Suggested Tourist Route

Please excuse my recent gondola craze, but here’s a little daydream.  Imagine you have a half day stopover as Seatac and are looking for something to do.  The information desk gives you a few tips, and you find this route interesting.  Start by hopping on the light rail and riding it to Westlake.  Go up […]

Another ferry route ends

Last year I was excited about the Lake Union Water Taxi. It sounded like a fun way to get from downtown to, say, Fremont – ride the streetcar to South Lake Union, hop on the $3 ferry, and enjoy the ride. It probably wasn’t the fastest commute, but I was considering it as a fun end of a work evening (consisting of happy hour downtown, streetcar ride, boat ride, go out to dinner, bus or taxi home).

I missed the short season they had last year, but was prepared with a calendar reminder this year, which just popped up telling me to try this.

But sadly it won’t be open this year.

Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to wait for the next romantic commuting option to come along. I think Venetian gondolas would be a good idea – anyone have some investment capital and an accordion?

Pt. Townsend Passenger Ferry

The Pt. Townsent chamber has a fever*, and the only cure is more passenger ferry:

The $100,000 the chamber is willing to chip in was initially earmarked to help fund passenger-only ferry service during the Hood Canal Bridge closure, scheduled for spring 2009. Caldwell, however, said the service could start much earlier and become permanent if a private boat operator can forge agreements with local merchants and if the city or the state is willing to match the chamber’s contribution.

Companies that might be interested in operating the service include Port Townsend’s Puget Sound Express and Clipper Navigation, the company that operates the high-speed Victoria Clipper between Seattle and Vancouver Island.

“We can start this service long before the bridge closes,” Caldwell said. “There is a boat available now.”

*See here if you don’t get the reference.


Ed Friedrich, at the Kitsap Sun‘s new Commute blog, notes a shift:

When David Moseley was introduced as the new ferries director, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond talked about bringing Washington State Ferries more under the Department of Transportation instead of lettling it hang out like it’s own agency. I’ve noticed a subtle change in the press releases they send me. They no longer call it Washington State Ferries. It’s now the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division. And Moseley isn’t Washington State Ferries director or CEO. he’s the deputy of the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division.

Changes like this in big organizations are significant. I think it’s a good thing.

Improving the Ferry System

Brian at WATB (hmm… not sure that’s the best acronym…) has been doing some great analysis of the state ferry system of late, epecially this latest post, which lays out some ambitious ideas for improving each of the individual runs. Given the sorry state of ferry funding, I wouldn’t count on any of these changes happening before light rail gets to Issaquah (which is to say, this century), but they’re still great ideas, worthy of the “nation’s largest passenger ferry system.”

That said, at some point, maybe within the next 50 years, it occurs to me that we’ll have all but built out to the urban growth boundary in the Seattle metro area. At that point, there might be no alternative but to develop the peninsula… and the ferries.

Imagine a Tunnel Boring Machine

Bruce Agnew really likes to dream, doesn’t he? The man seems to think that if we just close our eyes and think really hard, we can fix our transportation problems for free. David Brewster, in response, smacks down the foot ferries concept (which I think has more merit than Brewster admits, but isn’t the cure-all that its proponents imagine).

Sorry, Bruce, there’s no magic pill we can swallow and fix our transportation problems. The only answer is to do like every other city on planet earth: spend billions of dollars on new high-capacity transit systems. It’s going to be messy, expensive, over-budget and inconvenient. It’s going to require moving mountains of earth, pouring tons of concrete, laying miles of rail, and yes, inconveniencing some people. Suck it up and deal with it.

The Seattle area has generated an obscene — almost criminal — amount of wealth in the last decade. We’ve got the money, we’ve got the plans, we just don’t always have the will to execute.

More Ferry Woes

When it rains, it pours.

Chris Kornelis at the Daily Weekly has lots of details:

— The Yakima ferry, damaged early this morning, is out of commission for the time being, leaving Bremerton with only one ferry.

— Today’s scheduled 6:45 p.m. sailing will be handled by the Snohomish, which y’all remember as the passenger-only ferry that was smashed with huge waves twice this week, and has been in the shop once.

— This weekend, the Chelan boat (w/cars) will be yanked from the triangle run of Vashon-Southworth-Fauntleroy, which will go down to two boats.

— Next week: WSF Communication Director Marta Coursey says they are about to announce the solution, which will likely include contracting passenger-only service to Bremerton. This is very bad news for every daily user of the Bremerton run (including myself), but particularly bad for those who take their car on every day. We’ll bring more details on scheduling, etc., when they become available.

That Vision Thing

David Ammonds, writing for the AP, ticks off some of the challenges facing David Moseley, the new Assistant Secretary for ferries at WSDOT:

He faces a mountain of problems, including an aging fleet, tight finances, cranky riders, occasional labor unrest, critical state audits and the ferry system’s reputation for being something of a rogue agency.

The question I have to ask, again, is why WSF, the “nation’s largest ferry system” has been allowed to become so unmoored (pun intended) from WSDOT. It says to me that WSDOT lacks a clear vision. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to find a mission or vision statement anywhere on WSDOT’s website. Compare that to Oregon DOT and CalTrans, where the mission, vision, and values are up there for all to see.

To be fair, I did finally stumble across the WSDOT vision. It was buried on page 6 of a PDF of a draft workforce assessment from 2006, which I found on page 4 of the results of a search on WSDOT’s own website for the phrase “mission statement.” Here it is:

Keep people and businesses moving by operating and improving the state’s transportation system which is vital to taxpayers and to communities.

It’s not horrible, but it’s pretty bad. Do communities not pay taxes? Why the need to call out taxpayers separately? It smacks of some last minute pander to anti-tax activists, and it’s not even a well-written sentence. Compare it, again, to ODOT:

To provide a safe, efficient transportation system that supports economic opportunity and livable communities for Oregonians.

Much better: safety, efficiency, economic opportunity, livability.

Now, you might say, “Frank, who gives a crap about this stuff? It’s just focus group consultant-babble b.s.” But this stuff matters. It’s important for an organization to have a vision, something to cohere around. Not just in the public sector, but in business as well. Ask Jack Welch.

Furthermore, down in Olympia this month we’re seriously considering building a whole new regional transit agency to take over where WSDOT has failed to deliver. Wouldn’t it behoove us to first consider why this happened, so the new RTC doesn’t suffer the same fate? Sure, I-695 sucked, and it’s clear the agency is still scrambling to replace the lost MVET funds. But maybe the fact that WSDOT has not had a clear vision for a multi-modal transportation system that truly improves the lives and opportunities of the citizens of the state is partly to blame as well.

On the bright side, the Governor seems to be (belatedly) coming around to this reality. Paula Hammond grasps the idea that WSF needs to be brought in closer to the rest of the agency. And Moseley seems to be well-respected as a manager.

In the meantime, WSDOT needs to align its mission and vision, and permeate that vision down the chain to all employees. Getting it up on the website might be a good first step.

Bring Back Port Townsend?

It was disappointing that the Seattle-Port Townsend passenger ferry started and ended so quickly. I was hoping to take advantage of it for a weekend getaway.

Could the passenger-only service be a money-maker? Or at least not so much of a money-loser? WA Transportation Blog investigates.

Sailing to Port Townsend

The temporary Seattle-Port Townsent passenger ferry ends January 6. The Daily Weekly has ridership numbers for the run, and they’re pretty impressive, considering the short notice.