from Colleen McCrory….
The Citizens’ Task Force for the Lummi Island Ferry will be making recommendations to the Whatcom County Council that most likely will effect every aspect of the ferry operation. For many of us, attending meetings, keeping up with issues and information, and expressing our opinions to the task force is not in the cards, but it is imperative that we let them know what is important to us because every recommendation they make will shape and define our community.
One of the many questions they have asked us is: Should we continue to allow children under 18 to ride free? How we answer this question shapes our community in essential ways. Ask parents how many times a week they schlep their children to social, academic and sporting events in town…or how they would feel about isolating them from these experiences because it’s too costly. Would we lose most of our families? our school? the local jobs generated by our school? Would the rest of us like living in a community without children and younger families? Until we actually consider the impact of making just this one change (and I know you will think of many others), it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But it really is.
Another question posed by the task force: Should service hours be cut to reduce expenses? Do we want to cut service? Of course not, but what if it seems to be the only way to really keep the ferry affordable? We have learned that no other small ferry runs as long as ours. If hours were to be cut, which ones? Stopping at 10:00 pm, Monday through Thursday, has been discussed. Or, how about a 2-3 hour break mid day? What effect would this have on those members of our community that ride the ferry to work every day? for various shifts? Long service hours and affordable fares have made it possible for people to live here and work in town. How do we feel about a community composed mainly of retirees?
Another question: Should the Gooseberry parking lot be eliminated to reduce expenses? Who should pay for it? Right now it is part of the operating budget. Once again, how would this effect those who work in town every day? with scheduled appointments that cannot be missed? at a fare that is more affordable? Being able to walk on is crucial for many. What would our community be like without them?
Presently, commuters and frequent ferry users pay the lion’s share of ferry costs. Second home owners benefit from good and affordable ferry service in many ways, not the least of which is their enhanced property values, and the benefits of being part of a thriving and successful community. At tonight’s meeting (May 16, 2011), the task force will be discussing the pros and cons of establishing a ferry taxing district. Is it more fair and equitable to spread the burden of paying for the ferry to all property owners? Can the tax increase be kept small and affordable for all of us? Could the additional revenue allow us to roll back the $3.00 surcharge? Would this make it possible for our community to support its working members and families with affordable ferry fares?
Some other questions being addressed by the Task Force:
What about drydock in April or May, instead of September?
What is the difference between operational and capital costs, and why does it matter?
What do you think of crew fares? (now ferry crew and their immediate family ride free–the rationale being that they are required to live on the island)
What do you think of needs-based fares?
What do you think of charging more for peak season fares?
What if we took $1.00 off vehicle fares during non-peak hours (spread out the loads and lines)
What about vehicles being charged by length instead of weight? (think deck space being the determining factor)
What do you think of electronic ticketing and credit card payments?
As you can see, every recommendation the task force makes to save money and increase efficiency has consequences that effect us personally. If the task force makes recommendations that do not reflect what we value most about our community, we will all be compromised in very essential ways.
The important thing is to let them know what you value the most, what you cannot compromise, and what changes are acceptable.
You can email your opinions and ideas to Kathy Berg, the Task Force secretary, at: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or add your thoughts in comments to this post.