Two sides on proposed ferry reservations | Editorial

We’ve got a big change coming down the pike, one that will alter how we travel to and from the islands that we call home.

Beginning in fall 2012, many of those driving onto the ferry on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands routes will need reservations.

We’re not entirely sold on the idea, but we’re also not fully opposed. Here are two sides:

— Ferry officials say the new reservation system would reduce the need for expanded ferry terminals and holding areas, saving the state $280 million. In addition, other ferry systems have seen an increase in ridership with the implementation of reservations. WSF also expects to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution from idling vehicles.

We like the notion of less congestion and not having to wait in line for two hours to ensure our spot during the height of summer.

WSF also hopes to develop a real-time information system for ferry riders, similar to the live traffic signs that inform commuters in the Seattle area. We think a sign located in Anacortes that announces whether scheduled ferries are running on time or already filled to capacity is a great idea.

— On the flip side, reservations will be difficult for those of us who don’t have the luxury of advanced planning. Many of us go off-island, run errands and have no idea when we will return home.

To our readers, we ask, how many of your ferry rides are actually spontaneous and unplanned?

To WSF we ask, what percentage of the boat will be for reservations?

We think there needs to be an allocation for those “last-minute” arrivals. Otherwise, visitors who have weeks to plan for trips would have the upper hand. How far in advance do reservations need to be made? Five minutes or five days?

And, of course, it’s a given that medical emergencies need to get first priority.

We also wonder if some of the money that is being saved with this plan could be spent on new boats for the San Juans, which is what we desperately need.

As this process gets under way, WSF is actively seeking community feedback. It may not make a lick of difference in the end, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask questions. And while the idea of reservations seems alarming at first glance, it could be the first step in creating a sustainable ferry system.

— Submit comments to Joy Goldenberg, WSF, 206-515-3411, or by e-mail: wsfplanning@wsdot.wa.gov.

For more information about the proposed ferry reservation system, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/vehiclereservations.ht

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