Visitors and residents could climb aboard an electrically-powered shuttle van and be dropped off at any one of 10 sites in Friday Harbor if a plan by San Juan Islands Shuttle System kicks into gear. The not-for-profit corporation wants to create Friday Harbor Shuttle ‘RoundTowner.
Friday Harbor is a charming town, attractive to local residents and tourists alike. However, Friday Harbor has no public transportation and with the advent of the new PeaceHealth hospital some sort of new transportation initiative is required to make all of Friday Harbor easily accessible. Most arrivals to Friday Harbor come by Washington State Ferry, whether local or visitor.
Although much of downtown Friday Harbor is a short walk from the ferry landing, the distance to the Skagit Valley College Campus, the Friday Harbor Airport or the new PeaceHealth hospital site is about 1.2 miles, mostly uphill, a fairly strenuous walk.
Other Friday Harbor destinations are also difficult for some walkers from the ferry, such as the Library and the Life Care Center. Even the Courthouse, banks and other Town attractions can be a tough hike, especially during hot or rainy weather.
Taxis are usually available during the off-season (September through May) but are quite busy with visitors and longer trips during the high-season (June through August) and may not be available for an hour or more. Taxi fares to the Friday Harbor Airport range from $6.00 (Friday Harbor Taxi) to $12.00 (San Juan Taxi) as there is no fare regulation in the Town of Friday Harbor or in San Juan County.
The high-season bus service (San Juan Transit) does not go to the airport and the PeaceHealth site is not on its current or contemplated route.
Based on our casual surveys, a shuttle reaching all of the major Town sites would be attractive to local residents, visitors and Town businesses alike. Over 90% of the visitors surveyed have told us they would use a convenient, low-cost shuttle. Local residents surveyed are almost 100% in favor of a shuttle service, especially people using Senior Services and Friends & Neighbors.
We propose a long-term contract with Friday Harbor Taxi, LLC to provide drivers and management. Friday Harbor Taxi currently works with the Mullis Senior Center Friends and Neighbors program and the San Juan County Transportation Voucher Program to provide free or low cost taxi rides for needy and disabled people, mostly in the Town area.
The proposed service would serve the town residents better and would also be available to residents living well outside of town who need to come to Town to shop, see the doctor or dentist, etc. These residents could take a taxi to Town or other means and then be able to get around town with a free or discounted ‘RoundTowner day pass.
Basically, it is not easy for someone to walk onto a ferry and get around Friday Harbor, especially to the distant parts – the airport area, the new hospital and the library. A shuttle that could cover the major areas of Friday Harbor would be a boon for all concerned.
To develop a system to transport people around Friday Harbor in an environmentally responsible way while keeping costs to a minimum.
The Proposed Solution
The Friday Harbor ‘RoundTowner Taxi Service We propose a new service that will travel a 5-mile loop from the ferry landing, through the Town of Friday Harbor to the PeaceHealth Hospital, including downtown business locations, library, senior center, and government offices. This proposal envisions a frequent taxi service with convenient stops and wave-downs, and a vehicle with uncomplicated access. Given the random nature of Friday Harbor buildings, this service will require about 24 minutes, thus we have estimated an approximate periodic interval of 30 minutes – however, the route and periodicity are variable as the shuttle is a taxi, not a bus.
A map of the proposed route is included at the end of this proposal and can be changed as needed, even on a daily or “on-call” basis.
We have investigated several dozen vehicles that might be ideal for this service. Gasoline or diesel vehicles were considered and rejected. Hybrid vehicles that carry 10 to 14 passengers are too expensive and not readily available.
All-electric vehicles would be our choice, if only they were more efficient and did not have stringent federal restrictions.
In 1998 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established a limited set of safety standards for low-speed vehicles (LSVs) intended for vehicles used "to make short trips for shopping, social, and recreational purposes primarily within retirement or other planned communities with golf courses." To qualify as an LSV, a vehicle must have 4 wheels and a top speed of 20-25 mph. Additionally, the LSV rules mandate a gross vehicle weight not to exceed 3,000 pounds, meaning that the largest street-legal LSV will only carry 8 persons (7 passengers and the driver).
LSVs are exempt from most federal safety standards that apply to motor vehicles, and they are not required to meet any criteria for vehicle crashworthiness. Each LSV must be equipped with headlamps, taillights, stop lamps, reflectors, mirrors, a parking brake, a windshield, and seat belts.
LSVs are permitted in San Juan County, as they have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and can be licensed to drive on public roads.
However, the exemption from the safety standards seem to be a critical issue, as we have not found an insurance carrier that will cover a LSV for commercial use. Since the electricity supplied to Friday Harbor is generated 100% by renewable energy (hydro and geothermal), an all-electric vehicle would be 100% GREEN.
This type of vehicle would be perfect except the route is about 100 miles daily and few all-electric vehicles have this range and the ones that do have this range are small passenger vehicles.
In our search for all-electric vehicles, we found that the shuttles and buses generally have a range of only 35-40 miles.
Upon extensive investigation, we have concluded that the best vehicle for this proposed shuttle service is a propane powered 14-passenger coach. It grieves us to give up on the electric vehicle, but facts are facts.
