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Guest Column by Leslie Brennan: Questions the value of WSF's demographic sutvey

  • Written by Leslie Brennan

I have no idea what difference it makes to Washington State Ferry, anything about the diversity of our communities are or why it matters at all about the demographics.

Maybe I’m being way to simplistic in thought, but there are many people who live on the islands for a variety of different reasons. There are those who have moved here recently, to those who were born here. Why does it matter? How will it show any connection with the horrible way in which the ferries have been performing?

I’ve lived here for more that thirty-seven years and the ferry service now has been the absolute worse I have every experienced!

With reasons like; broken down engines or equipment failure, the age of the ferries or the lack of crew, people who rely on and depend on this necessary mode of travel are literally being stranded on an island.

An example of our most recent Memorial Day weekend worst case scenario left more than a hundred people in cars at the Friday Harbor ferry landing. These were visitor as well as local islanders who had nowhere to go. They were not only stranded on an island, they were also stranded in line with nowhere to go.

Our islands are limited to the number of hotels, restaurants, hours of operation as well as emergency service workers available to help those people in this very bizarre and unusual situation. Unfortunately, there is now the constant fear that it could happen again. Our scheduled inter-island ferry has been horribly unreliable to the point where people who travel to the other islands for work or school, don’t because they don’t want to pack for the possibility of having to sleep in their own cars at the ferry landing due to another cancellation because of a “lack of crew”.

The whole system has become a big joke that is no laughing matter. With a greater population of elderly who need to travel to the mainland for doctors’ appointments, people struggle with the thought of moving off the island to be closer to medical help or assistance.

The simplistic solution that I see is to replace the old broken ferry engines with new ones, build new ferries of different sizes. It’s really discouraging to see a ferry depart the dock with only a hand full of cars when there are so many left behind due to their destination.

Our population has increased but, some smaller boats make sense to me, especially when it’s an inter-island ferry. The old Hiyu is a great example.

Although it’s hard to find good help these days, training the right person to “load the boat” would be a great advantage! Anyone who can successfully play the old game of Tetris (placing different shaped pieces that need to be placed in a small area) should be a requirement. I don’t know how they choose the person who loads the vessels, but when they do a poor job, dozens of cars that could otherwise have been on the boat, are left behind waiting several more hours for the next ferry (provided there is one). Additionally, the person assigned to that task should be quick to see where to direct the next car. As in the game Tetris, the amount of time you have becomes less and less. This would avoid some of the late or delayed sailings.

So, in short (lol), I would have to say, that the time and expense of soliciting public opinion about the diversity of our communities and of the demographics, has little significance in the ways or reasons the Washington State Ferries operate as it does today.

The future does look brighter though, but only because of the craptacular performance of the WSF can’t get worse. Or can it?

- Leslie Brennan

WSF Demographic Survey

WSF is seeking participants to fill out a survey to help staff learn more about WSF's riders. Take our survey for a chance to win a $100 gift card! Your input will help us better understand the communities we serve and the needs of our customers. Outreach teams will be aboard some sailings on all our routes throughout August encouraging riders to take this passenger demographic survey. Last day to provide input will be Thursday, Aug. 31.