By Dave Paul

Ferries are not just green-and-white boats to the families and businesses of the 10th District. 

To us, those boats are vital connections to work, school, and services like doctors and dentists. Reliable ferries are essential to our local economy and quality of life.

So how can we improve ferry service today – and build a system that will work for the next 100 years?

Part of the answer is we have to work together.

I formed the Ferry Caucus alongside Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes), creating a space for lawmakers from both parties coming together to fight for better ferry service.

Bipartisan work must continue if we are going to make meaningful investments and improvements. We held our first meeting this year on Feb. 1 and will keep working in good faith toward solutions.

Another part of the answer is modernizing our ferry system.

It is time for the Legislature to prioritize replacing aging vessels – which often suffer mechanical issues and cause delays for commuters – with hybrid-electric ferries. 

Those ferries are not just better for the environment. They save fuel and taxpayer dollars.

The last piece of this puzzle is you. 

Bold investments to renovate our ferry system will only happen with strong support from people like you.

Please continue to contact your lawmakers to express support for ferry investments in the next transportation budget.

And take part in the community meetings the state Department of Transportation is having about our ferry system, the largest in the United States and fourth-largest in the world.

There are two virtual community meetings scheduled, the first on Feb. 9 and the second on Feb. 10.

Visit bit.ly/WSFWinterMeeting1 to register for the 11 a.m. Feb. 9 meeting.
And go to bit.ly/WSFWinterMeeting2 to sign up for the 6 p.m. Feb. 10, meeting.

One day after each meeting, Washington State Ferries will post a video recording of the meeting on its community participation webpage.

If you don’t have internet access, you can find free WiFi hotspots here for those meetings: www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-state-drive-in-wifi-hotspots-location-finder/

A few notes about advocacy: 

First, personal stories are incredibly powerful.
Tell your family’s story, and try to keep it under a minute or two. What would you change to improve ferry service? 
I would also like to hear your story, which I can share in committee or during debates on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Second, ideas from people who use a service every day are incredibly helpful.
Maybe you have seen a problem up close and have thought of a few solutions. Please share those ideas.

Third, do a little homework. Adding a key number or fact after telling your story is quite powerful. 

The last thing I suggest is go ahead and be passionate, but under control. No matter how mad a problem makes you – and I am plenty upset about a number of issues that desperately need solving – you cannot let emotion overwhelm your words and ideas. 

I hope many of you can find time to make these community meetings. 

Because in our democracy, real change only happens when people decide to stand up, speak out and get involved. 

Rep. Dave Paul has worked in higher education for more than 20 years. He and his wife live in Oak Harbor with their four children.