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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

We Believe in Ferries

By Sidney Hartley


September 17, 2019
Tuesday AM

Since 1948, travelling by ferry has been a vital piece of Alaskan livelihood and, as such, a way for Alaskans to be connected to one another. In 1963, the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) was born, providing Alaskans a link to our neighboring communities and Canada. There has been a saying in Alaska that, it’s a small world in big Alaska. That’s because, it’s hard to travel from one community to another in Alaska without running into someone we know, and sometimes even a relative. We’re all family here, and that unique piece of our home is largely due to our ferry system, connecting us to places and people that may not otherwise have a method of travel (especially from/to remote parts of Alaska). Additionally, the AMHS employs roughly 430 Alaskans, and provides transportation to nearly 350,000 passengers and 100,000 vehicles annually. 

With Alaskans facing the real possibility of losing the Prince Rupert port due to Governor Dunleavy’s budget cuts, 13,000 Alaskans lose a connection to Canada. Traditions, vacations, and family memories are being threatened to 13,000 Alaskans. This cut, as I see it, is an easy way out. This would be like going to the doctor with a broken arm, and resolving to just cut it off instead of mending the bone. To preserve our connections, we need to work harder at making solutions for the ferry system to stick around for future generations to utilize, and for special traditions to be passed down for years to come. 

To generate more revenue and increase ridership (to keep our connections for generations to come), we should be looking at reducing ticket prices. The AMHS ferry sticks to the schedule, and will run whether the vessel is at capacity or not. Why not fill the seats? Take travel price comparisons to Juneau for example. As it stands, it costs $138 for one adult travelling from Ketchikan to Juneau, and it takes 19 hours to get there. Taking a plane through Alaska Airlines, it costs $205 for one adult, and it takes 1-3 hours to get there, depending on whether you’re on the milk run or not. So, for just $67 more, you are saving yourself 16-18 hours of precious time. In order to make the ferry ride worth the 19-hour ride, ticket prices need to drop dramatically. Let’s cut prices, not services! When vendors see competitive pricing in their community for say, peanut butter, they lower the prices, they don’t just stop selling peanut butter. Let's not stop our services, let's engage in competitive pricing.

In closing, I would like to thank Rep. Dan Ortiz for fighting to keep the connection to Prince Rupert. Thank you for believing in ferries, as so many Alaskans do!

Sidney Hartley
Ketchikan, Alaska



Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received September 14, 2019 - Published September 17, 2019

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