Nov 292010

So far all the ferry discussion, debate  and analysis has avoided the subject of sustainability. The question I would like to see discussed is: how happy will we be with car ferry service to Gooseberry Point if gasoline prices increase towards $10 a gallon? What if, coincident with price increases there are also fuel shortages?

Warnings about Peak Oil are no longer the plaintive cries of Chicken Little. The Peak Oil discussion has gone  mainstream. Back in April I wrote a post about how the US Army has acknowledged that we can expect fuel shortages. This week the International Energy Agency (IEA) “…has gone from denying that conventional oil production will peak in our lifetime to saying it happened four years ago.

It seems to me that all of our thinking about the ferry and Gooseberry Point is predicated on $3 a gallon gasoline and a readily available supply. But what if you had to wait in line for two to three hours to fuel up and then had to pay $10 a gallon? Where would you like to be waiting for a ferry? Would you want to be waiting in a car?

I recall the gas crisis of the mid-seventies. I had a thirty mile commute one way. The seed was planted. I no longer wanted to be a commuter. I wanted to live close enough to work to be able to walk. It took me several years but I did accomplish that goal.

The consensus of people who think about these things is that Peak Oil will affect suburbs more than cities for obvious reasons. People who live in suburbs are too far from work and from services. Residents of self-sufficient rural communities will probably be in better shape than cities but suburbs will be obsolete. Some argue that in the future we will return to a city/country pattern of living.

Right now Lummi Island isn’t  rural community; it’s a suburb of Bellingham. All the arguments for “protecting our way of life” are geared toward protecting the island as a suburb. That is, protecting one’s ability to make daily trips, or even multiple trips to town and back. That’s a good plan as long as gas is $3 and available. It’s a good interim (1-5 year) plan. Long term it’s not sustainable.


  15 Responses to “Sustainable Transportation”

  1. I agree with Bert, we’re not going to Bellingham in the near future. We’d be better as an island to form a transportation taxing district with a couple of small diesel bus that could stop in Ferndale and Bellingham a few times a day. The bus goes over with the run at 6:20 and stays over there for the day. Bring it back at night. Pay Steve to maintain it, a couple of retirees with CDL’s and free time to drive it. Just a thought .

  2. Need more ideas like Jim’s bus idea.

  3. We need someone with dynamic database or similar computer skills, to set up a way to start listing good ideas. Can’t do that with the Ferry Forum at the moment because of using (they don’t allow dynamic data bases due to security issues).

    Anyone know anyone who can do this, who’d help set it up? I know Nancy Ging can, but also that she’s not too keen on more donated internet work.

  4. Has anyone done the leg work needed to find out WHY we go to the mainland so often? How many commuters, how many discretionary trips, for what, how often, combined with other kind of trips.
    In other words, before we can figure out a solution, we need to be able to wrap our minds around the problem.
    I’ve toyed with the idea of setting up a little ‘survey kiosk’ near the head of the ferry line. Grab a questionnaire boarding, and drop it off coming back. Names optional of course. I could build it, and service it, and my wife Diane is a Transportation Planner by trade (retired), so setting up the data base and tabs is not a big deal.
    Conversely, has anyone done a detailed survey of commercial vehicles traveling to the island?
    Any thoughts on this?

  5. For a long time we have tried to limit our trips to every ten days or so for groceries. For thirty weeks in good weather, there’s a weekly trip for golf. Now that our kids have moved to Bellingham we try to coordinate our supply run with an overnight visitation. For eight weeks I took a night course this fall. Last time I will do that. But what I find is that even though we are reluctant to leave the island we do so a couple times a week. Things we don’t to the mainland for: doctor, church, theater, movies, eating out, haircuts, meetings.

    In our case we could get along with just a passenger ferry going into Bellingham. Others would, I’m certain, have to make huge adjustments in their lives for a passenger ferry to work. But no one is looking into the feasibility of that anyway.

    A survey as Mike suggests would be very interesting.

  6. Mike, I’d be into helping you put a survey together, its long overdue. As a shift worker I’m not on the boat every day but would guess there are at least 100 – 200 people working off island for a living.
    Any survey has to ask how people plan on adjusting to increased fuel costs in the future. I suspect that $6 dollars a gallon is a game changer for alot of the worker bees. Would islanders be amenable to a small bus/carpool run by the island? Would they keep driving, carpool, use WTA , bicycle, buy a scooter, etc, .
    Lummi along with Guemes allow for a diverse population due to their proximity to the mainland. Unfortunately for us we’re still 15 miles out of town and thats where we need to figure out a plan.

  7. I was talking with Thurid and Bob the other day at their place right after the big wind….the idea of some sort of electronic bulletin board came up….ride sharing, shared shopping, services, etc, etc….I think it is an idea worth looking into…..Islanders in the 21st century communicate electronically……I think it would engage people to integrate and communicate in order to solve problems, or help, and in the process, becomes a part of a community that is evolving throughout the ongoing transition journey. Walking the ferry line doing a survey is the perfect way to gather data, and make people aware of the transition we’re going through, and again, engage and educate. This latest post and comments shows how simple brainstorming can get the ball rolling. Thanks Randy.

