I first rode the ferry when I arrived in Wrangell in 1974. Since then I have ridden the ferry yearly, often taking the car to Bellingham.
The ferries are an integral part of Alaska and need to be subsidized. The State is willing to pay millions, billions? for roads but in Southeast, where roads connecting communities are impossible, we rely on the ferry. Both of my sons rode the ferry many times in high school to different school events.
I was puzzled when the bars were eliminated a few years ago. Although I am not a heavy drinker, I ordered a beer in the evenings while riding the ferry. The bar was always abuzz with many people,always a money maker. Who made the decision to close the bars? The Temperance Union? We need to make jobs in Alaska, not eliminate them.
I was not pleased that the State chose to build smaller ferries. We need the big ferries to get us back and forth to Bellingham, not smaller ones.
The ferry employees are always polite and friendly and I feel as if they welcome us riders. Employees on land are also very obliging and I appreciate the service they provide.
I have worked in tourism for the past 10 years and always brag about our ferry system. Please maintain support for our beloved ferries.
Although I love the Columbia, she has been in dry dock for more than a year because a prop needed to be repaired in Germany? Who makes the decisions to buy German parts? We need parts from the west coast that are easily replaced.
If the State can afford to have special sessions to pay some obstructionist lawmakers to convene, we certainly can afford to support our ferry system. Transportation in Alaska is expensive but we need a dependable ferry system.
Submitted: October 06, 2017
The AMHS governance study pryovides a good overview of some of the possible
alternative governance structures, and the most important thing that needs
to be done is remove the political influence from the system's decision
making and operations to the greatest extent possible.
AMHS will always provide some level of disproportionate service depending on
where the elected officials representing the coastal communities are from.
Usually this additional service is losing money at greater rates than other
parts of the system. This is why you see the ferry calling in Angoon
frequently and rarely in Pelican.
I agree generally with the Mark Hickey memo except for the impacts of
removing the system from DOT&PF. "Multimodal" has gone out of vogue many
years ago and AMHS has never focused on optimizing multimodal
transportation, although it could.
Alaska gets plenty of federal highway funding, to the point where sometimes
the state doesn't even have enough viable projects to spend it on. AMHS
gets its fair share of this funding, but the decisions about where to invest
are overly political and tend to get reversed. Think of the South Mitkof
Island terminal, Fast Ferries, Alaska Class ferries. Even the common sense
approach to extend roads where practical to shorten ferry runs cannot find
I like the way that the report looked at various mission statements. This
is actually a big part of the problem in that they are quite vague. "basic
transportation services"... What does that really mean? 1 X month service
to access health care or to move a vehicle?
I've used AKMHS to move to or from Alaska 5 times since 1991, as do many
people (especially military). I'm surprised sometime during summer mainline
runs to see how many army and air force personnel are riding. This is
ridership that will probably not go away unless the service does and that
fact does not seem to be highlighted as a difference between the other types
of governance systems evaluated.
More recently, my use of AHMS in Southeast has tapered off substantially.
The main reason for this is a schedule that provides terrible times for
embarking/disembarking. Travelling between Juneau and Petersburg, this
year's schedule had only one sailing pair that did not involve arriving or
departing between midnight and 4 in the morning. I would gladly trade
frequency of service for sensible sailing times.
The points raised in your interviews with the Deputy Commissioner and
General Manager are on point and accurate. However my jaw dropped at the
comment on page 10 where AMHS claims it cannot track costs by route, only
vessels. I don't see how this can be true, given that for decades we've
been hearing from the State that the mainline runs and summertime Lynn Canal
service are the only profitable runs.
The points raised by the labor representatives do not match my observations.
When I ride the ferry, I do not see employees that want to "be part of the
solution". About the only part of these interview points that I agree with
is that morale and the relationship between unions and management are at an
all time low. It takes two to tango. Pride of ownership started evaporating
about 20 years ago when the IBU won the concession that it's members no
longer had to keep up with running rust by painting the ship.
While I do agree with many other comments that this might be just another
study on the shelf, AMHS is at a critical point and we need to do something.
Submitted: October 06, 2017
First, thank you for the AMHS report and posting the SEC presentation.
