LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Reservations are costly
February 11, 2009 · Updated 8:24 AM
To the editor:
Financial advisors tell us not to put all our eggs in one basket (assuming, of course, we have any money to invest during these difficult economic times).
But our state government did just that in its reliance on license tag taxes to fund transportation needs. The majority of the proposed funding for the ferries went away with the Tim Eyman initiative, and that has helped to put the WSF ferry system in the hole.
Now the Washington State Ferries has put forward draft plans that will make island ferry users pay planned yearly increases in fares to make up for their lack of foresight, as well as for a reservation system which WFS claims will help it plan for more efficient dock utilization.
But what do we consumers get for a $45 million expenditure on a reservation system? Many island residents have a resounding answer: chaos and discrimination.
While I appreciated Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen’s clarification of Plan A and Plan B, islanders should not be lulled into a sense of security by reassurances that each individual ferry route’s operations will be tailored to suit community needs. It is more important than ever for local residents to become informed and involved in providing feedback to elected officials who will be deciding the final plan.
Time is money. Each and every vehicle bringing goods and services to Whidbey Island may need to wait in a reservation line and must pass on the cost of waiting time to the consumer. More of these vehicles may opt to use the reservation system to be certain of a confirmed arrival. This cost will trickle down to many items we might need to purchase from “the other side.”
Realtors are also concerned about a decrease in our property values being collateral damage from that “trickle down.” Prospective home buyers will consider the inconvenience of a reservation system and increased ferry fares before they decide to purchase a home.
While the Keystone-Port Townsend run is touted as a model for other ferry routes, I have spoken with a number of residents in Port Townsend who find reservations cumbersome. Still, reservations make more sense for a 30-minute ride between Keystone and Port Townsend than a 17-minute ride to or from Mukilteo.
Since most of the proposed changes are touted as cost-saving measures, here are a few additional suggestions:
• Delay replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct until the economy improves;
• Hire independent consultants outside WSF to investigate and identify ways in which ferry operations and organizational structure might be made more cost-effective;
• Weigh the tax revenue consequences of lost business activity on Whidbey Island resulting from the proposed changes;
• Require tolls on roads and bridges statewide, as appropriate;
• Spread the cost of new ferry boats and maintenance across the state of Washington so that all citizens pay an equal share of revenue;
Legislators should stop blaming Eyman’s I-695 ballot initiative for lost revenue. The State Supreme Court ruled I-695 unconstitutional. Raise the license tag taxes again.
Petitions are now circulating online for residents who want to register their protest about proposed changes to our ferry service. One is http://www.petitiononline.com/plancfcp/petition.html.
Please continue to write to your political representatives. We don’t have much more time until the Legislature decides Whidbey Island’s fate!