I am writing to express my concern regarding our current local ferry system and its reliability. The Washington State Ferry System is damaging our island community.
There are two main issues present. First is ferry reliability. Currently, our fleet consists of 15 vessels. Many of our ferries are too old to be running. WSF will need to construct at least another 15 vessels within the next 30-40 years.
The second problem is a shortage of personnel. Traditionally, the ferry was staffed with two extra ferry members. Currently, WSF does not have enough employed crew members to provide for the extra crew on hand. In 2018 from January to February, only five sailings were canceled. In 2023, 57 ferries have been canceled.
One of our proposals involves changing county policy and creating a partnership between WSF and San Juan Safaris (SJS). We could create a passenger-only ferry that benefits locals of the islands and provides support to SJS. Another potential solution centers on changing state policy to permit ferries to be built outside of Washington as well as permitting buying vessels outside the state. This option is currently being proposed and debated. One downside of this is lost ferry construction jobs.
As an island resident impacted significantly by the situation, I hope to see positive change in the near future.
Alex van Dongen
Spring Street School students