Cars are the Problem, Not Ferries

A SELECTION FROM THE STORY COMMENTS ONLINE: Re: "The Curse of Capt. Peabody" by Brian Miller (March 5) This is a fascinating history of, and an unsparing look at, the Washington state ferry system! Excellent journalism.—Steve Elliott Slamming the ferries in favor of some nostalgic trip down a SimCity fantasy ignores what it really would have been like if the ferries had fallen to the car-centric vision of the 1950s. Instead of focusing on how much money would have been "saved" by building a bridge, why not look at the things that were built during that time and see their cost today? The Hood Canal Bridge, one of your prime examples of success, is currently undergoing a $470 million partial replacement project. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, also part of the 1950s enthusiasm for the automobile, is looking at a $2.4 billion replacement. The 520 bridge is looking to need upwards of $4 billion to replace. That is nearly $7 billion needed to take care of the infrastructure that was built, never mind all of the other bridges and roadways they had planned. If they had built the other projects, how much more would we need to spend to replace the crumbling bridges of the 1950s? We're lucky that these ideas got shot down. The larger economic impact, the loss of marine heritage, and the changes that we would have seen in the neighborhoods adversely affected by these bridges would have been horrendous.—Ferry Rider The lack of depth of your ferry article is appalling. You missed the entire point: The mosquito fleet made money year in and year out because it hauled nothing but people and a very small amount of freight. The problem came when the ferry system began to haul cars. Let's do some math: The average human weighs 200 pounds; the average car weighs 3,000 pounds. But [Washington State Ferries] charges $6.50 for walk-on passengers and only $9 more for the car. The entire need for huge boats, ferry docks, and most important, the huge crews, is the movement of cars and trucks. If all they were hauling were people, the ferries would be smaller and run profitably and most of the problems of WSF would disappear. (There are five or more people assigned to "load cars"; there is no one assigned to "load people.") It was the introduction of the cars—and the unwillingness to make the cars pay their way—that really caused WSF to balloon beyond sense.—Dick Falkenbury I grew up loving the Peabody family enormously. A Peabody Potlatch (summer picnic) would draw family back from across the country. This is a terrific group of people, far from the pirates and swindlers portrayed in your article. I am torn between finding the article insulting and wanting to have the cover artwork to silk-screen some T-shirts for the next family picnic—I love the Peabody mustache and the cigar! As you may have guessed by now, my mom is a Peabody. In fact, there are many descendants of the Peabody family living and working in Puget Sound, Portland, and across the country. There was a fortunate tendency to have large families. Readers: Enjoy this whimsical story, but look to the reference book Ferryboats: A Legend on Puget Sound by Bayless and Kline for a well-researched and enjoyable history of this heritage that we share.—Chris McMahon Re: "Arms Wrestling" by Laura Onstot (March 5) We had the pleasure of hosting Mr. [Russ] Ford [of Ammunition Coding System] last week in Maryland, one of the 11 states where ammo-encoding bills are being proposed. He was the only person testifying in favor of the bill, which didn't impress the Judiciary Committee since he stands to make millions if this law is passed. He also failed to research the economic impacts. He says it would be a minimal cost impact to manufacturers; the ammo company reps estimated that they'd need to invest about $10 million in capital expenditures just to start complying with this. Mr. Ford tried this out in his garage making a couple of thousand rounds of ammo; guess he forgot that some ammo manufacturers make 6 million rounds per day—1,800 rounds per minute for some calibers! Try to implement a unique ID on each bullet and shell casing and maintain those kind of production rates.... This also would NOT help solve crimes, as there are too many breaks in the chain of custody for someone to testify in court beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who committed a crime could be linked to the crime by the ID number on the ammo.—Michael Ford's response is that law-abiding gun owners wouldn't need to worry about ammunition tracking, since they wouldn't be committing gun-related crimes in the first place. That is pure bull snot. Law-abiding gun owners could be held accountable if ammunition they purchased wound up being used in a crime. If ammunition was stolen from them, or if they happened to drop a few rounds while out on the firing range target practicing, their lives could be screwed forever. What about giving ammunition to a family member for their birthday or Christmas which is something I frequently do? Are you going to have to transfer that ammunition through a federally licensed firearm dealer? That's absurd. Bottom line: not going to stop criminals. This might be a godsend to the black market, though!!!!—41magisfine Re: "Bark Laws Have No Bite" by Brian J. Barr (Feb. 27) Doug firs are weeds. They are messy, they get really ugly if not actively maintained, they make the soil way too acidic for the growing of most non-native plant species, and they do a great job of blocking out what little sun Seattle gets. I can see protecting them where they serve a critical environmental purpose, but otherwise I'd be ecstatic to see the city rid of them. There are lots of other evergreen and deciduous species that could be planted in their place that, when mature, would confer similar benefits and would actually be attractive and easy to maintain. If you have a Doug fir in your backyard, do Seattle a favor and mow that sucker down!—J. Lebowski Write to us at or comment online!

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