There are a number of reasons why the coach is a better choice for year-round operation:
The interior is enclosed and climate-controlled
It will be easier to reach the farther parts of Friday
It has an enclosed luggage area
The coach is much more durable than any of the all-electric vehicles
There is much more room for signage and advertising
It will be much easier for the driver to collect fares
There is no issue with electrical charging or an on-board generator
There is no issue with insurance or on-road licensing
Note regarding wheelchair accessibility: Based on several years experience, the need for a vehicle with a wheelchair lift is possibly twice a month.
The Mullis Senior Center has agreed to allow Friday Harbor Taxi to use their van with a wheelchair lift when necessary and at least two drivers with Friday Harbor Taxi are qualified and approved to drive their van.
At this time, we have a quote from Schetky Northwest Sales, Inc., in Tacoma, for a 14-passenger Elkhart Coach with an enclosed luggage area, at $54,777, FOB Anacortes. This price includes the propane conversion and is available in 3-4 weeks. This vehicle fulfills all of our current requirements.
Additionally, and most importantly, selection of this vehicle means that no ongoing sponsor contributions will be needed. Upon receiving the initial grant, this service will be self-sustaining from Day One, and the fare structure as explained on the next page is equitable to both local residents and visitors.
It is important to consider this new service as a “taxi” service rather than as a scheduled bus service
for a variety of reasons:
1. Being independent of Washington State tariffs and Federal grant regulations means:
a. Our proposed service will cost 50% to 60% less than a scheduled bus service. We would not be required to be ADA-compliant. There would be no tariff or other regulations to interfere with the operations or route.
b. We can set and change our fares and routes without government oversight of any kind. We are proposing a 3-tier fare structure, to wit:
Truly needy or disabled get a permanent card based on qualification from Pam Fry (Friends & Neighbors), Wendy Stephens (Senior Center), or Joyce Sobel (Family Resources). There will be zero fare for this category, and they can have unlimited rides (within reason), but, of course, the shuttle service is limited to the Town of Friday Harbor. We can still call these riders "Friends and Neighbors". To some extent, this service will replace the existing F&N program and the people
outside of town can use the Dial-a-Ride service ($5.00 each way). We estimate that the revenue from Priority 2 and 3 fares will pay for the Friends and Neighbors.
Local residents not qualifying for Priority 1 can purchase a punch card (10 rides for $15.00 or 20 rides for $30.00). Enabling several Town merchants sell these tickets would be convenient, and the merchant could charge a handling fee of $1.00 per ticket. The driver will punch the card for each boarding, so there will be very little overhead. These rides would be logged by the driver.
We can envision many of the downtown employees using the shuttle, parking their cars out of the reach of a parking ticket. For $3.00 a day, we think this could be quite popular. The Skagit Valley College likes this idea for their off-island students as well.
Anyone else can ride for $3.00 per boarding or we could offer visitors a Day Pass for perhaps $7.50. We propose that the priority determines who gets first seating. We need to be clear that hospital patients and Friends and Neighbors will always get a seat. We may need to setup a reservation system for these riders as does Friday Harbor Taxi.
c. We will have the flexibility to compensate for the vagaries of ferry arrivals. Nothing is more frustrating than watching an empty San Juan Transit bus leave the ferry landing on time but 5 or 10 minutes before a (late) ferry arrives because of its rigid scheduling. It is our experience that the people wanting to use the service who are not arriving on the ferry will be content to wait several minutes.
In the event of a ferry having an ETA over 15 minutes late, the service would leave at the appointed time and be available at the ferry landing the next time around. Having several vehicles would also give us flexibility. Our informal surveys indicate a big demand for this shuttle service, especially during the summer months.
2. The proposed service will not impact existing taxi services. Based on our informal surveys, arriving passengers would rather walk to Town sites than take a taxi for only $5.00 (Friday Harbor Taxi’s rate) and certainly not for $8.00 to $12.00 (other taxi rates). Actually, other taxi services complain about accepting fares for short rides. It is our opinion that there is no competition between the proposed service and existing taxi services.
3. Should a hospital patient need priority service, e.g., coming in on a late or “rescheduled” ferry when the ‘RoundTowner is not available; Friday Harbor Taxi would transport the person(s) directly to the hospital in its regular vehicle for the nominal fare ($3.00 per person or honoring a punch card).
4. Taxis can stop and pickup/discharge passengers at will (wave-down) – buses cannot. Our proposal would allow the driver to stop anywhere (safely) along the route for passenger service. The Town may designate certain areas that would be marked as “Shuttle Stops”. Visitors flying in on private planes could walk the short distance to Spring Street to board the ‘RoundTowner. The proposed route (last page) is only a guide, as the shuttle is “ondemand” and can change its route at will. We envision some access to other parts of town on a case-by-case basis, especially Tucker Avenue.
5. As we are interested in providing a useful service for the Town of Friday Harbor, we propose a “Cost Plus” concept, in which the budget is only the low estimate of revenue and the high estimate of expenses.
The service will be owned by a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation registered with the state and federal governments. Probable directors include Charles Anderson, Curt VanHyning, Joyce Sobel and Pam Fry. The service will be operated by Friday Harbor Taxi, LLC, which will not participate in any surplus and will work to mitigate costs.
Service hours contemplated:
From 7 AM to 7 PM, Monday – Saturday