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"Ferry riders will rally, travel to Olympia"

"Efforts to rouse hundreds of Kitsap ferry commuters and transportation pundits alike for a full day of lobbying at the capito l are picking up steam throughout the county.Taking the helm relatively early on in this legislative session, Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel is organizing the Ferry Rally 2001 committee, which is made up of ferry commuters, concerned citizens and transportation leaders from all over the county. Committee members, now 15 strong, hope to encourage concerned Kitsap citizens in the coming weeks to join in on the Olympia rally to be held Thursday, Feb. 22.The idea is for our community to visit legislators in Olympia and offer them support and reasonable solutions to the problems facing our ferry system, said Angel, who represents South Kitsap on the board of county commissioners. This isn't going to be a protest.Angel said the committee is planning to charter a high-speed passenger catamaran, which is tentatively scheduled to depart the Bremerton ferry terminal around 9:30 a.m. and arrive in downtown Olympia at roughly 11 a.m that day. Exactly 400 catamaran tickets are expected to become available at local chambers of commerce by the end of this week, said Angel.Once in Olympia, attendees will meet at noon at the capitol for a rally session, and then venture out in various groups to meet with individual legislators in an effort to reiterate Kitsap County's concerns over the ferry system and current fare-increase proposals. The catamaran departs Olympia probably at 2:45 p.m., said Angel, and arrives back in Bremerton at approximately 4:15 p.m., just in time for a public hearing on proposal to raise auto ferry fares by about 20 percent and passenger-only ferry fares by about 123 percent at 5 p.m. in Kingston.The hearing in Kingston will be the fourth of five public meetings to be held in February throughout Kitsap County and Vashon Island.The Tariff Policy Committee, an advisory group to the Transportation Commission, is currently recommending the ferry system increase fares over the next six years so that 80 percent of the ferry system's overall operating costs are covered by ticket sales. As it stands now, 62 percent of the ferry system's operating costs are covered by ticket sales.If the commission adopts that recommendation, it would take effect May 13. Though the rally's lobbying agenda isn't yet final, Angel said some issues are relatively certain. For instance attendants, for obvious reasons, won't favor the 80 percent operational-cost fare recovery rate, since such a scheme would immediately impose too heavy a burden on commuters.As a region we will do everything we can but, at the same time, we must recognize that ferries are part of our state highway system, said Angel.Strategies involving a long-range fare increase structure doesn't necessarily sit well with committee members or ferry commuters.We probably don't want to be locked into a five or six year financing commitment either, said Angel, because if we come up with a revenue solution in the meantime, then we're stuck.Angel said volunteers are currently working to secure sponsorships from businesses to subsidize the cost of the ferry rally in Olympia. Though tickets will be available for $25 a piece, revenue generated from ticket sales won't cover the cost of the catamaran and other costs associated with the rally.Meanwhile, those who are interested in volunteering for the event or joining the committee are encouraged to do so. The event is still in the planning stages.For more information about the rally, call the county commissioners' office at 337-7146. "

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