Primary comment: managing the ferry by public corporation is a good idea. Make it a step removed from the legislature, politics, & DOT. Forward funding is critical. We need stability from year to year, season to season, day to day. This is our regional highway, our main transportation, often without alternatives. The state needs it. We need appropriate ferries for our waters, we need them to be maintained ahead of breakdowns, and we need to reduce the nasty surprises like funding missing after April 2018. Encouraging travel to increase revenue relies on being dependable, and right now the ferry system is not. Try adding some kind of perk for "Frequent Floaters" (like people who regularly run from outlying communities to the larger towns) to encourage travel: maybe a discount after 5 round trips, or a free meal.Submitted: October 05, 2017
I am against spinning off AMHS into a state-owned corporation. The root of the problem is that the Legislature is under-funding this vital service. The ferry is a lifeline for Southeast. It is infrastructure. We don't ask our state roads to turn a profit; to ask that of the AMHS is unfair and unrealistic.Submitted: September 28, 2017
- I'm really concerned that you believe that the AMHS can run with fewer employees. Maybe in the office - but on the ships? I would think that you are required to have a certain number of crew members to maintain safety for the passengers.
- To answer your question about generating revenue....bring back the bars. What were you thinking eliminating the bars? They MAKE money for crying out loud. Now you want to eliminate the food service too? Another way to make money. Oh, wait those are wages you have to pay...oh wait...those are crew members trained in passenger safety that you are required by law to have.
- I also fear that you are pricing ferry travel out for communities. It's already hardly affordable to take the ferry to Bellingham - with a new plan to create 'shorter runs'. How will people afford to travel to Bellingham from Haines. A ferry to Juneau (then a hotel) a ferry to Ketchikan (then a hotel for several nights) then a ferry to Bellingham. Yikes. Who would do that? Might as well drive to Seattle.
- We had better ferry service in the 1960's long before there was "oil in them thar hills"
- The AMHS is a road. Yes, we should pay something to use them, but then maybe the state should also start collecting money from 'tolls' on mainland highways too.
- I don't hear the state using the Inter-Island Ferry Authority as an example of how great private ferry service can be. Is it because it's NOT?Submitted: September 28, 2017
I believe schedule and service could be streamlined.
Review load capacity data to a) thin routes/times of year that consistently operate at low capacity b) pad routes/times of year with high capacity ratings.
If the state does not have the time/resources to crunch the data there are several private Alaskan owned business that can provide historical and predictive models based on the data.
I would also like to echo sentiments of several fellow 'commentors' by reminding the government that the ferry is vital to the SE community, was never intended to be for-profit and should be funded like the vital service it is. I pay for improvements to Anchorages traffic problem, Anchorage can support the Southeasts traffic problem.
Submitted: September 28, 2017
I strongly support creating a public corporation to represent and manage the Alaska Marine Ferry System.
I am a lifelong SE resident and have used the ferry system extensively to travel between communities for work and to access remote property that I own.
I do not feel that the current government is working towards my best interest with the ferry system and I think a smaller public corporation would be more nimble and connected to the people.
The ferry system increases land sale values in SE (for properties on or near the ferry system), carries SE Alaskan into the interior for work, school, etc. where they spend money and help drive the economy, and is woven into the fabric of this state.
How can Alaska provide a more predictable and sustainable flow of necessary public funding to support the AMHS?
Fund a year in advance
In planning for the long-term sustainability of AMHS, how do we define “essential service” for the widely varying needs of the 33 communities served directly by the system?
Give precedence to communities with year round residence, they have demonstrated intention and should be taken seriously.Submitted: September 28, 2017
Thank you for doing the important work of charting the future of AMHS. I would like to know more specifically what the impact of 350 service weeks versus the minimal plan would be. As a Sitkan, I would like to see twice weekly round-trip service to Juneau.Submitted: September 28, 2017
I am against getting rid of the ferries Columbia and Kennicott. These two ferries fulfill a very important route and run at or near full capacity. Because they have long runs between ports they become more economical to run.They most likely are the most lucrative routes in the AMHS system.To consistently turn a profit on a particular route should be foremost in consideration, not just because these two ships have a larger crew that they should be cut.Submitted: September 27, 2017
Though increased fares and freight charges can never fully make up the opex deficit, every bit can help and I believe most people would accept an increase in fares to help maintain essential ferry service. I certainly would.
To this point, I would define "essential service" as one round trip ferry per week from the town/city/village in question to their primary port of interest. For example from Hoonah's perspective this would be one ferry to and from Juneau, per week.
I believe some communities could be satisfied by even less service, such as one round trip every other week.
In general I think most people who live in small communities will be willing to put up with a lot to keep our ferry. Whatever cuts in services or increases in price are needed.
I remember what it was like to not have a ferry and being reliant on small planes only. I don't want to go back.
Submitted: September 27, 2017