseley told the crowd.

He also noted that the Legislature would have at least three options when they see the study on Dec. 15.

“They can say, this doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Or they can say, we have a lot more questions. Here are some other things we want you to look at, come back and tell us what you think about that.

“Or they might say, this seems to make some sense, go test it somewhere,” Moseley said.

Ferry officials have said reservations will help the cash-strapped ferry system by saving $290 million that would otherwise be needed to expand ferry terminals and holding areas. They have also said it will help even out peak demands on the ferry system, reduce traffic tie-ups in ferry communities and cut down on pollution from idling cars.

Critics, however, have consistently said it will hurt commuters and chase away the tourist dollars that are a mainstay of the local economy.

“We do not want a reservation system. We don’t,” said Paulette Becker, adding that a lack of planning has created budget problems for the ferry system.

“We are being penalized for that. We are having increased fares, reduced service, reservations. And I personally think it’s just a sham,” she said.

“You are not listening,” Phil Moore told Moseley, calling the proposal the “singularly most inane idea ever presented” by Washington State Ferries.

Moore turned his attention briefly to state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, who was sitting in the audience, as were state Reps. Norma Smith and Barbara Bailey.

“It shows how you and the Legislature — I’m sorry Mary Margaret, but there it is — are not listening,” Moore said as the crowd applauded loudly.

Moore also took issue with Moseley’s statement that the ferry system has been studying ferry systems overseas that had been using reservations, including ones in Scotland and Turkey. The Clinton route was different, he said.

“It’s not some Scottish run filled with a bunch of English people. I’m married to an English person; I understand how they love to get in line. But not us,” he said.

“You’re not listening. You’re not listening. You’re not listening,” Moore said. “We don’t want it. So why are you even thinking about it?”

“Don’t tell me that it works in all these different places,” Becker added. “It doesn’t, and it won’t work here. I’m telling you that people are mad and they are going to be lined up at the dock in protest. And I’ll be leading the front line.”

Haugen, though, tried to calm the rising voices.

“No one is cramming it down your throats,” Haugen said.

“This isn’t the only run in the system,” she added.

Moseley, too, said reservations would not be forced upon an unwilling public, but begged residents to give the idea a fair hearing.

“What I would ask is, if you would suspend your disbelief for just a few minutes. Read the pre-design study with a bit of an open mind, and see what it says,” he said. “That’s all I’m asking you to do.”

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