Our state Rep, Dave Paul expressed concern on the state of our ferry situation (SWR 11/27), prompted by that 50% reduction in boat capacity, for multiple crossings, over the last four weeks or so. Dave says we need a more resilient ferry system because our livelihoods, our economy and our community depend on those boats. There’s truth here but recall WSF had a truly amazing on-time performance record prior to this hiccup.
What they do lack however is a vision for the future.
For me, those weeks of reduced capacity were a disappointing glimpse of what ferry-dependent life will look like a few decades down the road. WSF’s long-range plan predicts a 30% increase in ridership in the next 20 years. How does WSF plan to address this challenge? As a 10-year member of the Clinton Ferry Advisory Board and a 30-year boat rider, I see no answer.
We can’t just add another boat on our ferry route. That strategic WSF plan mentions reducing car traffic on the boats and increasing walk-on passengers, but I’ve yet to see any real strategy to accomplish that hollow goal. There is talk of adopting a door-to-door philosophy and move more people and less cars across the water as opposed to the shore-to-shore car transport that’s been WSF’s creed since the ’50s, but still, it’s only talk.
I’d like to see some parking for cars at the docks so people don’t have to bring their 20-foot, two-ton car with them on a crowded boat. I’m talking about lowering the passenger rates to incentivize walk-ons. Since WSF is selling space on the boats, why not base car fees on the length each car occupies (in two-foot increments perhaps) as opposed to that ridiculous one fee for all vehicles from 14 feet to 22 feet? In a few years we’ll have driverless cars on the roads, but WSF dubiously proclaims it’s too hard to measure the length of a car that shows up at the toll booth and charge accordingly? Go figure.
WSF implies they’ll just have to use the boats as moveable bridges moving cars from shore to shore until public transit options are expanded. With some vision, they could be an effective stimulant to improve public transit by creating a demand for transit at the ferry docks. They are a part of DOT after all.
Thanks to Dave Paul for emphasizing ferry reform now. Here’s hoping WSF does something for ferry-served communities 15 years down the road as well.