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Take a boat trip for the ferry system

"How's this for a shakeup in your morning commute? Bainbridge Islanders can show support for the ferry system by taking part in a sail-in to the state Legislature, Feb. 22.On that day, a boatload of ferry backers will sail from Bremerton to Olympia on a chartered fast-ferry-type vessel for a noon rally at the state capitol, with a round of afternoon of meetings with legislators also slated. The group will include commuters, business people, local elected officials - anyone with a stake in the viability of our cross-sound highway and a day to spare.We need more Bainbridge people to sign up for this, said Doug Rauh, a long-time ferry system watcher who's acting as island coordinator for the event.While plans are not yet finalized, Rauh tells us that the group hopes to line up a bus to take the Bainbridge contingent from a central departure point on the island to the gleaming new Bremerton transportation center and ferry dock.The group plans to send a three-part message to the Legislature, as follows:* While an overall fare increase is necessary, the proposal to more than double passenger-only boat fares is excessive, and will result in such a loss of ridership that the whole passenger-only fleet will be lost;* All ferry-related laws and policies should be re-examined to see if operating efficiencies can be achieved, and;* TheLegislature must develop a predictable stream of revenue to provide for the system's capital needs - vessel and terminal acquisition and replacement.Participants are of course free to agree with the message all or in part, or have ideas of their own to share with legislators. It's numbers that count, and a good showing would help hammer home the importance of ferries to the economies of Bainbridge Island and the rest of Kitsap County.It's a crucial time for the system - its budget savaged by funding losses that came with Initiative 695 - as legislators troll about for new revenues sources to save the service around which life on this side of the water depends.And, as Rauh notes, the trip alone is worth the $25 price.It's a very scenic trip, he says, a much better deal than some of the commercial trips offered out of Seattle.For more information or to make a reservation, you can call the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce at 842-3700. A pleasant boat trip, a day off from work, and a little citizen activism for a good cause. What more could you ask for?In a just world, they'd be towing a certain initiative-sponsor behind the boat. But we'll sign on anyway. Hope to see you aboard. "

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