I've got to respond to Erin Heywood-Anderson's letter ("Juneau's taking it in the tush without road," Sept. 5). She contends that we need the road to bring down ferry and air prices, and complains that her purported $1,800 one-way fare to Bellingham for herself, three kids, a dog and cat and pickup is out of line. Does she think driving is free? If we could drive to Bellingham via Skagway, it would be roughly 2,300 miles on the Cassiar Highway - a bit more on the Alaska Highway. Figure on $0.40 per mile total driving cost. That's about the federal allowable expense rate, I think, and takes into account fuel, insurance and depreciation cost on the vehicle. That's $920. The actual per mile cost might be a bit higher for her pickup. Add two nights of motel cost at two rooms per night and $100 per room per night, including taxes. That's $400 more, for a total of $1,320. So, a comparable cost to drive might be $480 less than taking the mainline ferry. But, is that really comparable?
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I personally like road tripping, but there's no doubt that the ferry is much more relaxing, saves wear and tear on both car and body. Driving that route in three days mean averaging more than 700 miles per day. That's tiring. Erin, would you really want to have yourself, three kids, a cat and a dog cooped up in a pickup on a trip like that? If you would, you can take the ferry to Skagway now and drive the rest of the way. Hey, if you did that it would cost you about $200 more. But, you'd still save $280 or so compared to a ferry trip direct to Bellingham.
As for airfares, I agree it would be great if they were lower, but her figure of $650 per person one-way is ridiculous. With a bit of planning you could easily get tickets for $500 apiece round-trip. I'm flying to Seattle and back for right at $400 to $200 one-way. So, Erin could quite reasonably fly herself, kids and the pets to Seattle for $1,000 or so one-way, and she'd be there in about four hours.
Factoring in convenience and ease of travel, air and mainline ferries are actually pretty darned good options for getting out of Juneau.