To the editor:
I spend about one-third of the year on Bainbridge. The island has a huge elder population, many with physical challenges, and the Washington State Ferries are very difficult for us to use. I understand there is a plan to replace some of the ferries and both ends of the Seattle-to-Bainbridge run are getting new docking facilities.
Washington State Ferries needs to do much more to accommodate elders in the future, especially those on foot.
It is over half mile from curbside Bainbridge to curbside Seattle, long sloping ramps, awkward stoops. There are almost no seats for resting on the long ramps, no seats at the Seattle curb. With even a minor physical disability, access is difficult.
In my seven years of using the ferry I have seen a wheelchair in evidence only once and no signage to show elder awareness or assistance. No crew member has offered me an arm or assistance even when the boat ramp is wet and slippery.
One easy solution: an elder jitney (large golf cart) parked (with driver) at curbside at either end that elders could ride on and off the ferry.
Solution 2: grocery store carts parked at either end for individual access.
Solution 3: WSF personnel designated as elder aides (possible a volunteer corps).
Solution 4: (more fanciful) a moving automatic chair facility that goes down-up the ramps (ala ski slopes) with boarding assistance.
Solution 5: designated elder lane on the ramps.
Solution 6: several ferries a day being designated as “elder friendly” with services.
I’m sure other Bainbridge elders have useful suggestions. Hoping the ferry situation will improve.