Coastal communities off the road system depend on the Alaska ferries to transport vehicles, large equipment and essential food and supplies. They also greatly help to get fish to markets in a timely manner. Since fishing hires more people than any other industry, it is an important part of the Alaskan economy. Losing the ferry system would have a profound effect on the fishing industry, and therefore also would affect the economy of the entire state.Submitted: July 31, 2017
The ferry system is vital for connecting Wrangell to medical services at an affordable rate. Wrangell only has basic medical available and many people have to go to Ketchikan or Juneau for medical and dental care. If you are on private insurance you have to pay for medical travel and lodging and being able to take the ferry helps keep those costs down.
It is unfortunate that Alaskans do not understand the Alaska Marine Highway is just as vital as Glenn Highway is to connecting Haines to Anchorage. The Alaska Marine Highway is not a tour ship it is a form of transportation that is just as vital as any other type of Highway to the residents of Southeast Alaska.Submitted: July 30, 2017
-Reduce walk on price, encourages ridership and onboard purchases. It is currently cheaper to fly ANC JNU when compared to a walk on WTR JNU as an example
-On board coffee shop.
-Bring the bars back
-Specials for Alaska residents
-Increase price on container vans to help reduce cost for vehicles/passengers
-Run the Chenega in PWS again, even if it was just 4 days a week Fri-Mon
-Get students from AVTEC Culinary school for cooking
Submitted: July 30, 2017
1. a) Try the age-old business model: Lower the price and attract more volume.
b) Try inviting Alaskan communities' Chambers of Commerce advertise on the ships.
c) Open the cocktail lounges on the long Bellingham runs. Despite AMHS' claims, the bars actually made a profit. No need to be open 12 hours; 8 hours would suffice. Say 4pm to midnight.
2. a) Practice annual PREVENTIVE maintenance to the ships, rather than slapping band-aids to save a buck. It's not cheaper in the long run. Look at the Columbia mess. If AMHS had fixed the propeller shaft properly when they first had a problem, they would not still be in Portland two years later! Ten times more money has been spent than if they'd pulled the hub and inspected it properly the first time!
b) Buy American engines so that parts can be found quickly and cheaply. Cheap equipment from overseas isn't so cheap when you have to charter the needed parts back here. Not to mention the wait time receiving them.
c) AMHS should be its' own entity with its own bank account, so to speak. The revenue it earns should go to its own fund rather than the State's general fund. Then it can be apparent how much AMHS actually brings in. All we ever hear about is how much it costs to run. No one talks about the revenue it brings to the State's coffers.
3. A more manageable food service program with portion control would help a lot. So much food is thrown away! Very expensive.
4. Regularly scheduled runs, like the city bus. This is public transportation, after all; for Alaskans. Provide food vending machines for the short runs; 5 hours or less. Regular hot food service for the longer runs.Submitted: July 29, 2017
Having traveled on with the AMHS over the last 2 decades, I've seen lots of changes. I've also seen lots of ways to improve service. Several years ago you had ferries going to Prince Rupert literally hours behind each other. The first ferry would be half full, the second ferry would be empty. I've seen them go between ports in the middle of winter 4 and times a week with 1/3 a cardeck full. An example is Homer to Kodiak. You could accomplish the same results with 2 - 3 transits a week. The same vessel currently services Seldovia 3 times a week and carries less than 1/3 a cardeck during the winter if they were lucky. What I'm getting at is that winter time is a slow time for travel and although its nicety, the practicality of carrying a dozen cars on a 10 hour trip in the middle of winter is not practical anymore. The commercial cargo carriers only make 2 trips a week to Kodiak and so should the AMHS.
Second, do you need to being going to Prince Rupert at all? You already have a vessel making weekly trips to Bellingham and more frequent trips to Haines. Do you need the Columbia? This vessel is always in the yards for one reason or another. This year it didn't even sail with all of the repairs and you survived the summer rush. Even when it does manage to run, it only sails during the summer months. The crew cost on that vessel must be astronomical. Where else can you have a person being paid over $20 an hour with benefits to an entry level employee to wash dishes, clean rooms or act as a janitor? Do you even need stewards on the smaller boats like Leconte? I don't need someone to cook me breakfast or lunch on a 4 hour trip to Hoonah or Tenakee. Contract the food service out into vending machines. Contract the cleaning services out. There's no reason a cleaning crew couldn't come aboard in Ketchikan or Juneau and clean the vessel while inport just like a passenger airliner. It's time to buck the unions and be realistic in pay. I'm sure trickle down economics would result in cheaper tickets and more passengers.
If the AMHS goes to more of a business model, can you compete with private enterprise? Can you carry more "cargo" and compete against the barge services in SE Alaska? For some reason private enterprise finds it easier to put a trailer full of lumber or a new pleasure boat on a slow moving barge out of Seattle than to send it on the Kennicott and arrive in half the time. Is it cost? Is it logistics? There's a lot of cargo on those barges you could acquire. Carrying more cargo would help offset costs on the passenger run and would require less crew.
