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Citizens to work on WSF plan

The Washington State Ferries may need a lot of work to become a sustainable system, but many Kitsap County residents proved they are more than willing to step up and help.

“We had a diverse and powerful group show up ready to work,” said Jane Bedinger, a South Kitsap resident and member of the Southworth Ferry Advisory Committee, referring to a gathering last weekend organized by Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) in the hopes of creating a plan for the transportation system written by citizens instead of officials.

Bedinger said there are two important parts to the effort.

“First, we want the legislators to reject both of the WSF’s plans as unacceptable, and we are asking them to wait for our plan,” she said.

Bedinger said about 70 people attended the first meeting of “Write Plan C” in Bremerton Jan. 17, and the group included not just commuters but marine engineers, legislators and city officials.

“People came from all over the county, (from South Kitsap) to Bainbridge Island,” she said, explaining that the group formed six committees, each with a particular focus such as fleet size and ferry construction, schedules and service, organization and communications.

“Each committee is hard at work,” Bedinger said, adding that she was moved by the response and encouraged that so many people had the skills and expertise to “contribute meaningfully to this project. We’re not just there to blame WSF — we’re there to work.”

Bedinger said she felt a definite “shift” in attitude and direction amongst the group, a change she attributed in part to the change in presidential leadership.

“The timing is perfect, because the ground is shifting and has shifted for all of us,” she said, describing the WSF plans presented at recent public meetings as “proof that the current system was not working, and trusting WSF to analyze everything was not working. We have moved out of that passive period.”

The group will meet next on Feb. 7 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Building in Bremerton. In the meantime, Bedinger said anyone who cannot commit to writing the plan in person but still wants to contribute should submit comments on the long-term ferry plan via this email: wsfplanning@wsdot.wa.gov.

“Ferry performance is measured by the number of complaints they’ve been receiving, and that number is dropping, so all’s well, right?” she said, adding that she is not advising anyone to yell at ferry workers.

People can also sign up to receive updates on the bill-writing group can sign up to receive updates and information by e-mailing: jane@janebedinger.com.

Bedinger said she believes most ferry commuters understand they may need to pay more money and accept service cuts, but they want to know the facts and reasoning behind the decisions.

“We want a competent, meaningful, honest and transparent plan,” she said. “People are willing to accept cuts in service, but they want them to be logical. People are ready to be thrifty, but they want the changes to be meaningful and rational.”

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