I have some suggestions:
- free wi-fi on board ferries so people can do work
- a mileage program similar to AK Air, including a club 49 option with discounts for Alaskans
- remodel the ferries to be more modern and aesthetically pleasing
- offer discounts for purchase of package deals (e.g. if you purchase stateroom, car, and fare together get a 10% discount)
- offer tours with classes by experts on subjects such as writing, knitting, birding, etc. (the cruise ships do this...)
- need to sell AMHS memorabilia on ferries and online
- bring back the gift shops and bars!
All of these things would increase ridership and reduce operating cost per rider.Submitted: May 25, 2018
Work a deal with community businesses to get product/merchandise onboard the ferry in Bellingham and Prince Rupert for them to sell their wares in their local communities. Prices should be comparable to freight rates or even a few pennies per pound cheaper.
Fred Meyer for example could provide their own "Van" loaded with product in Bellingham, and AMHS could charge accordingly for that van to transport it to Juneau.
Maybe this could be done seasonally only, October to May to compensate for the low passenger rates during the off season.
Just a thought. Feel free to add to or subtract from as you see fit.
Thanks for reading.
Submitted: May 15, 2018
Start charging for addition baggage/carry on. I recently watched a woman and her 6 children travel from Petersburg to Juneau on a Medicaid pass. While in Juneau she shopped at a local Fred Meyer and returned to Petersburg Several days later with no less than a dozen 50 pound boxes of groceries.
The airlines didn't charge for luggage for years while fighting bankruptcy the entire time. They reformed themselves a number of years ago. Part of that reform was to start charging fees for luggage. Maybe give customers one bag for free then $50 for each additional bag?
Just a thought. Add or delete information as you need to.
Thanks for reading.
MikeSubmitted: May 15, 2018
I feel that a great income producing mechanism would be to legalize a casino (ON THE FERRY SYSTEM ONLY), (maybe something along the lines of slots only for example) on a small part of the ship. To be accessed only while ship is underway. (similar to the paddle boat casino's in Mississippi)
The income generated is to ONLY be used inside the ferry system, completely independent of state funds.
This could potentially add to the already high tourism currently a lifeline to many Alaska communities if rules were placed to force the patron off for X number of days. Example: Joe buys a ferry ticket in Bellingham, gambles on the boat to anywhere the ferry stops, then must exit the boat until that boat returns on its south bound trip).
Joe not only contributes to the ferry system but for that 2-3 days he waits in Petersburg for example he contributes to the economy there as well. Its a win-win for Alaska!
Just a thought, build on it anyway you please.
Thanks for reading.
MikeSubmitted: May 15, 2018
Alaska state ferries have a great passenger safety record. The employees respect the passengers. I feel safe and welcome. I like that I am in Alaska when I board the boat. The security is good without being overwhelming or out of proportion like the airlines.They keep to a tight schedule.I can check on my pets or cargo while I travel.I liken my trips to a cruse.Submitted: May 12, 2018
I made some of these same suggestions to people involved with the AMHS in 2006 and they were rejected/disregarded then, and it's worse now!
"AMHS Issues: Things to consider
Cost the same to run the ferries empty as loaded. These costs are already paid by the residents of Alaska, so they shouldn’t have to pay excessive fares to be able to use the system. The fares could be reduced to 30 percent of the present rates (Jan. 06), and the overall revenue would rise, because the cost of use now is prohibitive to most of the residents.
Commercial and non resident should continue to pay the full rate.
I have been told of a program called “Elderhost” that allows persons to travel the system in the winter for free or a very small payment. They are provided staterooms and meals. These people are not even residents of Alaska, and sometimes not even residents of the USA! I ask, “why should we subsidize non-residents to use the system our own residents can’t afford to use”? I don’t know a lot about the particulars of this program, but this seems ridiculous! Any Alaskan resident should receive the same discount and benefits as the Elderhost program.
Not only the cost of passenger fares reduced, but cost of vehicle fares and staterooms reduced to qualified residents. The present passenger fare, Ketchikan to Bellingham is $231 and takes about 39 hours. This doesn’t include meals, (5 or 6 meals) $50 minimum, or the cost of a stateroom to sleep, $220. This makes the total cost about $500.
This cost is outrageous considering you can fly to Seattle in 2 hours for $435 full cost, and $230 supersaver with about 2 months notice."