The AMHS needs to start thinking outside the box, reduce schedules in the winter and be more realistic with crew costs.Submitted: July 29, 2017
I feel like the ferry has turned into a means of transportation for vacationers from pretty much anywhere but Alaska. On a trip last year from Haines to Wrangell, we were two of a handful of people that even spoke English, more less were Alaskans. My recommendation would be to raise the ferry rates substantially, then offer Alaskans a discount of whatever the amount of the increased fare is. This way you make more money off of the people who are only traveling through, and help the Alaskans that the ferry was intended for.Submitted: July 28, 2017
1. More specific public information as to how the AMHS benefits the communities on the road system such a Tok, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai, et. We need the support of these other areas. While we reside in Pelican in the past several years we annually drive to all the for mentioned communities. We depart from Pelican with our truck and utilize the AMHS. We spend money in all these communities and others along the way.
2. The AMHS is part of the overall "road system" in Alaska and should be recognized as a necessary part of that system. Just as users of the AMHS pay directly for the use of the marine highway the users of the other road systems should support the overall transportation system through a toll on routes between road communities. Funds from the tolls should support the overall surface transportation system.
3. In terms of the service to Pelican we saw more traffic when the ferry "overnighted" in Pelican. The LeConte was plugged all summer long when it advertised the Pelican route in the early 2000 era.
4. "Essential Surface". Criteria should include: number of other transportation options available to the community, number of commercial users utilizing the community, does the community actively advertise the AMHS?, if the AMHS is removed what would take its place?
Submitted: July 27, 2017
My family is grateful that much thought and deliberation is being spent on securing the sustainability of the AMHS. I will skip to the last bullet item and talk about "essential service". Since we live in Cordova, the AMHS is an essential service to our community in many ways: It provides transportation for our youth to attend sports & other extracurricular school activities with the rest of the state. We cannot afford to fly our teams each time there is a game or a meet! The system also provides the more economical and reliable means of transporting food, fish, and other items sold in our local stores. Many times Alaska Airlines bumps items for lack of cargo space. If we had to rely solely on air transport for stocking our stores, we would quickly lose families who could not afford such a price increase in items. The AMHS also provides a more economical route for families to travel to Anchorage for doctors appointments and personal stocking up on household needs. There's only so much we can bring back on the planes, not to mention the cost of a rental car in Anchorage.
I cannot speak to the first & second bullet point. I'll leave that to the more money minded people who have more experience with creating sustainable income sources that also make money at the same time.
As for the 3rd bullet point, what comes to mind is to constantly be engaged with the communities that are using the system and adjust the sailing schedule according to their needs. If it's sport season, then create the schedule for the teams to travel with the least amount of lag time, wasted days. Ensuring that the vessels are up to date and state of art would cut down on repairs and cancellations. Perhaps a minimum number of passengers/vehicles traveling needs to be established and if that number is not reached, the sailing would have to be cancelled. I'm not sure whether having the ship in port as opposed to having it underway costs that much less to make it worthy of incorporating this measure though. Perhaps looking to other countries who depend upon a ferry system and their measures of success could be helpful in incorporating new measures to our system.
Again, I'd like to thank those involved in working towards ensuring the future of this vital system in our state.Submitted: July 27, 2017
The Alaska Marine Highway is vital to the economy of Southeast Alaska all communities need to have connection with each other as a basic need to each other for economy travel,education and cultural services all year round.
This summer I was traveling our roads in Sitka and noticed that of the traveling RV's that usually come and go from Sitka stay in our RV parks and all the spaces are EMPTY. This is impacting the economy of the AMHS and the communities that thrive on summer income to support the winter year round services.
My family lives in Kake the travel to and from Kake is impossible to travel in a short turnaround without diversions to Petersburg or Juneau which add travel money to the family connection. There were to events that included cultural activities that myself and my grandsons missed because there is no possible ferry travel. The Kake Culture camp and the Kake Dog Salmon Fest. The children are losing opportunities to connect with their traditions.
Working for the regional tribe CCTHITA it has been noted that travel to and from Sitka to Angoon is never available and services have been cut back this summer to and from Juneau to low levels for travel.
The ferry system is in need of reform to increase the community connections to improve the economy of each community it serves. The AMHS should be receiving federal highway funds to make the service operate at the best levels all federal highways are maintained with paved roads and the best lighting systems. The TSA funds should contribute to the AMHS as well to ensure safe passage for all to and from Alaska.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.Submitted: July 27, 2017
For more revenue, prices can be increased by 25% and still be very economical compared to the bush alternatives.
For necessary public funding the legislature needs to take a ferry boat trip to places like Pelican to better understand the necessity of the service.
For operating efficiencies a reduced kitchen service, with more of a convenience store arrangement, would save considerable labor costs and possibly be subcontracted.
An "essential service" can be easily defined as one that will absolutely negatively affect a community if removed.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment, it indicated genuine concern and a realistic problem solving approach.Submitted: July 27, 2017