The Ferry Task Force Needs Your Support

In case you missed this “Brown Betty” in the pre-drydock crazies, here is a letter from the Task Force requesting our help in urging the County Council to adopt their recommendations.  They have put out a tremendous amount of energy and time helping us, now is the time for us to do what we can to insure that their efforts are not wasted:  Find email address for the Council (include a subject):    

P.S.   Please plan to attend the potluck party this Friday evening to thank the Task Force for their excellent work.  It’s at the Grange, 6:30 pm, Friday, September 9th–bring a dish and your own table service!


Dear Islanders —

Your Lummi Island Ferry Task Force worked hard to create a set of recommendations for the County Council. These recommendations include:

 – Free passage for all children under 19

– Reduced ferry fares

– Several ways to reduce costs

You should know that each Task Force member disagrees with at least one or two of the recommendations. But we agreed that the best way to get support from the County Council was to agree, as a group, to support the entire package. The County Council seemed interested in the recommendations package, and we seek your support in encouraging the Council to adopt the recommendations.

We ask Islanders to look closely at the entire package (available at the library and via links provided in the Ferry Forum and PLIC web sites). There will be recommendations with which you disagree. But if you believe that the fare reducing package of recommendations is worthwhile, please support it. The more support the Council hears from Islanders, the greater the likelihood that they will adopt the fare reduction package this fall.

Citizens’ Task Force for the Lummi Island Ferry
Kathy Berg
Jim Dickinson
Pat Dunn
Diane Harper
Chandler Johnson
Barbara Ryan
Riley Starks

(Here are the applicable web sites – ed)

Video of Task Force presentation to Council plus Q&A

Here’s the link to the complete 1-hr video of yesterday’s summary presentation by the Ferry Task Force to the County Council, along with an extended period of Q&A. The Task Force did an excellent job, on time (as usual), clear (as usual) and were thoughtfully responsive to questions (as usual).  The video includes clear shots of the slide presentation, which is very well worth watching. (click here to read the Task Force’s complete written report.)

All task force members except one were present. Chandler Johnson gave the presentation, and several members answered questions.

It’s not clear when the Council will take up these recommendations, but there will be a time this fall when all citizens, property owners and ferry users will have the chance to provide individual and/or collective input about our support (or not) for Task Force recommendations.  (I personally plan to wait until later, as the Council’s collective brain seems mostly filled with lease contract and other stuff right now.)

Thanks very much to Shane Roth, an intrepid volunteer citizen-videographer of public meetings that otherwise would go unreported, and for posting it so quickly on Latte Republic.

Final Ferry Task Force Report

The Whatcom County Council has posted the Ferry Task Force’s final report. (Feb. 10, 2012 update:  The document is no longer available on the Council’s site. Thank goodness it’s also located & retrievable  — and always will be — on the Ferry Documents site. Use the link in the next paragraph.) The report  includes overview, recommendations and supporting definitions, data and related background information. It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished on-time, no budget.  Outstanding quality in content and process, complete transparency.

The Ferry Task Force’s report is a very large pdf file (nearly 4Mb), and the County site is often slow to download such large files. You can read or download the report on the faster-loading Whatcom Count Ferry Documents Archive  (click here for direct access).

We still hope to to post the final report in smaller, more manageable chunks in the next few days on the Ferry Documents site. A notebook with the complete report is available at the Island Library.

The Task Force will give a one hour summary of the report at Council Chambers to the Council Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, August 9, 12:30 to 1:30 PM, including answering initial questions that Councilors may have.  The meeting is open to the public.

Task Force Recommendations 2011-20-11

Here are the July 20, 2011  expense-cutting, revenue-generating, policy and fare recommendations that have been (mostly) finalized by the Ferry Task Force. Last details will be worked out at Monday night’s meeting (27 July, 2011, The Grange, 6-?? PM).

