The Economic Impact of Ferry Rates

Note:  Economist and Lummi Island resident, Rich Frye, has prepared this analysis of the economic impact, on both Lummi Island and Whatcom county, of the huge increases in ferry fares now being considered by the County Council.  As with his previous article, “A New Perspective on the Subject of Ferry Fares”, it makes for some very interesting reading….

His latest article: Fare economics nov10

8 thoughts on “The Economic Impact of Ferry Rates

  1. Nice work Rich! I wonder about the impact on local businesses. I would love to hear from the island business owners with their projections of survival under the circumstances you outlined. If we could tell the county that we project losing n businesses within say 1-2 years, I think the commissioners would take notice.

    Thanks, Randy

    • It appears that the economic impact and future of the lLummi island Community and its economy is spiraling to disastrous end as Mr. Frey has portrayed.
      As a non-islander resident of the community I will miss the opportunity to visit your unique and magnificent splendor that exists on your beautiful island . I will also miss the opportunity to share your island with my family and friend (tourist) who visit me.
      The current atmosphere that has develop by our State, County and Tribal government representatives with their citizens is to say the least is a failure and irresponsible.

  2. Some of what Rich predicts already appears to have happened after the 2008 rate increases. Many rentals are available around the island, some having been empty for several months. I suspect it means that young singles and young couples who rented have left the island. They didn’t have property to sell or children in school to uproot.

    What Rich didn’t mention is that the act of “leaving the Island” for most involves selling their home for at least as much as their mortgage debt. Tough task these days.

    Councilmember Barbara Brenner was belittled by other Council leadership recently when she asked what Council intended to do about people who would be stuck out here, people who couldn’t afford to stay but couldn’t afford to leave either. I personally thought it was one of the best questions asked at that meeting.

    Thanks, Rich, for your insights.

  3. Thanks, Rich. You’ve clearly written what I’ve intuitively felt but couldn’t verbalize. I hope those in control understand and act.

  4. Great analysis Rich.
    Here’s how it plays out for me personally.
    Relative Effect: My boat burns a gal/hr, so it costs about $3 per round trip to get to a car stashed on the mainland. Amortizing the boat and car over 10 years cost me about $1000/yr. So unless somebody else goes into the ferry business, doing the math for 1 trip a week, works out to about $23 per trip. That’s my ‘market clearing price’, which doesn’t sound so hot.
    Income Effect: Cutting down on trips is my only recourse, which we have been doing since all the rate increases, and will continue to do in the future. At some point an equilibrium will be reached between island demographics, real estate values, and transportation costs per household.
    We’re a long way from a return to stability, but the ripples created by out of control ferry costs can only muddy the waters for years to come.
    We will each do what is in our own best interest in the final analysis.

  5. It is understandable that the presentations by Rich Frye and Carl Weimer focus on the immediate issue of ferry fares due to the urgency of the scheduled council meeting on the 23rd. However, the real solution to the economics of the matter probably lies a step or two further out in well-reasoned and crafted, regional transportation planning. All affected are still locked in the “same old same old.” No one is thinking outside the box.

    No one has asked yet:

    1. What is the character of the most basic (essential) crossing needs for each island household or island vistor or service provider?

    2. Are the present multitude of crossings needed if we think and act more efficiently?

    3. Is there another way to meet those needs without having to leave the island – e.g. develop/support an island economy?

    4. In distillation, what are the most basic of ferry costs related to enabling the community to (efficiently) meet its most essential crossing needs?

    Even the Lummi Nation should be part of the economic answer, because there is value in:
    1. the reduced traffic exposure to its members, and
    2. the reduced area of ferry-related land (parking) which would likely result at Gooseberry for marina development if public transit is efficient and adopted by ferry users.

    This planning task should be undertaken by those skilled in progressive transportation planning. All the money being spent on this ferry issue by the county, the Lummi Nation, and PLIC could have been much more appropriately and efficiently spent, and with much less stress on all, by doing good transportation analysis and planning.

    On an advisory board:
    If there is to be any advisory board, it should be one which works from a multi-modal perspective, with water crossing as just one of the modes in its planning program. “Lummi Sub Area Transportation Advisory Committee” fits better than Ferry Advisory Committee.

  6. Thanks Rich for your analysis. I frequent the Transition Lummi site daily, and find it to be an excellent source for timely, accurate (in my mind anyways) information. I see a new post today addressing the Ferry situation. Worth a read IMO. I also think the other posts are worth the time. We need to see the future and prepare instead of constantly being caught flat footed fighting fires.

    http://transitionlummiisland.com/sustainable-economics

    Thanks again for your contributions.

    Bert

  7. I’m wondering if the 45% from the Road Fund is set in stone? Or can it be amended to 30%, or 20% down the road as the deficit reality hits the County? Judging from the Road Funds projection into 2013, it doesn’t look like the County will have the money. Perhaps I’m missing something, which is highly probable. It’s just another issue that can really effect ferry operations and fares in the future if the 45% is cut.

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