Look at alternatives for ferry funding | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
March 28, 2011 · 10:47 AM
To the editor:
Dealing with a long-standing deficit, our state ferry system, WSF, is not able to generate enough revenue to cover operating costs, much less provide funds for future replacement of docks and ferries.
There are only a few possible options open to the state, while simultaneously working on eliminating waste and reducing operating costs:
• Privatize all or part of the system;
• Cut service incrementally until operating costs can be met; this could mean elimination of some routes or drastic schedule reductions;
• Change the rate structure sufficient to at least cover operating costs, hoping that other state funds can be found to cover needed capital expenditures.
From the budget management standpoint, the first is the easiest, since the funding management problem goes away. We could expect rates like those on the Port Angeles-Victoria ferry, $45 one way for car and driver. This fare is similar to others; Catalina Island-Los Angeles is $72 round trip, and fares on two similar routes in Europe that I am familiar with are $41 one way.
While these routes are somewhat longer than Clinton-Mukilteo, more like the Coupeville (Keystone)-Port Townsend route, it gives one an idea of what to expect from privatization.
The second alternative means continuing to cut service until operating costs are met, which may be never; thus forcing complete elimination of service, when operating costs and revenue are finally equal, namely zero. There is a real danger that this alternative will be chosen as the most politically expedient one, since the end result is indeterminate.
The third alternative, changing the rate structure, is the only one that protects Whidbey Island residents from either elimination of service or private rates.
Consequently, while urging the state ferry management to do everything possible to lower operating costs, we need to realize that more realistic rates are necessary to save our ferry. We should be urging our state representatives to install a more realistic rate structure that protects commuters as a priority, and that we realize that getting something for less than it costs is not going to work in the long term.
I for one have met with David Moseley, WSDOT assistant manager of the ferries division, and communicated my concerns. I encourage all Whidbey Island residents to communicate realistic views to their state representatives in order to save our ferry.