Ride ferries when they want you to

Washington State Ferries representatives will be in town Monday to discuss operational and pricing strategies, which consist primarily of taking a new approach to an old problem that can be expected for most commuter runs – congestion in peak periods and underutilized vessels and facilities in off-peak times. They want to accomplish this by tweaking the pricing system and installing a systemwide reservation system.

Essentially, the state wants to change users’ habits by increasing fares – again – during the six-month peak season and the peak morning/afternoon hours, and then decreasing prices during the off-peak times. The goal is to entice daily users to take more ferry rides between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and WSF is using the community meetings now under way to assess the feasibility of such a proposal. Offering the lower fares for off-peak hours would be attractive to users, but it’s ridiculous to penalize commuters who are merely adhering to the 8-to-5 workday that most employers prefer. It’s understandable that WSF wants to remain revenue-neutral, but what makes the bureaucrats think people will embrace such an idea?

WSF is reacting to the state Legislature’s demand that it address operational and pricing policies as part of revising its long-range plan. The critical element to the public meetings is how well WSF follows the Legislature’s direction that the system analyze the effect such changes would have on the communities involved before they are actually implemented. That has not been a strength of WSF, which in the past has simply boosted fares while not caring what the public thought about it. So it will be an important barometer to see if this new regime pays attention to its users as it has promised to do.

Speaking of hot issues, the plug serving Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Way, you know, the small green space treasured by some and despised by others, was nothing less than a pleasant park when approached during a sun break Monday afternoon. There were picnickers sprawled on the grass and a couple strolling southbound through the idyllic setting.

But it is an urban park, surrounded on three sides by concrete and the drone of vehicles. Sure enough, an SUV came barreling into sight, turned left and then right into the private drive that serves as the unofficial connection between Ericksen, Hildebrand and High School Road, at least, if a driver chooses to roll all the way through Island Village.

On this day (and a few before it), however, the SUV (laden with a woman and children) drove about 50 feet forward before noticing that a makeshift barrier had been placed across the road in front of CFA Properties. It seems that the business owner saw the need to have a contractor apply a new coat of sealant on his part of the road and bright yellow paint on his two speed bumps. The work appeared nearly done; road and bumps were drying.

The driver stopped, checked out the scene, made a U-turn in the parking lot, exited and headed westbound on Wallace Way. Better to go that way since it’s less hectic and usually faster than having to climb aboard State Route 305 between Winslow Way and High School Road. Quiet again. Birds singing. But not for long.

A scooter approached from the south and performed a deft left-right maneuver into the private road. The driver rolled his putt-putt right up to the barricade and sign warning that trespassing on fresh asphalt and paint is verboten. The helmeted driver finished reading the fine print and reversed himself. But instead of returning whence he came, he scooted left into one of the two drive-in-window banking lanes provided for the convenience of Frontier Bank customers. He didn’t bother to wave to the cashier on duty, rolling through the narrow lane as if he had done it a hundred times before. Maybe he had. On Bainbridge, sometimes a driver has to be creative to get where he wants to go.

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