Submitted: May 03, 2018
Also, call it the Alaska Coastal cities conference, we need to include All using this system.Submitted: May 03, 2018
THE AMHS HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A TOURIST CRUISE LINE, WHICH TAKES TOURISTS INTO THE INTERIOR BYPASSING SOUTHEAST ALASKA..
The FARES/RATES are far too high, this has made the AMHS unaffordable to the people you need riding it in higher numbers to increase the revenue. This is especially apparent October to April when the tourists stop riding. The tourists who are only using it once in a lifetime to visit Alaska have different priorities than the Alaskan residents seeking to travel, and when the prices are so high those that would use it, instead fly and rent vehicles, it's faster and doesn't really cost more! I have been using the AMHS since it started, at that time it was reasonable to use. We (wife and I) have used it significantly more the last twenty years, mostly go to Prince Rupert then drive down to lower 48. Sometimes I would prefer to use the Bellingham run, but the costs are so much more! The cost of taking the ferry to Bellingham is at least double, the cost of going to Rupert and driving, including food, lodging, and food and drink the entire trip!
The last three years I have been bringing a 36' RV with us, and the cost to get from Seattle to home with the RV and using Prince Rupert is about $1000 total funds, including fuel and food & drink. For just the two of us, our pickup, one way to Bellingham, with a stateroom and food & drink is $2000 or more, and if I include the RV, it's another $2780! I can ship the RV on Alaska Marine Lines barge for $2500, that is cheaper than the HIGHWAY, and they make a PROFIT on it! Also a two bunk spartan stateroom from Bellingham cost $344 for two nights, and almost $600 for a 4 bunk, (needed so senior citizens don't have to climb into a top bunk and risk falling!) One could stay at the Hilton for two nights cheaper than that with a lot more amenities, king bed, tv, internet, ect..it's outrageous to see Alaskan's sleeping in the lounge areas when plenty of staterooms are available, because they can't afford $350-$600 dollars, and we are already paying the full costs whether we collect one penny back in revenue. Staterooms should be 30% of summer rates in the winter!
This cost is especially outrageous when the ferries run with a lot of space available, because of the high costs, not because Alaskan's aren't traveling, and Alaskan's are already fully paying these costs whether empty or not and whether we get one nickel back in "revenue"! It is outrageous and ridiculous to see these ships running almost empty while the Alaskans who would like to travel can't afford to! If you think the lack of ridership in the winter is not cost related, well then start running them for FREE in the winter, like the highways in the interior, and we'll see if they run empty or not, and I'll predict the AMHS will have to put other ships on the runs to keep up with the demand! So it's not that there aren't people who want to travel, it's severely restricted because of the cost!
The stopping of the Prince Rupert run this winter and spring caused a lot of problems for the residents of Alaska. You need reliable service, and it wasn't! I don't like only a once a week schedule in the winter. If something happens on the road and you miss the ferry, you are then stuck in Prince Rupert for another week! I also feel the arrival and depart times for Prince Rupert are not convenient, we have to line up at 4 am, or get into Rupert at midnight or 2 am, and can't drive anywhere until daylight. This is one reason I support the smaller vessels, day boats that travel normal hours and don't need staterooms. The ferries need to fully unload in every port and those going elsewhere need to catch the next ferry to their destination, this would save a lot of time loading and unloading, where now the crew has to figure who is going where and it takes a lot of time in EVERY port to do this, instead they could just have the cars drive on like they do on every other ferry I ever rode on! Time is money and it doesn't make sense to me to have a ship setting there for 3-4 hours in port to load and unload, with many of the crew on overtime.
I also saw a comment where the person said to stop the Prince Rupert run! I find this outrageous, especially after you read the comment and it appears to be made by an employee, who doesn't live in Alaska, (complained about the two tier wage setup, where non residents get paid less) and who most likely doesn't even ride the system other than to deadhead to his change port. I think this comment should be disregarded! Prince Rupert is only 90 miles from Ketchikan, the most southern port in Alaska, and Bellingham is around 700 miles. A ship can make six runs to Prince Rupert for the cost of one trip to Bellingham. I don't need an extremely costly road to Bellingham, when there is an affordable highway only 90 miles away.
BRING BACK THE BARS, as a local of Ketchikan said in a letter, the AMHS is the ONLY entity selling liquor in Alaska that couldn't make a profit! I call bull on this claim. The bars always had people in them spending money, and were one of the only areas adults could get away from the screaming kids when the ferries were running full.
