Frustrated riders demand answers to ongoing ferry problems

SEATTLE -- There are serious problems under the surface of the most graceful commute in western Washington.

More than 50 sailings missed in less than five months -- the product of staffing errors and workers not showing up. A captain who {A href=""}slept on board a boat delayed a trip last week.

Those on Whidbey Island are fed up.

"If one person is late, or falls asleep or doesn't make it, that's it. We sit on the dock," said Cynthia Campbell.

Thursday night, the ferry system came to Whidbey to hear from riders. Ferries leader David Moseley was candid about the lack of resources to combat the problems.

"Human error does happen. And it's gonna happen," Moseley said. "There's no free lunch here, folks. There has got to be a new transportation package."

Moseley explained that a change in taxes in the late nineties took a quarter of the budget away from ferries. Fuel costs have tripled in the time since, compounding the problem. And, on top of all that, the staffing problems persist.

Scott Rogan-Levine says it's absurd that a simple sick call, either as protest over wages or actual illness, can devastate commuters.

"How many times on your way to work is the highway just closed down because employees just don't want you to use it?" he said.

Even if you never set foot on a ferry, you're still paying for the problems. Budget problems forced the state to tap into highway improvement funds to subsidize the ferries. Money meant to fix rough roads instead pays to smooth the rough ride from the islands.

A problem that gives even the most beautiful commute an ugly side.