In what alternate moral universe is it ethical to soak the public for a public service, the ferry system, by using “dynamic pricing?”
As explained in the Sept. 6 edition of the Juneau Empire, dynamic pricing is the practice of selling the same product at a different price depending on time or demand. In other words, “dynamic pricing” is a tool to maximize profit.
We have come to expect the egregious “dynamic pricing” from corporate behemoths like those in the airline and hotel industries which believe their responsibility is to their shareholders and for whom the “bottom line” has become paramount.
A state-run system is supposed to be run for the benefit of the people, and yet this administration is instead behaving like a private industry whose only motive is profit. And remember, the Alaska Marine Highway System is part of the federal National Highway System. Shall we also impose “dynamic pricing” as a toll on the Seward Highway when it is especially busy?
Who exactly can we thank for this assertion that emulating the airline industry, a private for-profit entity, is a good thing for a state-run public entity? Is “dynamic pricing” the way that public servants demonstrate their understanding of the definition of public service?
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Commissioner of the Department of Transportation John MacKinnon are responsible for the ferry system. Dunleavy has made his position clear by cutting the ferry budget by 31% without even considering rescinding the oil tax credits, Alaska’s gift to the oil industry, or reinstating the income tax.
When I called the Alaska Marine Highway System recently to speak to the executive director, I discovered that there is no executive director. That person was fired two months ago by Dunleavy. Is this an intentional strategy to weaken the ferry system?
The Alaska Marine Highway System is part of the Alaska Department of Transportation, whose motto is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.” This is an ironic motto given that Southeast and coastal Alaska are certainly not moving with the drastic cuts to service, with the elimination of Prince Rupert as a port of call and with villages and small towns like Cordova, Kodiak and Angoon now left high and dry for months at a time in the winter.
With drastic funding cuts to the ferry system, an executive director fired and no new one hired, with a schedule that hurts everyone, and with “dynamic pricing,” an observer might wonder if the goal of all of this for the Dunleavy administration is to destroy this transportation system that directly serves Coastal and Southeast Alaska and indirectly serves the entire state of Alaska.
But then why would that be the goal? It is almost as if those who currently hold positions of power are punishing the people who use the ferry —schoolchildren, sports teams, people traveling for medical appointments, for shopping, for visiting relatives, for vacationing, for work, for meetings. The list of travelers and their reasons is a very long one.
The AMHS is an essential service that is being decimated piece by piece. The idea of “dynamic pricing” is only the latest assault. Why is this happening? Who exactly benefits? Who is being served?
• Bridget Smith resides in Juneau.