Congratulations on providing us with a memorable trip on the Kennicott and the Fairweather on 2nd and 7th September 2017. However, there is always however or a but. When trying to book passage through our local travel agent we were told the ships were old decrepid broke down regularly were rarely on schedule , etc etc . Then we would be handed another glossy from a cruise ship company. However we solved the problem by finding a Travel agent in NSW some 250 Klm away who was able to do what we wanted. The purpose of this letter is to confirm what you must be aware of, that travel agents will do most anything to sell cruise ship tickets in preference to AMH/way. Trust you will be able to address this problem. We were able to book through Macleay Valley Travel 33 Smith st Kempsey 2440 Australia WWW.macleayvalleytravel.comSubmitted: October 11, 2017
Coastal communities off the road system depend on Alaska’s Marine Highway to transport vehicles, large equipment and essential food and supplies. I am a resident of Cordova and depend on the ferry system to allow me to live in this very expensive community. The ferry allows us to go get and receive necessities such as food and medical supplies, heavy equipment and building materials. The ferry is essential to our fishing industry in the summertime, with daily loads of fish shipped out to distribution points in Southcentral Alaska in a timely manner. This stimulates a broader regional economy than just Cordova. Hindering the transport of fish will damage the income of the entire state. Having the slow Aurora this summer instead of the fast Chenega/Fairweather was detrimental to the fishing industry.
I fear that the ferry service is expected to run a profit which it can’t. We don’t expect our roads to make a profit! I honestly think there should be tolls on the roads and those profits should be shared to the AMHS. The ferry prices have gone up and up since I moved to Cordova. I used to be able to go round trip to Anchorage for about $140 with myself and 15’ car. Now a round trip over $400. So, previously where I would travel quarterly, I am now traveling once a year (if that). Who wins? Alaska Airlines, that’s who. It is cheaper to fly and rent a car than to take the ferry. But for supply trips, you can’t do that. There should be a frequent sailor’s program that gives 20% off each trip or a free ticket after 5 purchases.
Food is so essential on long trips, I go from Cordova to Whittier for 6 hours each way. When we have to go through Valdez, it is a 12 hour ferry ride! If you remove the food service, then you will have a boat load of angry people. People are used to paying $14 for a burger in Cordova. The ferry prices are considered “cheap” for us. You could slightly increase the food rates. And bring back the bars – look at those numbers closely. Was there any revenue saved by removing the staff and their wages or did we actually lose money because the bars brought in so much money? I am not an advocate for getting drunk on a boat, but I do appreciate being able to have a beer with my food.
The ferry system needs to focus on building ferries that are suited for our waters. We had the Chenega/Fairweather fast ferry in Prince William Sound. These ferries were not capable of sailing in rougher weather. Why in the world were they commissioned? So now the AMHS is drydocking indefinitely newer ferries while commissioning new ferries that probably still won’t be able to sail. And when building ferries, make it so the seats can either fully recline or the arm rests can completely be pushed out of the way so people can sleep on the chairs. It isn’t pleasant to have to spread out on the floor so you can get a couple winks shut eye after the ferry departs at 5:30am.Submitted: October 11, 2017
I read through the reports provided by the contractors. I find one thing glaringly obvious. The data provided is data form after the AMHS management started doing cuts on the routes, and changing the established routes.
Data needs to be taken into account from when the routes were well established and in service for a few years.
One big example of this is the prince william sound summer runs. When two vessels were running in the summer in PWS. Currently only one vessel runs in PWS during the summer. This was a cut of @60% of service. This in my opinion was a huge mistake which destroyed the ridership base in PWS.Submitted: October 09, 2017
AMHS needs to be removed from DOT if it is going to survive. It was never there in the first place. It started out with the dept. of public works and operated quite well for years with good management. Then it was merged into DOT about 1980 and has eroded ever since. It needs to be an entity by itself with a small and competent management teamSubmitted: October 06, 2017
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