Ferry Tales: Who Is The New Ferry For?

(Hint: It’s not you and me.)

As a full time resident of a Guemes  Island for more than 20 years I do not understand Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt’s line of thinking regarding the need for a 32 car ferry  so that summer people don’t have to wait in long lines. Guemes residents comprise year long  ridership.  Could the Guemes ferry operate on revenue from summer people alone?

'Hauling everything but the kitchen sink in their Suburbans and 4 door pick-ups' for their week on Guemes is their prerogative, but does not entitle them to a shorter wait time.  We all pay peak fare, we all pay the surcharge why shouldn’t we all take our turn in line.

On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, Commisioner Ken Dahlstedt rambled:

“No, I think that a lot of this is hypothetical. I mean we can't guarantee what the growth patterns are going to be. I think there was a survey done I believe in 2006 which had 70% of the people that we had living on the outskirts of the island by the water were 65 years and older. They are now 13 years older than they were. So we're going to see a significant shift of ownership and that, and they've seen that up on Lummi island during the summer. If this is a question for Rachel, so Rachel, during the summer, do we have a higher, are we charging more in the summertime rates for likes?”

Rachel Rowe’s answer: “ We have peak season fares that are higher than the nonpeak.”

All  full time Guemes residents are aware of the peak and nonpeak  fares and schedule differences.

“So the people that are there typically in the summer that aren't the year round, residents are paying a higher rate."

Commissioner Dahlstedt is implying that summer people pay a higher fare than year-round residents. We all pay the higher rate.

“So for me, if I was paying a higher rate in the summer and I had a chance to have a boat that could get me on and off the out a little more quicker, that would be the only benefit I get by paying more money is because I've got that extra possibility”.

Seriously? That logic escapes me. The  impetus for building a bigger ferry is so summer people can don’t have to wait in a ferry line? A vehicle is a vehicle whether it is a Geo Metro or a SUV.

“You know, the last, what was the Almar was at nine cars, is that what I heard you say? So we had a hundred percent increase 40 years ago. The last time we did this over the last few years there was been talking about how we needed to make the existing boat big or, and I think currently there was a request for us to add another run in the middle of the day, even this time of the year. Is that right? Yeah. So you know, I know it will cost a couple million dollars more to go with the 32 car ferry versus the 28 car ferry. But I think the thing is now we have one shot to do this and we're going to have significant amount of potential. You know, we haven't gotten, we haven't got the checks not in the mail yet, but we're working hard to come up with the funding from the state and we'll probably know within 30 to 60 days.”

Commissioner Dahlstedt is throwing a couple million dollars around pretty casually, betting on funding from the State that he doesn’t have. How easy it is to spend money that you don’t have? 

“I  think there's been discussions, currently, with DEM (State Department of Emergency Management) about tsunamis and there has been discussion, with all the drying conditions, potential for forest fires, not only on Guemes Island, but on Sinclair island and others. So, uh, and I don't know about you, but if you've ever gone through intersections and see how many people run the red lights, they're so impatient and they do not want to wait”.

I am not sure what Commissioner Dahlstedt is ranting about in this last quote.  Please clarify the comparison between a red light at an intersection and  red light boarding at ferry. If these impatient people go through red light at ferry landing they could find themselves in Guemes Channel.

“I, you know, so that's my position is I think we need to build the 32 car boat. I think you've done a good job giving us good analysis. But we're also seeing significant amount of baby boomers that are retiring at the highest rate ever. And the people that are going to be buying nice lots on the islands will be, uh, have the financial wherewithal to do that. And they're also usually the least patient people as well. And I dunno about, from what I've seen during the summer, I'm not seeing a lot of Metro Geos and Priuses going back and forth. Typically during the summer, people have their Suburban and maybe their boat behind it or they have these four door pickups that are coming on cause they're bringing all their stuff onto the islands. So, um, I think, you know, if, if we undersized the boat, we're going to live with it for 50 or 60 years. If we oversize the boat, it's just a question of when we'll be able to totally utilize it for its maximum benefit.”

So, who is the new ferry for? According to Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt: Impatient millennials, demanding value, in Surburbans with all their stuff, towing boats in Summer, after all the old people on the shorelines die off.

Besides, driving a bigger vehicle, towing a trailer doesn’t entitle anyone to a shorter wait. Sorry, Commissioner.

Commissioner Janicki said, "I never want to build a piece of equipment that hits my peak only, whatever that looks like in that Memorial Day-Labor Day window. It doesn't make sense because then you have empty capacity for the rest of the year- for most of the year."

Can you understand why Commissioner Dahlstedt was overruled by a 2 -1 vote to reduce the capacity of the new ferry from 32 cars to 28?

-Commentary by MJ Andrak

Listen To Commissioner Dahlstedt's Ramble

Watch The Commissioners' Meeting