Ferry movement begins; Multiple groups answer call for service improvements

It’s begun. The hopes of a few Clinton movers and shakers to spark a movement of widespread lobbying for ferry improvements on the South End appears to have succeeded as several independent efforts are well underway this week.

The Clinton Community Council discusses a proposal to lobby the state for the fourth 144-car ferry and overhead loading in Clinton. The group later voted unanimously to make the request.

It’s begun.

The hopes of a few Clinton movers and shakers to spark a movement of widespread lobbying for ferry improvements on the South End appears to have succeeded as several independent efforts are well underway this week. The Clinton Community Council formally agreed Monday to request the state homeport the new 144-car ferry on the Clinton-to-Mukilteo route and move up Washington State Ferries’ long term plans for overhead passenger loading at the Clinton Terminal. At the same time, the Island Transportation Planning Organization is considering a similar proposal and at least two chambers of commerce are adding their voice to the mounting chorus.

And in one case, the effort is rather literal.

Responding to a Record editorial that supported the community-wide lobbying effort, the Freeland Chamber of Commerce announced in a recent newsletter that it would answer the call by holding a “Ferry Line Karaoke Contest” in which contestants would film themselves singing why they believe ferry improvements are needed in Clinton as they wait in the very ferry lines that have served as the catalyst behind the lobbying movement.

“We agree with the South Whidbey Record: It’s time for Whidbey to sing for our ferries,” the newsletter said. “Clinton/Mukilteo really needs the new 144-car ferry that is currently being built. Let’s have some fun, be creative, and tell WSF and our elected leadership exactly why we need that ferry boat on our route.”

The focus on singing came from a quote by Sen. Barbara Bailey, who told The Record last year that such improvements were simply a matter of a community “singing” from the same sheet of music. If everyone joins together, she said, lawmakers will rally around the effort.

When asked why the organization chose a karaoke contest as its chosen method for lobbying, organization President Chet Ross said simply, “Just to shake things up.”

While the contest is a bit unorthodox, those at the heart of the lobbying effort are happy independent organizations are getting on board and offering unique messages. Dave Hoogerwerf, a Clinton Community Council member and chairman of Clinton Ferry Advisory Committee, said during the council’s Monday meeting that the more groups that are involved the stronger the message becomes.

“If she [WSF Chief Lynne Griffith] gets a letter from six or seven groups, not individuals, it will be much more powerful,” he said.

This summer’s ferry lines are widely being hailed as some of the worst in recent memory. People complain about long waits and that they are no longer just on busy weekends but have crept into the work week. State ferry officials are aware of the problems and are considering whether to homeport the Suquamish, the fourth and undesignated 144-car ferry, with its sister ship, the Tokitae, on the Clinton route.

There are also plans for overhead passenger loading at the Clinton Terminal, but work wouldn’t begin until 2028. A leading ferry terminal official estimated the cost today at $20 million.

Several people at the meeting said having boats of two different sizes — the other ferry can only carry 124 cars — has created problems. Doug Hofius, a community council member, is a regular commuter and confirmed that it results in delays and cars being left behind on the dock.

“A lot of the time if they’re late they leave without being full,” he said.

Jaimy Brown, also a regular commuter, said it also seems like the Tokitae travels slower and that landing times are longer than normal.

“It takes twice as long to dock,” she said.

“You do notice the Tokitae approaches slower than the Kittitas,” agreed Jack Lynch, president of the community council.

Hoogerwerf noted that despite agreement among riders and even ferry officials about the problems, the public and the agency both lack data to support the claims.

At the meeting, Clinton Chamber of Commerce leaders indicated that they also would likely draft a letter advocating for the fourth boat and overhead passenger loading. The Island Transportation Planning Organization, a body that formed last year with a board consisting of a cross section of Whidbey elected officials, is also preparing to review a draft letter that advocates for both improvements.

Langley Mayor Tim Callison, vice chairman of the organization, said in a recent interview that if the group did approve a letter that he would formally ask the city council to endorse the effort.


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