June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:40 PM
"Islanders need an active WITAThe two factions fighting for control of the Whidbey Island Transportation Association should call a truce, take a deep breath, and do whatever is necessary to see that WITA continues as an active voice for commuters and others who use public transportation.One side, the self-proclaimed old guard, wants to put WITA into hibernation until the next transportation crisis pops up. The other side wants to press forward, but lost the old guard's support when it started talking about spending money for a hovercraft study. The idea of providing hovercraft water taxi service from the island to the mainland was never much more than a novelty, and the idea isn't worth killing WITA over. Supporters have wisely place hovercraft low on a list of possible commuter projects, and few tears would be shed if hovercraft were eliminated entirely, if that's what it takes to appease the old guard.The old guard is mostly retired folks who fought the good fight with WITA for many years. They started their own passenger ferry service when ferry workers went on strike two decades ago; they provided commuter parking on the mainland for island residents; and they supported Island Transit during its darkest days when its very existence was under legal challenge. Now, with regular and dependable bus and ferry service, and with commuter parking out of WITA's hands, the old guard doesn't see much left to do. Wrong.Now, perhaps more than ever, the Whidbey Island public needs WITA to represent it in transportation issues. We have another challenger to the bus system on the November ballot in I-747; the ferry system will be on the chopping block next legislative session due to the lingering impacts of I-695; someone should keep studying how to provide passenger-only service to the mainland; commuter parking needs on the mainland are still a problem looking for a solution; and commuters need a strong say in Sound Transit -- that agency that before long is scheduled to provide train service between Mukilteo and Seattle.Whidbey Islanders need as many strong voices as possible in these and other transportation matters. Other panels, such as the Ferry Advisory Committee and Island Transit board, play a role, but nothing can replace the vitality of an all-citizen, all-volunteer group such as the Whidbey Island Transportation Association. Ultimately, they represent the voters, and when voters speak up in an organized way they are still heard.Through the years, WITA has built a name for itself, and that name should not be abandoned. The two WITA factions should put their differences aside and move forward together into the 21st Century. "