Note:  A problem column format on p. 8 yields a total “Revenue Target after recommended changes” = ####. This is obviously wrong.  I’ll post a corrected version of the recommendations when I get one. The rest of the document looks ok. )

At the last task force meeting, vigorous discussion of multiple items took place, resulting in the meeting running to nearly 10 PM.  A lot of the items are to find a good solution that everyone agreed upon. There will be some instances where the task force should have A and B recommendations, to reflect important differences of opinion.

If there are items you disagree with, your next real chance for input will be to the County Council. The Task Force has only 7 days to complete its report — the time for giving the Task Force input is now effectively over.

Major Dry Dock Parking Changes (?)

Below is an email from Pat Dunn (email is part of the public record, as it went to all task force members) with some hearsay / information about dry dock. I’ve emailed Frank Abart for confirmation or refutation, but I know that we all have been planning for months based on past dry dock experiences and need a heads up ASAP if there’s to be a radical change.

I believe that ALL islanders, should have the equal opportunity to lobby for what they need during dry dock. No way for that to happen without sharing Pat’s information broadly.

Perhaps it’s finally time for islanders to collectively propose serious  practical ways to restrict the number of cars at Gooseberry Pt. during dry dock, e.g., no more than one vehicle/family, or none permitted to park for more than 3 days, or paid parking for commuters and others needing to travel daily.  

We need better solutions, ones that work for all of us whose lives depend on using the floating county road between the mainland and Lummi Island.    Rapid, thoughtful effort by a few determined volunteers could generate a viable proposal, I think. This is NOT one for the Task Force at this point in time.

From Pat Dunn:

Sent: 7/23/2011 1:53:23 PM
Subject: dry dock

Thought you might be interested . . .

While picking up trip sheets for Diane yesterday, I talked to Frank Abart for a few minutes.  He said that the lot directly across from the ferry landing (next to the fenced lot that is leased for ferry parking) will not be available to islanders for parking during dry dock, ie, parking will be severely limited; and cars parked illegally will be towed.

The subject of having foot ferry service during dry dock to both Gooseberry Point and Fairhaven was brought up.  The gooseberry service would be more limited than now.  There is parking in Fairhaven at the terminal ($6/day or $30/week locked at night, per the website).  There is WTA Go-Line (every 15 minutes) bus service.  Personally, I love this idea of a dry dock alternative in Fairhaven (as have several others I’ve mentioned this to) & will be lobbying for this choice.

While probably too late in the game for the task force to examine & make a recommendation, we can let PW know our own opinions.


July 11 Draft Ferry Task Force Recommendations









Please use the July 20 updated recommendations instead of the July 11th ones below.

Here are the Ferry Task Force’s draft recommendations as of their July 11, 2011 meeting, in pdf format.  Items still remaining to be agreed upon should be determined at the July 18th meeting – if not by consensus, then by vote of the Task Members. (Meeting: July 18, 2011, 6:00-8:30 PM, Grange)

As always, public comments are invited at the start of the Task Force meeting.

The Task Force will submit its final written report on recommended changes to current revenues (including fares and possible taxing district) and costs (parking, service etc) to the County Council by early August. They will present their recommendations to the Council on August 9, 2011 (don’t know whether that will happen at a daytime Council committee meeting or at the regular evening meeting).

The final Ferry Task Force report will include the complete findings, rationale, financial and other data, public communications record and all other relevant background information and work done by the Task Force since January 2011, when they began their work.

The County Council presumably will accept citizen input on the recommended changes up until the time that the Council votes on any changes to ferry service, fares, facilities, long-term advisory board, etc.

Public Comments: Draft Cost-Cutting Recommendations

Here are some of the comments about the draft recommendations (by topic) made by community members last Monday, June 20th, Task Force meeting and at  the June 22 LICA meeting.  Some comments have been consolidated, for the sake of brevity.

