Ferry officials considering potential ferry run cuts

The Washington State Ferries system could reduce the number of ferry runs to save money, but not before a lengthy examination of the ferry process and a period of public comment.

The recommendation was part of a newly released audit conducted by Ernst & Young LLP and commissioned by State Auditor Brian Sonntag.

“The Department of Transportation is pleased with the audit,” said DOT Communications Director Lloyd Brown. “We’re looking at ways we can implement some of the suggestions and findings. But the route reductions need to be discussed in the context of legislative oversight and collective bargaining agreements.

“The decision to cut routes,” he said, “won’t be made without input from a lot of people.”

Aside from the suggestion to cut out routes, the audit also cited communications breakdowns in WSF that have the potential to cause financial-management risks and business inefficiencies.

The recommendation to cut certain lines is based on the observation that some mid-day routes run at smaller capacities, and combining two routes with 45 percent capacity could result in a nearly full boat.

This reasoning is faulty, according to Bremerton City Councilman Adam Brockus.

“The assumption that discontinuing one ferry would cause people to wait for the next one is incorrect,” Brockus said. “Many would choose to drive around, or change their plans.”

Brockus and Fred Chang, a Port Orchard City Councilman who serves on the Bremerton Ferry Advisory Committee, both said that ferry budget cuts should be combined with highway budgeting, since the two systems are often lumped together as part of the transportation infrastructure.

“If we want to keep this in perspective, we will need to see how highways fit into the equation,” Chang said.

Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern, who has regularly encouraged companies to support telecommuting, said the emergence of the idea was a wake-up call for local residents.

“This shows how truly captive we are to physical systems like ferryboats and bridges,” Stern said. “Because of this, we are not masters of our own fate. The need to take a serious look at telecommuting for our knowledge workers is underlined by these threats.”

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