GUEST VIEWPOINT | Double trouble for ferries

The current Washington State Ferry System amounts to double taxation and discrimination.

We have all been duped into believing that the ferries are something they are not! I was astounded at the public meeting on the proposed changes to our ferry service last Tuesday. Some got the concept that we are being discriminated against and victims of DOUBLE TAXATION, but most were willing to go along with overpaying and accepting less service? Here are the facts;

FACT: Washington State Ferries is designated an official Highway along with interstate highways and other principal arterials connecting major communities. Each ferry is essentially a floating section of Washington State Highway!

FACT: Every vehicle that travels on that section of highway has already paid for road maintenance and other capitol costs through fuel, vehicle registration and other taxes imposed on vehicles.

FACT: Since other vehicles have not been charged to traverse Washington State Highways it is clear that ferry riders have been discriminated against and perhaps illegally subjected to a toll that other vehicles using Washington State Highways did not have to pay.

CONCLUSION: Washington State ferry users have been singled out, discriminated against and treated as second class citizens. The idea that drivers on our marine highways should be treated differently than other highway users is wrong and probably illegal. In addition to the ongoing double taxation the Washington Department of Transportation’s premise that service should be cut and tolls raised to reduce costs is discriminatory and flawed for the following reasons.

All highways have a service life and require maintenance regardless of usage. Those costs vary widely according to location, weather and type of traffic. There are many main and secondary highways that are lightly traveled in comparison to other highways.

If one was to assign a value from gas and other taxes to each vehicle per mile traveled and used that to determine how many vehicles would need to traverse a given road to cover maintenance and capital costs, then many highways would come out with a deficit. Some with a huge deficit.

In order to treat every driver in Washington State fairly and equally, the WDOT would have to limit road use by closing or limiting use on ALL it‚ highway at various times to balance cost to revenue generated per mile.

The reality is that every highway, regardless of usage has a value to cities, towns and communities that transcend costs. As vehicle drivers/taxpayers Whidbey and other communities served by ferries help pay for the tremendous costs to keep mountain roads open. We pay for all the costs being incurred now by flooding down south. Many of us don’t use those roads but still pay. So what if the rest of Washington doesn’t want to pay for the ferries, they need to get over it. A basic principal of government is that in order for communities to exist and prosper we ALL must share the load EQUALLY!

I don’t like to pay for roads and maintenance I never need but I accepted it because

I love ALL of Washington state. The rest of Washington enjoys the diversity and beauty that our islands bring to the area; they need to accept the doctrine of equality for all and bear the burden for us as we do for them. If Olympia were to propose limiting use of mainland roads to save money they would be voted out in a heartbeat.

DEMANDS: The current mindset regarding the ferry system is improper, shortsighted and ultimately harmful to free commerce. The current system creates two classes of taxpayers, and that is discrimination. In my opinion, I believe the following items must be addressed.

Immediate elimination of vehicle fares, we already pay. Since the ferries are also considered part of the public transportation system a pedestrian fee is proper but must be proportionate to what other multi-modal transportation costs are per mile.

The Mukilteo terminal must immediately be brought up to earthquake standards. A new terminal, although desirable is not a current issue; SAFETY IS. The reality for Whidbey is the Deception Pass Bridge probably would not survive a major earthquake. This would subject the Island to an unacceptable hardship that would NEVER be tolerated by mainland communities with larger voter populations and big campaign donations.

Whidbey needs to wake up and stop going hat in hand and just hope for not too big a fare increase or not too big a service cut! We already pay for OUR floating highways and we need to demand our elected officials stop treating us like poor relatives that cost them too much! Sure, times are tough but somehow the money is found to plow, scrape and sand the roads. Somehow bridges and roads that are not earthquake safe get fixed, at least on the mainland. As long as we are willing to be patted on the head and treated as second-class voters‚ well, we deserve what we get. It’s time to stand up, speak out and say, enough is enough! If anyone else feels as I do, I have petitions and cover letters available to circulate. Contact me via e-mail.

Ed Jenkins, the author of this guest viewpoint, lives on South Whidbey. He can be reached at Localpower@msn.com

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