Regarding the ferry, the rates have gone way up as some of us expected. And, we haven’t even heard yet what the schedule will be or started discussions about the parking lot. This is just the first of many impacts that Islanders are going to experience as the result of economic downturn and Peak Everything.
Government is now stalemated even more than it was during the first two years of Mr. Obama’s bi-partisanship program. There won’t be a lot of free money. County government is one vote more conservative and the conservatives on the Council are not sympathetic to Lummi Island. The rest of the county thinks Lummi Island living is a lifestyle choice. Anyone who owns a home on the island who wants to leave is stuck because there just aren’t many home buyers out there. The housing market hasn’t hit bottom yet.
A lot of time and effort went into lobbying for unrealistic notions about the ferry. What chance was there, really, to maintain the existing service at the existing price? The Council isn’t concerned with elasticity. Although they understood it well enough to increase the pedestrian rate big time. And now PLIC is, unfortunately, in the position of being a messenger of bad tidings.
Here’s the deal: to get ready for the future we can’t plan on getting in our car by ourselves and going where we want when we want. This is what James Kunstler refers to as “Happy Motoring.” We’ve operated that way for many years as a country. It’s over. We’re not out of gas but the supply will slowly dwindle as growing nations like China increase their demand. Some see it going as high as $20 a gallon.
Soon, Islanders will be carefully planning their trips to town because of the cost of ferry travel. At the same time everyone should consider the total cost.
The national reimbursement rate for auto usage is approximately $.50 per mile. It’s roughly 20 miles one way to B’Ham. Add another 20 for errands and you’ve driven 60 miles for $30 dollars of depreciation (wear and tear on your car) and gas, plus $11.40 for the ferry (if you have a multi-ride ticket). So, essentially, a trip to town will cost $41.40. That’s the real cost starting January. Here’s what we don’t think about: the real cost today is $36. So, starting in January a trip to town is going to cost the solitary passenger car traveler $5 dollars more. And the per mile cost will increase as gasoline prices inevitably rise. The numbers may not be exact and will differ depending on type of auto, etc. But the point is, there is a fixed cost when traveling to town in addition to the ferry fee. And, it’s a greater cost than the ferry fee.
To me that 40 mile round trip and the price of gas necessary to make the trip is more problematic than being able to land at Gooseberry Point. The road distance to Bellingham isn’t going to get shorter. Gas prices are certain to go up.
In my imaginary, pie-in-the-sky-sustainable world I would prefer never to take a car off the island. Instead, I’d prefer to ride a passenger ferry directly into Fairhaven where I could link up with the existing transportation network supplemented with car share, cooperatively owned vehicles, rentals, taxis, shuttles and other transportation services or functions, avoiding the geographic obstacle of the Lummi Nation.
The private auto is about to become obsolete. It doesn’t make sense to me to lock into 50 years of trying to get from Gooseberry Point to Bellingham or Ferndale. We could see prices jump to European levels overnight and keep on rising.