How will LIFAC respond to community requests to modify their ‘Lower Fares’ proposal?

Tomorrow night, at LIFAC’s December 2, 2014 LIFAC meeting (Fire Hall, 6:30-7:40 PM), you can learn how LIFAC will respond to islander requests to modify LIFAC’s October recommendation to lower some Lummi Island ferry fares (see October 7, 2014 draft handout on their county website; a newer revised version is here, on the PLIC website).

Basic facts.  In October, LIFAC members approved a recommendation to ask the County Council to consider lowering selected ferry fares.  This sounds like a very nice idea, as we all love the idea of paying less for something these days, especially ferry fares!

However, at the November LIFAC meeting, multiple islanders, including members of Protect Lummi Island Community and others, presented information and requests concerning some problems with the October proposal, including no fare relief on needs-based tickets and the absence of any published financial analysis, which was a major basis of LIFAC’s proposal. It’s noteworthy that 31/33 islanders who attended PLIC’s October 29, 2014 community forum indicated that LIFAC’s proposal should not be forwarded to the County Council without important specific modifications; details under “Ferry Fare Reduction Proposal in the works” at plicferry.org.

At the end of the November meeting, LIFAC was asked whether they would respond to public requests to modify the proposal and to publish their full financial analysis for anyone to review, prior to sending the proposal to the County Council.  Chairman Mike McKenzie said that LIFAC always enthusiastically welcomes community input but made no commitment to respond to the public input heard at that meeting.

LIFAC may respond at tomorrow’s December LIFAC meeting, but since no agenda has yet been published we’ll have to wait and see how they choose to proceed.

One thought on “How will LIFAC respond to community requests to modify their ‘Lower Fares’ proposal?

  1. In two detailed emails to LIFAC over the last two months discussing why I thought their proposal was not defensible before the Council, I have all but given up expecting them to even acknowledge the reasons why this proposal is DOA when presented without significant changes as none of my questions have ever been responded to. Is that what we expect our Advisory Cmmte to do on our behalf?
    Briefly, I’ll summarize my analysis of the original, yet unmodified fare proposal.
    1. Creating regular fares of one value, and higher fares for needs based is not only silly, but it’s illegal. The County Attorney will kill it based on that alone.
    2. Using just two data points, of one of two data sets available is too little information to establish a trend of what revenue will be in the future. LIFAC took punch card/cash sales for 2012, then compared that to 2013 in each of the 21 fare categories. That percentage increase or decrease was applied to 2013 to estimate what 2015 will look like. So the 8% gain in ridership, goes counter to what the actual Purser counts were for that period, and counter to what the last 10 and 3 year trends have show, which has been declining ridership.
    3. Using just two data points to establish a trend has some interesting results. Large truck punch cards are over $1,000 each. They sold 6 of those cards in 2012 and 19 in 2013, or triple the number. So, do you triple that number again for 2015, effectively saying there will be 9 times the number of big trucks using the ferry? Of course not, but that’s what the current proposal has in it. Medium truck sales are nearly as bad. Some categories went down, so will they go down some more?
    4. LIFAC is proposing to heavily discount some punch cards, as much as 50%, which is fine if the numbers support this bonanza. Unfortunately, poor ridership estimates also give poor revenue estimates, even at the lower fare. Also, the 50% discount for multiride would make Whatcom County the most generous discounter of tickets in the entire Pacific NW, including BC Ferries. 15-40 percent is the hi/low range, except for needs based, which runs 50%, not more (see 1. above). Is LIFAC sending a message that if you live here and can afford a gate pass, then you get a really great deal being part of the club. If you can’t afford it or are just a tourist or part time resident, then guess what. Pay up or stay away.
    Is that the message we want our Advisory Cmmte to tell the mainland?
    I’ll go to the meeting tomorrow, but other than some tweaks, I don’t expect much to change before our Advisory Cmmte speaks for the rest of us.

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