I also don't think we need a reservation system, or need to have travel agents handling reservations, or to be paying them to make reservations. Why should anyone have reservations on a highway? Go to the terminal and pick a number. Like you do almost everywhere in the lower 48, pick a number and when your number gets called drive on the ferry! I also think that the customs people need to fly to Prince Rupert the afternoon before the ferry is scheduled to arrive, and then interview the travelers and allow them into the parking area and lined up early, so after the ferry unloads, those lined up could immediately load the vessel and it would be able to depart saving many hours. What is the total cost the ferry, $10k/hour, saving that kind of money every trip adds up. Also have heard many times that slowing the vessels down saves a lot of fuel, especially needed on the Bellingham run, could lower the fuel costs a very significant amount. My father and uncle both worked and retired from the AMHS and they said the ferry to Seattle and then Bellingham was being run too fast because of the non Alaska residents of the crew who wanted to get home faster..
There are many things that the AMHS could do to reduce their costs, but I feel the present management is very resistant to changing anything except they want to hire non Alaskan crew members, and seem to prefer them to Alaska residents, so they can be paid less money. They even have non AMERICAN citizens working on these ships! I find this to be outrageous when qualified Alaskan's could be filling these jobs and helping ALASKA'S economy! I feel the entire management of the AMHS needs to be replaced, from the top down. They have no business sense, and for years have allowed these excessive fares to drive off the Alaskans who would utilize the system. If you had even a teaspoon of business sense, and saw that your store was almost empty certain times, wouldn't you think those times would be good times to have a sale to get people in the door and get a revenue stream coming in?? The only time recently we rode the Columbia was to Bellingham, when the AMHS had a reduced rate if you purchased round tickets, I think it was 15% off. Loved the ferry and trip, but it was still too expensive when compared to the cost of going to Rupert and driving. Unaffordable to most Alaskan's with kids and families.. Unfortunately, the AMHS has priced the very Alaskan's it needs to survive out of being able to use it!
70 year resident born here and live my entire life in Alaska.
Submitted: May 03, 2018
While I certainly believe that the system could be run more efficiently by anybody else than who is doing it now, I do have a couple concerns. The main one being...
What will happen to the retirement funds? People have been planning and putting into these funds for many many years and are looking forward to continuing to grow these accounts. Will SBS, PERS, Deferred Comp still be available to contribute to?
I haven't seen any documentation discussing these options. It's almost like the State is trying to brush this subject under the rug. If there IS something I could look at, I would much appreciate a link.
Thanks for taking the time for me, and many other vessel employees that are wondering the same thing.
Submitted: May 01, 2018
I think we know the answers to some of these questions, and have for some time. The management at AMHS must be given the authority to make change based on normal business practices.
Shoreside managers should be allowed, or tasked, to focus on cost reduction, efficiency, and retention. I am pretty sure that managers at AMHS do not have a solid understanding of what the organization's mission is or how exactly they, personally, fit into it. There is no shared vision or even defined goals, things which should be clearly communicated from top management in order for all employees to understand their roles and create a unity of effort.
Cost savings should focus on the bigger slices of the pie. We learned in undergraduate school decades ago that good management will go after the biggest variable costs in order to save the most while not attacking employee wages. We were taught that attacking employee wages was a sign of poor management, because it requires the least amount of actual management.
With participative planning and direct management, altering the vessel schedules will yield the greatest gains. The gains will come in fuel savings, accrued maintenance reductions, and increased revenue due to customer satisfaction and loyalty. I have personally been involved in a study which involved decreasing vessel speed slightly, maintaining schedule, and realizing savings of approximately 200-300 gallons per day. Annualized, these savings converted to dollar amounts were very significant. The reports on these significant cost savings and recommendations by vessel management to continue and to refine the improved efficiencies were, dishearteningly, ignored. The truth of the matter is though, that there are numerous cost savings initiatives available if only vessel managers and shoreside managers could improve communications and be allowed to implement them. Centralized control is only valuable if those at the central office have a complete understanding of the system they are managing.
One of the worst decisions recently by AMHS was to take the vessel Chenega out of service. If you investigate the cause of this, you will find another huge driver of inefficiency at AMHS, namely, a lot a decisions are personality driven rather than guided by business acumen.Submitted: March 03, 2018