Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cost cutting measures in Alaska could see more Alaska Marine Highway System traffic through Prince Rupert

The North coast isn’t the only place where the ferries can become controversial, to the north of Prince Rupert; announced changes to the Alaska Marine Highway System are not being overwhelmingly accepted by the locals.

The financially struggling Alaska Marine Highway System has announced that it plans to reduce ferry service from Bellingham, Wash., transiting off the coast of B. C. and through Alaska's Inside Passage by half - down to one trip per week.

In place of the second Bellingham sailing, plans are in the works to offer an additional sailing to Prince Rupert, replacing the long distance cruise with the more familiar Ketchikan to Rupert run.
While that may bode well for Prince Rupert, the planned cutbacks have their critics, who have a range of concerns. From what they consider an inferior local terminal, to issues relating to a weakening American dollar and having to clear through a customs post in an era of increased security, the prospect for some of having to make a long distance drive through the Canadian countryside isn’t sitting well.

For the Alaska Marine Highway system it’s a simple matter of economics, with an aging fleet of vessels and increased costs, the ferry operators are looking for ways to keep the system afloat. As it stands, their economic breakdowns show that for every dollar they earn on operations, they require two dollars from the state treasury to keep the system moving.

The Ferry system is just one component of a planned overhaul on the States transportation infrastructure, a project that is known as 2030 Lets Get Moving. An ambitious 65 page draft plan for long term planning for the States Transportation needs.

So in the short term, in order to cut some costs and try to reduce the burden on the treasury they’ve decided to reduce the long distance service, in favour of the border hopping run.

However, much like the situation with BC Ferries, when you change the schedules and remove some long cherished connections, you will hear from the customers. Right now, the customers and residents of the state are letting their transportation providers know that they are keeping an eye on what’s going on.

And like politicians anywhere, Alaska's' government officials will be careful that they don't alienate the voters to the point of pending unemployment.

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