Meeting Notes: Ferry Committee Annual Meeting 2008.01.13

Annual Public Meeting of January 13, 2008

Attendance: 50 + the Ferry Committee members (Glen Veal, Carl Cady, Steve Orsini, Dyvon Havens)

Handouts available

Chairman Glen Veal opened the meeting.

New Fare Recovery Resolutions

On December 4, 2007, the County Commissioner signed Resolution No. R20070581 Establishing a New Ferry Schedule for the Trial Period Adopted Under Resolution R20060184. The Ferry Committee supported this resolution which, in essence, gives Public Works the authority to make changes to the ferry schedule, except for the beginning and ending times of operation.

The County Commissioners have approved, and the Ferry Committee is supporting, Resolution Rescinding R20040054 and Establishing Guemes Island Ferry Ticket Fare Methodology. Glen explained that the process for approving this resolution needed to be speeded up, because approval was needed by December 31, 2007, in order for the County to meet auditing requirements. Resolution 20040054 (using the bridge analogy) was difficult for the County to implement and to defend to auditors, and thus a simpler method was needed. Glen explained that in using this new model, we arrive at the same place in terms of meeting the fare target, but use a different route to get there.

An advantage to the new method is that operating costs are defined via the Deficit Reimbursement Report, eliminating the need for haggling over which costs are valid and which are not.

Under the new model, the fare target will be equal to the following:
65% of the total of: (All operating costs as determined by the Deficit Reimbursement Report less the Deficit Reimbursement, less the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax.) averaged over the past 5 years.
The fare target for 2007-2008 is about $840,000.

Deficit Reimbursement

Each county with a ferry system receives money (called Deficit Reimbursement) annually from the state if they lose money on ferry operations. Typically, Skagit County has received about $200,000-$250,000. This past year, they only received $150,000. Other counties received more, and Skagit less. Concern has been expressed by Jean Alden (County staff) that the Deficit Reimbursement monies from the state may be drying up. Glen asked if the County could do some lobbying to ensure those monies remain available and was told that the County no longer has a lobbyist and the Commissioners are doing lobbying themselves. Islanders were encouraged to write their legislators and request continuation of the Deficit Reimbursement funds.

Discussion

Juby Fouts made the point that the additional costs of the extended service and the fourth crew person (which is about $200,000 per year) should be factored into these decisions.

Dyvon pointed out that there needs to be a balance between level of service and costs. As levels of service increase, costs go up. We will need to adjust our expectations of service, such as availability of crew for sales of passes, if we are to reduce costs.

Glen pointed out that the operation has moved to a 3-person crew on weekends and is working toward extending that to some portion of the week days. During the summer, it is expected thee will be 4-person crews.

Carl’s calculations show that you need a 15-25% discount to persuade people to purchase a pass book.

It is anticipated a summer surcharge will go into effect May 1. This has not been finalized, but it appears there will be a $2 per car and a $1 per passenger surcharge for cash fares only (with a 50% reduction for Senior/Disabled fares).

There are efficiency measures that are being looked into by the County. One is a hand-held device the crew would use to issue tickets. Another is fiber optics being brought to the terminal. They are looking into using vending machines to sell some types of tickets.

Two people mentioned they would like passes that do not have an expiration date. Discussion was held on this subject, which also involved the definition of “frequent user” and the purpose of frequent user passes. You need to have a good reason to give frequent user discounts, because they cost the operation money.

Allen Bush pointed out that the ferry used to operate with 2 crew members working 12 hour days. Now there are 10 crew members. He pointed out the need for better cost containment.

Roz Glasser pointed out the need for determining a basis for setting fares, to ask the question “what are the incentives or disincentives for a particular fare structure.” The Ferry Committee said they have a 15-point “Guemes Ferry Fares Strategy” they have used as a basis, and they will post it on linetime.org.

Diane Murray suggested the term “Frequent User” be discarded in favor something like “Advance Purchase.”

Dave Wolf asked if there are any changes in the parking situation to encourage more walk-ons.

Glen mentioned that Jean Alden has told the Round Table that the County plans to have the senior discount in alignment with federal standards by 2009. The 50% for seniors will apply only to the person, and not the car. We are the only system in the state that currently gives a discount to the car for senior drivers.

Jan Ebersole questioned the need for a new terminal building, which the County has approved by Resolution signed in October, 2007. Glen pointed out this is a capital expense, so would not affect fares, but would be paid for through taxes. Steve Orsini stated the ferry committee had already registered objection to Public Works for considering this project when cost control is needed.

Schedule
The Ferry Committee and Ron Panzero met to develop a new schedule. The Ferry Committee suggested eliminating many of the 25-minute runs to reduce the need for a fourth crew person. In the past week, new information has created a need for another revision in the draft schedule. The school has asked for a 4:00 ferry. This will require another meeting with Ron to accommodate this request. Therefore, the draft schedule is not yet ready for comment by islanders.

Environmental Impact Study or SEPA Review

The County has hired a consultant to carry out this project, and there will apparently be a meeting for islanders around February 10 to about learn progress. The County plans to have the study completed by April in order to meet the deadline of June 30.

Nominations for Position #5

Chairman Glen announced position #5 is open for election, which is the position Steve Orsini currently holds. Glen asked if there were any nominations from the floor. Steve is willing to run again for the position. No nominations were made from the floor. It was moved by Jerry Francis and seconded by Bob Anderson, that Steve Orsini be re-elected to position #5. The vote carried, with no “nays,” and Steve Orsini will continue in this position for the next five years.

Submitted by Dyvon Havens

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