Ferry solutions fail to address actual problems
Commuters in the state of Washington have suffered these last few years with unreliable ferry service. Unlike some states where such transport options are more for leisure than practicality, Washingtonians rely on the ability to take a ferry to work, doctor’s appointments – you name it. Ferries are an integral part of the state’s transportation grid.
The perpetual ferry unreliability has been caused by a worker shortage, which was unnecessarily exacerbated by the state’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
“Gov. Jay Inslee’s strict vaccine mandate led to the firing of more than 400 transportation workers. The largest loss was within WSF (Washington State Ferries),” according to the Washington Policy Center.
More from the WPC:
“While the alert says WSF faces “crewing shortages due to a global shortage of mariners that has been worsened by the pandemic,” a WSF employment chart (pictured above) indicates the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on state employees gets much of the blame. Ian Sterling, ferry spokesman, also told KING 5 News that the vaccine-or-lose-work mandate was an issue in retaining crew members.”
Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown allowed unvaccinated workers to return to work but not Governor Inslee.
Recently, one Washingtonian expressed frustrations thusly:
Bremerton is down to a one-ferry schedule, as is Kingston frequently and sporadically. Additionally, when a ferry or facility breaks down, there are no timely backup boats or mitigating provisions in place. For more than a year, this has led to extremely excessive and unpredictable wait times at hot and crowded terminals and very frustrated commuters. And then, once aboard there are often dirty restrooms and no food available.
We are told the reason is staffing shortages. If so, those in charge need to do something about it, immediately and decisively. Hire and train, and offer incentives if needed.
…Many users have inflexible schedules for doctors’ appointments, events, flights, critical meetings, etc. What we need to mitigate frustration is to have two ferries on every route at all times.
Even Democratic radio personality Dave Ross has called out Governor Inslee for his unwillingness to rehire unvaccinated ferry workers.
Yet for everything the government has done, they’ve yet to dial into anything resembling a remedy.
In March, Governor Inslee championed a, “$17 billion, 16-year transportation spending package that will fund an array of projects across the state, including four new hybrid-electric ferries,” $1.1 billion of which was allocated to the state’s ferry system.
Of that money, “the bill includes funding to help improve crew shortage problems that have plagued ferry service. A total of $93,000 is earmarked to secure housing for new recruits and address up-front costs for training.”
Throwing taxpayer money at the problem clearly isn’t working. Neither are the arduous vaccination requirements that are now out of sync with current CDC guidance.
Governor Inslee could incentivize work and remove barriers preventing a fully staffed ferry infrastructure, but instead, he’s spending billions on hybrid-electric ferries with no one to run them.