The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 3, 2008

WSF to downsize. Ferries farebox to stick at 75% of cost?

Turnaround time for state ferries?

David Moseley, Washington state's new ferries director, talks about the challenges ahead of him Monday, March 3, 2008, his first day on the job at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

By Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington's ferry chief, upbeat on his first day on the job, said Monday he's expecting a real turnaround at the problem-plagued ferry system and expects to retire a happy man someday.

David Moseley said he even saw a rainbow as he headed to a midday meeting with legislators from ferry-dependent districts.

"I said to myself, `OK, I'm taking it as a good sign."'

It has been mostly storm clouds lately for the nation's largest ferry system - boats pulled from service, schedules thrown out the window, angry riders left without key connections, tight finances and critical audits.

Moseley, 60, who spent most of his adult career as an administrator for Seattle, Federal Way, Ellensburg and Steilacoom, doesn't have a maritime background and was purposely brought in as an outside "change agent" by the governor and her Department of Transportation.

"I'm thrilled at this opportunity," notwithstanding the mountain of problems, Moseley said in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. "At this point in my career, it's exactly the challenge I'm looking for.

"The ferries are not just a Washington state icon, they're a lifeline for people."

Moseley said it feels like the ferry system is in its turnaround moment. Six new boats are in the pipeline and the ferry system will develop a clear plan for maintaining and replacing its aging vessels so the state never again has to deal with the sudden removal of boats from service and not having backup plans, he said.

In November, the state suddenly took four Steel Electric Class vessels out of service, fearing they were no longer safe to operate after inspectors found pitting and corrosion.

That temporarily left the Port Townsend-Whidbey Island run without car service. The ensuing passenger-only service had to rely for a while on a whale-watching boat.

The Steel Electric vessels also served the interisland run in the San Juan Islands.

The Port Townsend run was eventually supplied with a loaner vessel, the Steilacoom II from Pierce County and lawmakers have approved construction of three replacement vessels - one the same size and design as the 55-car Steilacoom II and the others a little larger - 76-car boats. Three 144-car vessels also are being designed.

"Getting those six vessels is critical to getting predictable service" and backup boats, Moseley said. "Then we can give a sigh of relief."

The bid for the first small boat will be awarded this month and it should be delivered in 14 months and the other two small boats within an additional year, he said. The first big boat will be delivered two years from this summer, and the others after that, he said.

The governor and Legislature will be given long-term recommendations for a follow-up schedule for building new boats and maintaining the existing ones, he said. Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond talks about a 60-year life cycle for ferries, meaning many of the boats would need replacing in the next few decades.

The ferry agency also is being reorganized, downsized somewhat, and integrated better into the umbrella state transportation agency
, Moseley said. Olympia plans to come up with a long-term financing plan and will work to repair the system's reputation.

Moseley said he expects to regain public confidence, as the state brings the new boats on line, and schedules and service are more reliable. Service has suffered on the Port Townsend, Bremerton and Point Defiance runs in recent days.

The state ferry system carries 24 million passengers and 11 million vehicles a year on 10 cross-Puget Sound runs.

Moseley also said he wants to make transparent, publicly accountable operations a key part of the agency's culture. "When you tell people what you know, when you know it, that breeds confidence," he said.

Ferry riders are frustrated and even cynical about promises, but do support their marine highways, he said.

"They love the ferries. People want this thing to succeed. That's a value that we can draw on."

Asked how long he'd like to hold the post, Moseley said seven to 10 years.

What would success look like?

"When I retire, people talk about the little blip when the ferry system had a rough time back in 2007, 2008 - how it was an aberration and how the system now has good maintenance, enough boats, a reliable schedule," he said.

He said he'd like to restrain growth in ferry fares, which soared by 70 percent over the past decade as lawmakers tried to have the farebox cover 80 percent or more of the operating cost. Fares, now frozen for two years, cover about 75 percent of the cost, he said.

The ferry system has a two-year operating budget of $414 million and a construction and maintenance budget of $286 million

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