Disputing claims about free ferry rides

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I agree with the title of Wallace Williams' letter to the editor, "Improve transportation and save money," but after that my agreement ends. His stated claim of ridership by Alaska Marine Highway System employees and the travel benefits received by working for AMHS are not accurate.

Employees, their spouses, and dependents under 19 will get free space available travel benefits only after being vested into the retirement system and working for AMHS until the proper retirement age. It is not just a simple five years of service and then you get to travel free for the rest of your life.

I also dispute the numbers that were claimed of passengers and vehicles that ride nonrevenue on the ferries. If they were true, that would mean that for every trip of 200 people on the fast ferry, 48 of them are nonrevenue and out of 30 cars, five of them are nonrevenue. This is simply not an accurate view; we may in reality see three or four passengers and possibly two cars traveling nonrevenue in such a situation.

Also, know that any AMHS employee, their family or vehicles traveling on the ferries as nonrevenue do so only if there is space available. They do not displace any fare-paying passengers or vehicles that are to travel.

If so much space is available to employees to travel, one must ask the question: Why is this space not being filled by paying passengers?

Fifteen years ago, an employee would never think of traveling nonrevenue in the summer on the ferries due to the volume of paying passengers on the ferries. This was also true at the time for residents of Juneau who wanted to take a spur of the moment trip up to Skagway in the summer; there would be no space for a vehicle if you did not plan six months in advance.

Yes, improve transportation and save money, but let's get true numbers and statistics so that good, sound decisions can be made by both the public and our legislators for our transportation needs here in Southeast.

Michael Schlechter

Vessel employee, Alaska Marine Highway System


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