Ferryboat commuters are in it for the long haul

ESSEX With global warming at the forefront of debate and Lake Champlain Ferry Prices on the rise, its interesting to hear from those whose commute across the lake is just part of their daily routine. Wade Weathers, who lived in Charlotte, Vt. for 27 years and works in Burlington, Vt., decided to move to Essex on what he said was a whimsical impulse over a year ago. He now takes the Charlotte ferry to work every morning and back home again in the evening. According to Weathers, the number of commuters seems to be growing, and a good number of people bring their children from Essex or Willsboro to attend the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne, Vt. Weathers, who works as a regional manager for Landvest, Vt., said the ferries are what make it possible for homeowners to live in either New York or Vermont and commute to work. Had the ferry not been running year round, we wouldnt have moved. It allowed us to consider the option, he said. Adrea Gibbs, who works as the hospitality manager at Ben and Jerrys factory in Waterbury, Vt., has an even longer commute, starting and ending her days in Ausable Forks. Gibbs said if she catches the ferry right at the northern crossing to?South Hero, Vt., she can make the trip in an hour and half, but with winter weather conditions, it often takes up to two hours. She has been making the trip for two years and said when the job opportunity came up, it wasnt a hard decision to make. Ive never looked for something in a particular place, she said. Thats never been my MO. Gibbs originally hails from California, and said that she comes from a driving culture where it has always been a normal part of her work day, although in California, sometimes two hours is spent on a freeway going 15 feet. Ferry prices recently rose from $115 to $121.50 for a book of 10 tickets, but Weathers said commuters are the captive audience of both ferry ticket and gas prices. Sure you dont want things to increase, he said. The small but incremental price changes do take their toll to some degree, he explained, but the tickets are a necessary expense. Gibbs said that while its not a huge jump in price, its still a hit to her budget. I have to budget carefully, she said. But its my choice to drive. She added that the big jump in gas prices a while ago really affected her. That really killed me, she said. That was scary. Rising costs and long travel times aside, there are some upsides to commuting, especially with a ride across the scenic lake each day. The ferry ride is productive time, said Weathers who uses the crossing time to make phone calls, check emails, and set out a to do list. Its probably one of the prettiest commutes in the world. Adrea Gibbs also said she often enjoys the ferry ride as a chance to get work done and to go over her thoughts for the day. And on the way home she uses the trip to debrief. When I get home, Im ready to be home. Regular commuters also may get to know the ferry crews, crossing between New York and Vermont at about the same times each day. Weathers described the crew as wonderful and extremely helpful, and recounted a time where he was with an important business client and they had narrowly missed the ferry. At that point, Weathers said the ferry boat was probably about 500 yards away, and upon seeing him, the crew turned around and came back. Weathers said the business client with him at the time thought we walked on water here. Gibbs similarly recounted a story where a Lake Champlain Ferries crew member pointed out that one of her tires was low, and when she had it checked, she discovered a larger problem with her car. Who knows what could have happened, she said. While for some the commute is just a part of the day, Gibbs said, Its not a lifestyle everyone can deal with. The one regret she contends with is the impact of her vehicle in terms of pollutants. Ben and Jerrys has a big initiative involving global warming, said Gibbs. Im probably twice as sensitive because of that. She did say thats why she makes sure to keep her vehicle in top condition. Its not doing as bad of things to the environment as it could.

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