Response to ferry story | Letter

The story entitled “What’s Next for Washington State Ferries” includes some comments that require clarification.

The first point in “Facts to Fathom” is quite misleading. While it is true that the Anacortes-San Juans route incurs significantly greater costs than the systemwide average, that “fact” ignores differences in distance-related fare levels. We pay more because our ferry trips are longer than on any other route. As a result, our cost recovery (percentage of operating costs realized from fares) is in the mid-50 percent range, while that metric is in the mid-70s systemwide — admittedly not an enviable situation that continually causes focus on the economics of this part of the route network.

And in the second bullet point, there seems to be some confusion as between operating and capital expenses. While it may be true that WSF is currently legislatively mandated to recover 70 percent of its operating costs from fares, “construction of new vessels” as well a some elements of vessel — and terminal — maintenance are not operating costs, but capital expenditures which are separately funded within state’s transportation budget, although the “capital cost surcharge” on fares provides a very small part of those costs.

None of us here in the San Juans should be under any illusions regarding the potentially serious impacts of Initiative 976, yet another of Mr. Eyman’s assault on the statewide transportation infrastructure. That measure would negatively affect funding for Washington State Ferries, putting still more pressure on ferry fares while pointing to further cuts in service.

Bob Distler

Orcas Island