What is the Tyee's problem?
June 11, 2008 · Updated 10:42 AM
"The Tyee foot ferrys on-again, off-again service has frustrated Bremerton-Seattle commuters for several months. Ferry officials say the breakdowns are the result of constant starts and stops that put extra wear and tear on the old boat.So is the Tyee a bucket of bolts that needs to be dumped off the Bremerton route, or is it a good ferry in need of a little TLC? Susan Harris-Huether, spokeswoman for the Washington State Ferries, said that decision wont be made until after the November election.Thats because ferry officials are keeping a close eye on Initiative 695, which would do away with the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, set car tabs at $30 and require voters to approve all tax and fee increases.If the initiative passes, ferry budget director Bill Green projects a 22 percent loss in funding for operating expenses, and a total loss of capital improvement funds.Any increase, change or enhancement in service is on hold until we see what happens (whether I-695 passes) in November, said Harris-Huether. So a decision on whether to tune up or take out the Tyee wont be made until ferry officials know how much money they have to work with.Harris-Huether said the Tyee has been breaking down for a number of reasons, and were looking at all of them. One reason is the short-haul commuter trips it performs every day. Cars tend to take more abuse from stop-and-go city driving than from freeway cruising miles. The Tyee has never been a vessel that has done well, in stop-and-go conditions, Harris-Huether said.Its not fully equipped for starts and stops; very few maritime vessels are built for that, she said.The Tyee also might be showing its age it was built in the early 1980s and purchased used by the state ferry system. It was not necessarily constructed for the abuse we put it through, Harris-Huether said.The abuse may be partly crew-related, she said, as some captains put extra stress on the Tyee during its runs. When the Tyee breaks down, it is sometimes out of service for a few hours or days, and thats when maintenance workers try to correct its latest breakdown problem. But when the Tyee is hauled out for a week or more, Harris-Huether said crews do preventative maintenance for the vessel as well.Despite the Tyees several recent breakdowns, Harris-Huether said commuters shouldnt complain because Bremerton is a one-destination route served by five vessels (three foot ferries and two auto ferries). The ferry system has about 30 boats serving 10 routes. Now, (five boats) may not be the service the commuters want, but then they want fast ferries; they want it all, Harris-Huether said. Given the five boats, commuters shouldnt complain about a lack of service to Bremerton, she said.The Chinook foot ferrys sister ship, the Snohomish, started the Bremerton-Seattle run last month. Both ferries are governed by a judges order to slow down between the Bremerton ferry dock and Clam Bay until a trial or environmental study determines whether the ferries wakes damage shoreline in Rich Passage.That slowdown extended both ferries crossing times to 50 minutes. Soon after the slowdown ferry officials talked about the possibility of leasing a faster, smaller boat from New York to make 35-minute crossings.But that possibility is also on hold until voters decide whether the ferry system will continue to receive vehicle tax. A lot of things depend on November and 695, Huether said, we dont do anything until then."