Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ferry Tales….take two….this ship has not left the dock

Today’s Baltimore Sun reports on the ongoing discussions to reinstate some form of commuter ferry service between the Eastern Shore and Baltimore and Annapolis. I continue to argue that while it’s always fine to discuss and learn, we have so many undecided, unmet and unfulfilled transportation needs throughout our state that are so much more pressing. These other options will have vastly more potential impact, so it is ludicrous to keep yakking on about a ferry service (Your editor, who spoke with the Sun reporter at length, and suggested many additional sources, is briefly quoted)

As a merchant marine officer, and long-time boat captain in these parts, as well as being the former transportation marketing specialist for Annapolis, not only do I know a little bit about this issue, but I could stand to profit if such a service were revived. Yet I am against it for a variety of reasons, with the main one being what I said above. There are other priorities already creating a great sucking sound! For example, the Purple Line, and the need to reinstate express commuter service from the Eastern Shore through Annapolis and on to Baltimore. I don’t think this service will be economically viable, it will have little impact on traffic and will be difficult to market because of its cost and the physical limitations imposed by geography, demographics, economics and finally--where will all the commuters park at each end in Kent Island and Annapolis? How many people will take it from one place to another?

Transit works where it is marketed and where driving and or parking is costly, difficult or severely limited. Do we have this in place for a ferry transit? I don’t think so.

Now there is nothing wrong with thinking ahead, but to truly do that, we have to think way ahead, and to think about how many other things will change such as costs of fuel, commuting times, growing population etc. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this ferry will be some great thing. It’s impact will always be minimal. It may go fast while crossing the Bay, but it will have to slow way down to a crawl for much of the Severn River as it approaches or leaves Annapolis. A trip will probably cost $10 or more each way. Unlike ridesharing and vanpooling which spreads costs among a group, this will cost you the same whether you board with twenty or board alone. And when you arrive in Annapolis, where will you go--and how will you get there? Will you need a car? A bus? How many jobs are there that will support commuters?

Ferry proponents will argue all these questions can be answered with further study. I say phooey on that! We need commuter buses, ridesharing and enhanced transit around our state. We need smart growth and infill and a reordering of transportation and land use priorities. We don’t need more dust gatherers. This ferry is a tweaking, a drop in the bucket.

My wife commutes to Baltimore from Annapolis and cannot take an express bus because Ehrlich killed that service. The same is true for friends on Kent Island and here in Annapols too. My wife cannot find a carpool partner because the so-called ridesharing services as well as the larger employers in Baltimore are of no help. She could take a combination of city bus or state bus and the light rail but this is terribly slow and inconvenient with only limited service. Our city bus service is mismanaged, resources are squandered and federal funding is insecure. The MTA is a poor excuse for a bus system. Light rail is underutilized because it is under marketed. If it is not working well, how will a ferry work? Raising our fuel taxes to shore up our dwindling transportation fund, lowering our speed limits and applying revenue to build up much needed transit is what must happen. Anything else is window--er porthole dressing.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

They need a ferry from Saint Mary's to the Eastern Shore more than one along the Bay Bridge route.

They should have a ferry where you can take your car. Otherwise, what is the point?

2/17/2007 12:50:00 AM  

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