Opinion

Ferry issues concern all Kitsap County residents

TORRENS TALK

This is the last chance for anyone to give feedback to the state Transportation Commission (TC) on how to fund ferries. After this, the ability to change the decisions will be extremely difficult. Do not let this last opportunity pass you by.

If you have ever ridden the ferry, this concerns you. If you have never ridden the ferry but drive around the Sound, this concerns you. If you rely on the money spent by ferry commuters in your business, this concerns you. In short, this concerns everyone who lives in Kitsap County. What affects the ferries, affects Kitsap both directly and indirectly.

If the public does not show up in considerable numbers, it will send the message to the TC that what they do is not of great interest to the Kitsap community. Rightly or wrongly, it is one way that organizations determine the level of interest on issues by people. The more that show up, the more interest in the outcome of the topic at hand.

There may be those who believe that providing feedback on ferry issues is the purpose of the ferry advisory committees (FAC). And that would be correct if the TC actually cared about what the FACs really think. From last year’s attempt to get rid of the FACs to the current process which has essentially left the FACs out of giving meaningful feedback to the TC on any part of it, the TC has shown very little concern as to what the FAC thinks about what they do.

One way to change that type of thinking is for people to show up and express their opinion. And it does not mean that one must choose among the options generated by the TC. In fact, it would be better if people came with their own ideas as to how to fund the ferries for the TC has only one answer: continue to put the burden on users, which means raising fares.

If the TC wants to drive Washington State Ferries (WSF) into total insolvency, this is the way to do it. There is a reason why the private company Black Ball went out of business originally when it tried to run the system that is now WSF. What it costs to run the boats and maintain the system and infrastructure is more than the riding public can afford to pay. But it is a service that is needed.

That is why the state took over the ferry routes. People and business in Puget Sound and the state need to be able to access communities served by the boats as well as vice versa. It was a statewide concern, not a local one. It is sad to see that the TC has forgotten that: the ferries serve more than those who ride them.

It is time for the TC to step up and acknowledge that the state must provide the stable funding WSF needs. The commuter/rider well has been tapped out.

The meetings in Kitsap County are in Bainbridge, Bremerton and Southworth from 6:30-9 p.m. The Bremerton meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 24 at the Kitsap Conference Center, 100 Washington Avenue. The Bainbridge meeting is Thursday, Oct. 2 at the Bainbridge Commons, 402 Brien Drive. The Southworth meeting is Thursday, Oct. 16 at Sedgwick Junior School, 8995 SE Sedgwick Road, Port Orchard.

Interestingly, the Kingston meeting is in Edmonds on Thursday, Sept. 25, 6-8:30 p.m. It will be at the South County Senior Center, 220 Railroad Avenue. While that may be due to the constant desire to redo the Edmonds ferry terminal and so the Edmonds’ input is needed, it feels more like retaliation against the very vocal anti-TC crowd that showed up last time. For whatever reason, it is still important for the north end riders/users to be there and make their views known.

The TC proposals are more along the lines of which way would riders/users want their poison. Their proposals need to be trashed and some serious discussion needs to occur on how to get state funding for WSF. Either WSF will finally go back to serving the public or it will become defunct. Only you can prevent the TC disaster that is coming your way.

Val Torrens covers local issues for the CK Reporter and North Kitsap Herald.

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