Ferry service may just get even worse

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, October 03, 2006

All of Southeast Alaska seems to be in agreement on two things: 1) We need to improve the Alaska Marine Highway System, and 2) getting rid of Robin Taylor is the first step.

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The next steps are a little more ambiguous, and when politicians point to the Inter-Island Ferry Authority as the ideal model, I am outright concerned.

The authority has been using smaller ships to make frequent runs between Ketchikan and southern Prince of Wales Island for several years. This summer, they also started a run between northern Prince of Wales, Wrangell and Petersburg.

Authority promoters like to brag that their system is so efficient that they've been "operating out of their fare box." What they don't tell you is that millions of dollars of public funds were used to build the vessels, terminals and docks. The authority has not reimbursed or even paid rent for their use of these public resources. Whereas revenues from the ferry system go straight back to the state's general fund, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority gets to keep its revenues.

I'd sure like it if the government built me a shop, filled it with merchandise, didn't charge me rent, and let me keep all the profits. Nevertheless, as a taxpayer, I'm not thrilled about this plan, and as a frequent ferry passenger, I fear that if the entire Alaska Marine Highway System goes the way of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, service will eventually get even worse. (I know, I bet you didn't think that was possible.)

Hope Shamhart


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