Friday, June 11, 2004

Wi-Fi But No Burgers On Puget Sound Ferries

The Washington State Ferry System launched its new Wi-Fi service today, becoming the first ferry system in the world to offer passengers continuous net access. The M/V Klickitat on the Port Townsend to Keystone run now has service covering its entire route. Seven additional ferries on four routes are scheduled join the Klickitat by the end of the year. All three major Wi-Fi protocols, 802.11a, b and g, are supported. Wi-Fi access will be free until the fall, with fees to kick in after you get addicted.

Unfortunately, you still can't get a burger to chomp on while you read your e-mail on the Seattle/Bremerton, Seattle/Bainbridge Island, Edmonds/Kingston, or San Juan Islands/Sidney B.C. runs. Cascade Concessions, the new food service vendor for these routes, has been unable to reach a contract settlement with the Inland Boatmen's Union, which represents the food service employees on the ferries.

There has been no food service on the four runs for six months. Now, I recognize the value of unions, but this strikes me as a lose-lose-lose proposition for the vendor, the workers, and the passengers and crews, who have been left with nothing but brown bags or vending machine food on ferry trips. Can someone say "Binding Arbitration?"


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