  8. “Travel Demand Forecasting” is a pretty well developed science these days, starting with a screenline point(s), parsing out origin and destination of trips, and for what purpose(s), then using the data to forecast conditions under a variety of scenarios.
    The Whatcom Council of Govt, WSDOT, and other transportation providers do this routinely, to determine how much and what kind of service to fund.
    The ferry docks are a perfect screenline, as there is only one way to get here, unless you’re a really good swimmer or have a boat.
    I’m thinking a larger group effort would be required, such as PLIC or the Islander group, or maybe combined with this group could pull it off on the cheap. Maybe a grad student thrown into the mix, with access to demographic data about to be released would be a good starting point.
    The bigger the survey, the more accurate and credible it’s findings will be.
    Mike 758-7333

  9. RE electronic bulletin board, I wonder if something as simple as a Yahoo Discussion group would work.

  10. I’m not a tech/computer person, but I think basic stuff is required to put something up. I may be mistaken. Here are a couple of formats along with the Yahoo Groups idea:

    If the page had categories, it might be easier to navigate. Perhaps somebody with a background in this sort of thing exists on Lummi Island. Nancy?…there must be others. Perhaps the Ferry board can morph into a bulletin board once the drama is over? Perhaps easier is best just to get the ball rolling….or take the time to make a decent template. Needs more discussion, perhaps at some point a meeting is in order?

  11. After glancing at “Simplified Approaches to Ferry Travel Demand Forecasting” you’d better find a masters candidate in Applied Statistical Analysis to do your work. I’ll hand surveys out at the ferry when the time comes.

  12. Uh, someone mentioned WTA. It has more than bus service. Check it out! In fact, doesn’t the CEO live on Lummi?

  13. I suppose this is one of the services that our mystery man Gunar is referring to:

    WTA has vans available.

    What is vanpooling? It’s a “lease” program where you can obtain a van to commute with other people to work and thereby save time and money while you help reduce pollution, traffic congestion, and fuel consumption.

    When you vanpool, you share the cost of commuting—including fuel, maintenance and insurance—with your fellow commuters. Unlike a carpool, no one puts miles on their own vehicle while vanpooling. Fares are based on the number of miles traveled each month and cover ALL costs of vanpooling, including fuel, maintenance, and insurance.

    To start a vanpool, you need a minimum of 5 riders including several people who are willing to drive (and who have good driving records).

    Current vanpools operated by WTA travel to Regence in Burlington, Boeing in Everett, BP at Cherry Point, Heath Tecna near Barkley Village in Bellingham, Tesoro in Anacortes, as well as a few other companies in other locations. Call 752-4596 to find out where existing vanpools are currently operating. WTA staff can support you in forming a vanpool and will provide driver orientation. WTA staff will also be your contact regarding vehicle maintenance, etc.

    Some employers encourage vanpooling by offering incentives to riders. Call WTA to see if you work for such a company, or check with your Human Resources department.

    If you have questions, or if you have a group of interested riders, give us a call at 752-4596.

  14. As you all know, I think Nicole Foss is right on the money….her latest missive describes the Lummi Island community perfectly, perhaps the national mindset…..right now we are firefighters….we will need more shocks in order to bring the acknowledgement/acceptance phase about….2008 obviously wasn’t enough to bring about real change….don’t worry, there will be more shocks, but what will things look and feel like then?….we’re building up to another event, but who recognizes it now?……recognizing the probability of an event, and preparing for it before it goes viral, is the key to survival, and is the cornerstone of Transition….Who was prepared for the 2008 crash?….now look at the fallout on a local basis….the ferry, tourism, unemployment, the Islander, the construction business, etc, etc…..who saw it coming?……who prepared and escaped the blows?……how quickly we become complacent, staring at the latest government numbers and MSM BS….hoping, dreaming of days gone forever…..drinking the kool aid again….insanity:

    “Humans are not good at the taking the long term view. Our ability to do so does vary significantly with circumstances though, depending on our perception of stability. When we collectively feel that tomorrow will be similar to today, and that we have our basic needs covered, then we are free to think about longer term concerns and the bigger picture.

    In contrast, when we exist under circumstances of little forward visibility, and where we are not confident about our access to basic necessities, then the luxury of the long term disappears, and we are pitched into a state of short term crisis management.”

  15. I think the time is ripe to develop some better e-organization platforms. Last year I cobbled together the ferry forum — not really what we need for broader issues (or even holding good discussions, in its current form) and since then have spent lots of time poking around other platforms and mechanisms. I’ve learned a lot — mostly that for any specific e-project to work, we’d need considerable clarity about purpose(s) and practicalities. The main thing I learned, which I wasn’t sure of at the start, is that a sufficient number of islanders are willing and able to use the internet to obtain and share information to make moving forward worthwhile (the nearly 110,000 visits the site has had since it launched Jan 4, 2010 shows that.)

    I agree with Mike – we need better data about ferry use. At one point, Bill and I submitted some ideas to PLIC for doing just that, and I know I posted some other ideas on the Ferry Forum months ago. Getting this information is one of the (way too many) to-dos on the ferry task force list. My view of the appointed ferry task force is that there’s no way for 7 people to do all the things they’ve been asked to do. However, with an appropriately skilled — and not just technically — group who know how to form effective subgroups — real progress on this issue of usage, including trying and testing methods that could be used into the future, given that usage is apt to change over time.

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