With summer nearly over, the ferry lines to reach Whidbey Island are dwindling.
Line cutting remains a salty issue for many regular island commuters, and for good reason.
During 2012, 523 line cutters were reported on the Mukilteo side of the ferry crossing, with the bulk in the peak summer months.
A total of 231 line cutters were reported to the HERO program, a division of the Washington Department of Transportation which also cites high-occupancy vehicle lane infractions, in June, July and August 2012.
With many Whidbey Island residents commuting off the island for work, seeing someone cruise past them after a long wait in the ferry line can be infuriating.
One Clinton resident was maddened after a ferry line cutter went unpunished, even after he reported the infraction to a Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division employee at the ticket booth.
“Now you’re not allowed to approach them, that’s assault,” said Ivan Solkey, a Clinton man who emailed David Moseley, the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division assistant secretary, about the ferry line cutting enforcement issue.
“There’s not even the possibility of public humiliation,” he said.
Ferries Division could not be reached for comment, but in an email to Solkey, Moseley said he empathized with the Clinton man’s irritation over line cutting.
“Having experienced this myself I know it can be frustrating,” Moseley wrote. “However, we cannot place our staff in the toll booths in the risky position of enforcer.”
State law limits what both employees and police can do to violators, he added.
“Unfortunately, the law requires (the Washington State Patrol) to witness the line cutting infraction in order for a ticket to be issued,” Moseley wrote.
When someone reports a ferry line cutter to the HERO program, usually by calling 1-877-764-HERO (4376), a first-time offender is sent a letter from Ferries Division officials. The purpose behind the letter is to educate ferry line cutters, rather than punish them.
“The letter informs the person that this action is illegal and attempts to provide education to the person as to the proper way to approach the toll booths,” Moseley wrote.
A second-time violator is sent a letter from the Washington State Patrol. If a third-time violator is reported, a $124 ticket is issued to the vehicle’s registered owner.
All HERO reports are based on license plate numbers.
But to Solkey, the program and the state laws that leave enforcement up to police is a poor means of dealing with the problem.
“They want control, but they don’t want to be in charge,” said Solkey, who has commuted on the ferry for 20 years.
“It just seems to get worse. They won’t take accountability for any problem.”