Cost-savings ideas

Administrative services

  • reduce administrative service costs, including Frank Abart’s percent salary; think Abart’s salary should not be set to a percent of the Ferry budget, prefer an ‘activity based’ cost approach to his salary;
  • Why can’t we return to historical approach where the Master handles most of administrative tasks now taken on by Public Works?
  • Concern that accounting and other clerk services are too high
  • Is it possible to outsource administrative services, or consolidate with other similar county ferry system operations
  • Concern that County’s out-dated accounting and reporting system is inefficient and costly, needs to be modernized
  • Favor single-engine operation when service allows.  Masters are already doing that (though depends on crew) where feasible, so the estimate of cost-savings might be too high; need more accurate data on this
  • For recommendations, prefer seeing reasonable range of costs rather than descriptors in table
  • Inefficient processing of punch card payments, at least 2 weeks now until checks clear
  • Consider county role in modifying ferry user behavior


  • Need better information about ‘no-pays’ — current estimates by crew are rather wide-ranging and confounded by number of people who return to pay now
  • Electronic ticketing (esp. card swipe) has numerous cost and accuracy benefits, short and long-term.  Estimate of cost may be too high,  given rapidly changing technology
  • Punch card expiration date generally disliked for various reasons related for perceived unfairness; most people didn’t want to see this on the Task Force’s recommendations

Needs-based fares

  • punch-card fares eligibility should be specific and consistent with other governmental definitions but not overly restrictive
  • simple to administrate (including by crew)
  • Age alone should not be qualifier

Fares for crew (current, retired) passage

  • This is part of union contract.
  • Multiple advantages to having tickets or punch cards (still can be part of contract), including more accurate tracking of riderships and revenues, eliminating perceived problem of crew riding ‘for free’  more than is ‘fair’

Ticketing and service

  • Reducing mid-day runs has several problems for school-age children (early release days; emergency or health situations; may not be legal to prevent access by parents to children during school hours; inability of school to function normally (staff; special services; field trips, etc)
  • Reducing evening runs hard for parents and children in middle and high school, given multiple off-island events
  • 5:40 AM run is used by multiple commuters (nurses, Intalco, BP, teachers)
  • 10:30 PM for last run might work for nurse commuters, but only if Sunday 7 AM run remains, due to shift work requirements
  • OK with eliminating last (12:20 AM) ferry
  • Consider variable rate structure to get people to shift usage; but hard to do without electronic ticketing; one person thought it could be done with punch cards
  • To cut costs, some runs at ends of shifts need to be cut; cutting # runs per hour wouldn’t have substantial cost-savings
  • If Task Force/islanders offer no suggestions for service cuts, then County Council could do whatever they want/feel necessary without guidance (like the unexpected $3 surcharge this year)
  • Reducing runs of commuters (including school-related) would have biggest impact on high revenue-generating frequent users; retirees have already reduced and consolidated runs to cut their own costs
  • County has in recent times allowed fares to remain low and service excellent, encouraging people to move to the island, so the County has the obligation to not make changes now that would hurt islanders who’ve moved here assuming fares and service would remain about the same – raising fares or lowering service is ‘changing the rules of the game’
  • Need to seriously consider what is practical (fiscally) not just what is ‘right’ re: past history
  • Islanders need to assess what we can tolerate – can argue all we want but it may not matter in current situation
  • Would like to hear more about the consequences of cutting runs after 10:30PM
  • Make some changes, e.g., to some night-time runs, then review what happens — consider gradual rather than all-at-once alterations to service.
  • Need solid data on usage from island (#/run, destinations, etc). Right now, no such data are routinely acquired; only information is from very extremely limited periods of time.

Gooseberry Pt parking

  • If secure Gooseberry Pt parking is eliminated, what would the impact be on total vehicle traffic (including long lines) and fare revenues?
  • Might there be private parking options at Gooseberry Pt, or ways to improve WTA service?  Could some islanders use van pool option?
  • Might be substantial vandalism problems if secure parking were eliminated; there’s a lot of traffic on Haxton/Lummi Shore Road late at night
  • Who really uses the secure lot? Need data.

More Docs & Information from the Task Force

In an effort to be certain that you don’t miss anything that the Ferry Task Force (or individual members) put out, the following includes a power point presentation that Diane Harper presented to LICA on June 22nd, as well as her own personal comments on the Draft Fare Recommendations.  Also included is Jim Dickinson’s comprehensive presentation on Washington State ferries.

