I read Representative Larry Seaquist's vision for the ferries with great amazement in today's Kitsap Sun. Despite his Transportation Committee membership, he either failed to read last October's ferry performance auditor chose to ignore its findings altogether.
Representative Seaquist suggests that WSF and the happens-to-be-in-his-district Bremerton run in particular 'need more boats and sailings.' Notably, this route was singled out by auditors as having the potential to save $2.4 million per year if service during non-peak hours were reduced. The audit thoroughly examined traffic volume data for this route and found opportunities to reconcile supply with demand, rather than just running boats for the sake of running them.
Representative Seaquist makes ominous allegations that the economy of the west sound is being damaged by WSF's lack of service. Had he examined actual traffic volumes of the Bremerton run, he would have reached a different conclusion.
The ferry system is already providing a level of service 'above what traffic volumes demand.' Since 2000, WSF as a whole has experienced declining passenger and vehicle traffic volumes from 26.9 to 23.8 million. Because of the ferries' decreased ridership, tight budget, and the fact that many existing boats need replacement or extensive maintenance, it makes little sense to suggest adding more boats and sailings.
The performance audit notes that state transportation business plans seek to achieve a specific level of service rather than cost efficiency. Therefore, "economic factors such as rationalizing supply with demand are not included."
Service is important, but so is cost efficiency, especially with hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on the line.
If legislators want to solve some of the operational problems with the ferries, they should take a look at the performance audit findings and solutions and address statewide issues rather than suggesting options that benefit their district at the expense of everyone else.
If you want to know more about the ferry audit click here.