From: Richard Frye
Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2010 9:21 AM
Subject: Lummi Ferry recommendation
Dear Council Members,
For reasons that are obscure, the Council seems committed to the path it set out upon four years ago of annual increases in ferry fares to meet an arbitrary goal of covering 55% of “operating costs,” where said “operating costs” are in themselves an arbitrary and moving target seemingly devoid of accountability.
Lummi Island residents are made up of roughly one third retirees, one third island-employed, and one third commuters. All chose to live here based on economic calculations that included reasonable expectations that ferry fares and service would remain somewhere near historic levels. Each group has been hurt in different ways by each fare increase, but these latest proposals will have devastating consequences. The most basic fact before your eyes is that huge fare increases every year are NOT “reasonable expectations.” If you need a point of comparison, imagine how your life would be impacted if the price of gasoline were to increase by $2 a gallon, and just as you adjust your lifestyle they go up another $2 the next year, and the next, and the next. How would that affect the decisions you had made about where you live, where you work, your arrangements with suppliers, or whether your customers can afford to do business with you?
Everyone on Lummi Island is already stretched to the limit by the previous fare increases, which have already surpassed reasonable expectations. For retirees on fixed incomes, higher fares mean careful planning to combine shopping and medical trips. Island businesses have to compete with mainland businesses, and higher fares mean higher costs for both suppliers and customers. And of course constantly increasing fares forces commuters to reevaluate their decisions to live here, just as doubling or tripling the price of gas would affect your decision to live and work where you do. Additional fare increases of the magnitude proposed will have profound social and economic impacts. You need to find another way to address the financial challenges of running the ferry.
Over recent years you have been quick to raise fares in attempts to raise revenue, but have done little to rein in costs, which have grown far in excess of either the general price index or historic levels. The absolutely primary focus of the Council should be on a line item analysis and audit of ferry costs to find out exactly why they have grown so dramatically. Why are so many capital repairs and replacements included as operating expenses? Why aren’t they amortized over time as they should be? Why are we paying such huge administrative costs? How can costs be reduced? Why aren’t you focusing on cost reduction and accurate accounting?