Remember, it’s not too late to respond to Ferry Task Force information (email:   Also, your comments here on the Ferry Forum are important to increasing awareness of how members of our community are feeling about these difficult decisions and compromises. 

comments from Diane:
…You may remember that I had volunteered to update the LICA monthly meeting on Task Force status.  We had about 30 people there, but I would say only 10-15 were new.  I’ve enclosed the powerpoint that I presented – with an emphatic introduction that I was speaking only for myself and not the Task Force. The Ferry Forum  may publish all or part of it.
Something surprising to me from last night was the discussion about a ferry taxing district. Someone asked for a vote on the taxing district, so I asked the group:  “Who would NOT protest to the Council if a taxing district were established?”  Almost everyone raised their hands – I think the result would have been quite different if I had asked who would promote it to the Council.  This was a group of mostly the most civic minded people on the island….the big concern of course is that the tax go to pay for the ferry and not just disappear into the road fund.


a note from Diane:
…I already have a couple of things that I am working on making better – so please note, this is a personal draft proposal that is still being developed and is intended just to get some concepts on the table before the next meeting.

DianeHarper’s Personal Comments on Fare Recommendations


Ferries:  A Comparative Analysis – intro from Jim Dickinson

Jim Dickinson’s Washington State Ferries Presentation

See more Ferry Task Force information and documents at:

Have your say NOW on draft Task Force recommendations

Friday, June 24 is the deadline for comments.

Do you have questions, thoughts, concerns and ideas (pros, cons, other ideas) for recommended changes to ferry operations, fares etc that you would like the Ferry Task Force to consider at their next meeting (and before they write their next pretty-much-final report)?

Send in your comments (in writing, so they can be fully considered) by this Friday, June 24, either by email (see contacts) or regular mail (or ask task force members where they’d like printed comments delivered).

Below is the information that was presented at last Monday’s meeting, which ~50 islanders attended. These recommendations have not been altered (except to clarify some language) from last Monday’s meeting.   Changes related to new information, including community input received by June 24, will be discussed at the next Task Force Meeting (Monday, June 27, 6-830 PM, the Grange).

Critical Financial Background Information about the Ferry Budget. As Diane Harper said in her opening remarks, these budget numbers along with County revenues being down by about 10% this year, have been key reasons for the Task Force’s draft recommendations to date.

List of community values reflected in 2010 ferry fares, and questions to consider in re-thinking fares.   The 2010 (pre $3 surcharge) fare schedule (categories and prices) implicitly reflect historical community values; changing the fare schedule could imply a change in those community values.

Draft cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing recommendations. This table includes draft cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing by recommendations by type, fiscal and other impacts, robustness of estimated financial effect of the change on revenues or operational costs.  At the meeting, this table was gone through line by line, with attendees having the chance to ask questions, make comments and offer opinions.

Draft recommendations (June 20) related to accounting procedures, customer service and capital.

Draft recommendation for changes to fares.  These are the proposed changes to fare structure (i..e., categories of fares) and the cost of each fare category.

Whatcom County Ferry District proposal  This provides information about  a recommended Ferry District, based on an increase in property taxes on all Lummi Island property.

Needs-Based Fares.  Draft recommendation for modifying current needs-based fares.

Other background documents, including those showing detailed accounting research, can be found either here on the Ferry Forum (click on topic shown in the right sidebar, or enter a Search term) or on the Whatcom County Ferry Documents site.

Task Force DRAFT cost-cutting / revenue ideas

Here’s a draft of ferry cost-cutting and revenue-generating options that the Task Force is considering recommending to the County Council (spreadsheet, MS Excel or OpenOfficeCalc).   PDF Version of recommendation-costs20110611-p-draft
At the June 13 Task force meeting (Grange, 6- ~830 PM), the focus will be on the cost-cutting measures since revenue and other issues have been discussed in previous meetings.

If you have input on any of these ideas, please attend the June 13 meeting or send comments to Kathy Berg (