WFTF list of potential topics (2011-01-24)

Diane Harper created this list of possible topics that the WFTF (Whatcom Ferry Task Force) may work on, along with the accompanying email.  The WFTF might discuss this at tonight’s (Jan 24) meeting.

( If you don’t see the rest of the article, click on the title above.)

—– Original Message —–

From: Diane  Harper
To: Barbara Ryan;Chandler Johnson;Jim  Dickinson;
Kathy Berg;Pat  Dunn;Riley Starks;
Councilmember Kathy Kershner
Cc: Editors, FerryForum; Ferry  Forum; PLIC; PLIC - Mike
Sent: 1/24/2011 1:31:57 PM
Subject: task force paperwork for  tonight

Hi everyone,
The enclosed file, “ListPotentialTopics.doc,” was compiled from all the lists individual task force members have given me.  I took the liberty of placing them all into some general topic areas. These topic areas are not intended to define a report, rather to allow the task force to consider which of these items we want to complete in the time allotted.
I’m going to bring two copies, so please print your own if you wish to consult it during the meeting.
I will bring 12 copies of the one page draft schedule work plan for use by task force and attendees.
I will bring 12 copies of the draft communications plan.


List of potential topics (for printable copy, click here.)


A. Is there Washington State policy on ferries? On ferry docks? On paying for ferries and docks? On terminal and administration costs? On fares?

B. Is there policy direction from the County Council?

1)     County Comprehensive Plan for Transportation (perhaps ask Whatcom County Planning & Development Services transportation planner, Gary Davis)

a)    Where & how does ferry fit into the County transportation plan?

b)    What are the existing vision, goals & policies for the ferry?

c)    What areas should the County Council address/consider to make the Comp Plan better with regard to the ferry?

d)    What about a Transportation chapter for the LI subarea plan?

2)     Environmental or other policies besides fare recovery?

C. How do WTA & Lummi Transit fit into the ferry picture?  Could that work better & in what ways?  What would change if it did?

D. One outcome/recommendation should be the formation of an advisory group to carry on over time the ideas & relationships started by this task force and continue community/citizen oversight & involvement in the budget, management, operation and future of the Whatcom County Ferry.

Ferry Impacts

E. The impact of the ferry on the economy of Lummi Island and the greater Whatcom County community?  The impact of the ferry on the tax bases of Lummi Island and the greater Whatcom County community?  Bottom line financially?

1)     What impact do fares have on changes in property tax revenue to county?

a)    What is the tourism impact on property values and county revenues?

b)    How would Lummi Island property values fluctuate with different fares?

c)    What would be the tax impact on non-island residents if there were no ferry?

2)     Are there other economic impacts on county revenues from having a ferry?

F. County road and bridge funding

1)     Are all county property owners or only unincorporated property owners assessed property taxes for the county road fund?

2)     What impact do county paid ferry costs have on non-island property owners?

a)    Does Lummi Island portion of road tax leverage general state transportation funding to the county?

b)    How much different would the average homeowner’s property tax be without the ferry? How does this compare to how much goes to all property taxes?

G. The transportation needs of ferry users and the nature of trips taken on the ferry

1)     Who uses ferry?

a)    How is use determined and reported, i.e. pedestrian, crew, commercial vehicles?   Is data reliable and comparable over time?

b)    How many vehicles, pedestrians, etc. use the ferry? Historical data.

c)    How does that compare with vehicle counts on other county roads? On Point Roberts?

2)     Destinations of ridership:  Children to school, children other than school trips, work or college commuters, errands, medical appts., Tourists

3)     What impact do ferry fares have on L.I. businesses and residents? On county residents? (Anecdotal evidence of fare impacts on L.I. residents, county residents)

4)     What level of service does the island want – can we hold service levels constant in our analysis?

H. Lummi Island demographics compared to rest of county – address perception of islanders as wealthy, different from other county residents, etc.  Comparison to Glacier or Birch Bay areas?

Expenditures and Revenues

I. Accounting for Costs

1)     Cost structure – operating vs. capital costs

a)    How are operating and capital costs now determined? Historically?

b)    How does the county categorize outdated bridge or road replacement – maintenance, or are they a new road or bridge for funding purposes?

c)    Should docks be included?  What about Gooseberry Point parking expense?

d)    Categorizing operating expense vs. capital expense in other ferry systems

2)     Ferry accounting – should tax funds be debited from cost, or included in revenue?

3)     State and federal law – capital expense vs. maintenance

4)     Projected costs through 2020 – what assumption on current lease payments?

J. Operating expenses

1)     Current and historical

2)     Operating expenses in other ferry systems?

3)     What are administrative costs allocated to ferry currently, historically, and in other ferry systems?  Potential cost savings in ticketing, management, other?

4)     Impacts of changes in service (trips or passengers allowed) on operating costs

a)    Crew

b)    Fuel and hours based maintenance required

5)     Operational best practices in other ferry systems, potential cost savings?

6)     Funding sources for operational expenses apart from fares

a)    Potential new revenue sources for ferry – advertising, grants, other ?

b)    State funds

c)    County funds

K. Current system Terminal, Dock and Boat requirements (asset planning)

1)     What’s in the County Six Year Transportation Plan and what priority does it have?  How does that fit into the overall Council of Governments transportation funding plan?

2)     Cost projected through 2020

a)    useful life of docks and boat

b)    does the county depreciate dock “maintenance” – how is this done for other county assets?

c)    maintenance costs over time versus acquisition costs

d)    capital expenditures in other similar ferry systems

e)    terminals: pedestrian waiting areas and drop-off provisions, parking areas

3)     Funding sources for terminal, dock and boat

a)    Historic

b)    In other ferry systems

c)    County sources

d)    Federal and State sources

e)    Local Improvement District (LID) or other local?

Fare structure options & recommendations

L. Current ferry fares, Historic fares

M. County policy on setting fares, i.e. 55%

1)     Projected rates through 2020

2)     What rates do users of other ferry systems pay

N. State and federal law – what is a legal and non-discriminatory rate structure? Is the 55% recovery rate legal?

O. What should be the fare structure and ferry fares for current system?

1)     Fare structure – what will meet the service objective and maximize fare box recovery

a)    Island resident vs. non resident?

b)    Commercial vs. private vehicles?

c)    Weight or/and deck space of vehicles?

d)    Peak period vs. off-peak

e)    Fares waived?  (children going to/from school? ambulances? off-duty crew?)

f)      Reduced fares?

g)    Other?

2)     Fares

a)    Costs paid by fares – percentage rate

b)    Fare elasticity

c)    $ recommendation

P. Example impacts of how this would scale up or down

1)     with changes in current costs of terminal and dock leases

2)     with changes in future boat and dock replacement

Changing the current ferry system – each of these topics would need a separate page to list the potential questions

Q. Alternative operators:  Whatcom Transportation Authority,  Washington State Ferry system, new Ferry Authority

R. Alternative ferry routes and docks:  Current dock area to Fairhaven or to west end of Slater Road; Quarry dock to Fairhaven; Other?  Impacts on boat required.

S. Alternative boats:  many have been investigated, also 2 boat systems

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