Guemes Island Ferry Replacement Planning

Here’s a copy of my trip report down to Mt Vernon yesterday.  Some food for thought.  Their boat is much younger than ours, costs are lower, offering fewer trips per day, but have nearly twice the ridership for two islands of roughly equal populations and demographics and are much further along than we are in the planning cycle.  Here’s the full trip report after the jump.

Correction 8/27/14, reading the report, and a call from Mary Ross, and a call from me to Skagit County confirms they count each trip to and from the island as two trips, but Whatcom County counts that as only one round trip.  Therefore, the ridership between both systems is actually very similar.  This will affect the cost per trip, etc.  It’s confusing to me, so I hesitate to make any comparisons between the two systems, if in fact reporting is apples and oranges.

8/26/14, Memo of Presentation – Guemes Ferry Replacement Report

Date of Meeting: Aug 26, 2014

Attendees:  Skagit County Commissioners, Matt Williamson and Kurt Jankowski of Elliot Bay Marine Grp (EBMG), Guemes Ferry Advisory Cmmte, Rachel Rowe, Ferry Mgr, Michael Skehan, Chair ,LIFAC-LRPC (Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Cmmte – Long Range Planning Sub-Cmmte), Rhayma Blake, LRPC, Jim Dickinson, Technical Cmmte

This was a presentation of the latest draft report on replacement options for the M/V Guemes Ferry to the Skagit Commissioners.  LRPC attended as observers to the work that has been ongoing for about a year, culminating in a report on three options:  A.  New Ferry, B. Major Overhaul of existing, C. Increase capacity of the existing ferry with a 20’ midbody extension.

A copy of the latest report is on-line, at Skagit Co. Ferry, Public Works.  http://www.skagitcounty.net/PublicWorksFerry/Documents/ferryreplacementplan.pdf, as well as public comments received this spring http://www.skagitcounty.net/PublicWorksFerry/Documents/Public%20Input_Ferry%20Replacement%20Plan.pdf

Very briefly, the report begins with a current assessment of needs, detailing the configuration and condition of the existing ferry between Anacortes and Guemes Island being 37 years old, and nearing its design life of about 40 years.  Next, a demand history of ridership and annual costs along with projections out to 20 years were conducted, leading to the three recommended courses of action listed above.  Cost estimates and life-cycle costs were prepared to compare both capital and operating cost comparisons, resulting in a range of costs over 23 years of between $19.5m to $26.7m, with option A (new) being the lowest cost.  Net Present Value analysis was not significantly different in outcome because interest rates and inflation are nearly the same.  Commissioners noted that up to 75% of the cost of the new ferry ($8.2m) could be funded from State and Federal sources, whereas midlife overhauls would be borne with 100% local funds.

Public comment was taken, being led by Steve Orsini, Chair-Guemes Island Ferry Advisory Cmmte, noting the general feeling of islanders is that a new boat is not warranted at this time, and they prefer one of the refurbishing options.  They asked good probing questions of the consultant, noting discrepancies in the report over comparing different time frames, skewing the results in favor of the new boat.  The discourse between all parties was very respectful and professional, as they all want the same thing – a well-functioning ferry service that meets future capacity needs, while keeping operating costs low.

I noted they compare their ridership and costs to the Whatcom Chief, which raises a whole series of questions in my mind.  The Guemes (22 car capacity) operating cost per vehicle carried is about half that of the Whatcom Chief (20 cars).  They operate 23 daily trips compared to our 39 trips, for fewer hours of the day, yet carry nearly double the cars and passengers annually than the Whatcom Chief service.  Both islands population and demographics are very similar and trip crossing times within a few minutes of each other.

It was a good experience for all three Subcommittee members to see the level of cooperation between island citizens and County government in looking forward to the inevitable – salt water boats wear out eventually.  I publicly thanked them for the opportunity to sit in, and asked for a heads up if any new pots of money were found – drawing a nice chuckle from Dan Berentson, Public Works Director.

Mike Skehan, Chair, LRPC

Cc:LRPC, LIFAC, Rob Ney.  

2 thoughts on “Guemes Island Ferry Replacement Planning

  1. Hat Tip to Mary Ross for pointing out Guemes counts riders BOTH ways, so now I have to verify that with them, which would explain the much higher ridership, as we only count going one way. This could skew all the financial comparisions in the report, so I’ll call the consultant to sort this out.
    Stay tuned.

    • Rachel verified they count both the to and from Guemes as two trips, whereas Whatcom counts that as one (I believe, but must dig further to sort all this out in my mind)

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