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Like many agencies in Alaska and the nation, DOT&PF is facing unprecedented challenges such as workforce shortages, aging fleet, and supply chain issues. DOT&PF has been working to adapt to these dynamic challenges and continues to work toward reliable and predictable service.
In October 2022, DOT&PF launched the Charting the Course | Reimagining AMHS Program to guide the system towards a thriving and healthy transportation system. The program's primary focus has been on stabilizing the system while providing transparency through monitoring and reporting of critical system elements—our crew, our vessels, and the financial resources to support service.
The Reimagining AMHS program is a phased effort to improve service over time, focusing first on increasing the reliability of existing services and then moving to add additional services as critical system elements are available. The program aims to meet service level targets over time, as established by the legislature and Governor. These targets are based on crewing availability, fleet capacity, and budget constraints. Throughout the program we will continue to develop, monitor, and report on system health and progression. Three logical service phases have been identified as a part of the program: Stabilization, Recovery, and Full Steam Ahead.
Stabilization: In this phase, important metrics that impact the level of service have been identified, and an initial system health check was performed by gathering a baseline for these metrics. Using this baseline, system health is continually monitored to inform operating decisions. This phase will include weekly/frequent updates to the public updating them on these important metrics.
Recovery: In the recovery phase, system improvements begin to take hold which has a positive impact on system health and service levels. Public updates will develop into a regular pattern, but less frequent than in the Stabilization phase.
Full Steam Ahead: By this phase, services will be restored to their budgeted levels, and the system can move towards growth. Updates to the public will be provided as needed to communicate ongoing progress.
In each phase, DOT&PF will closely monitor system health metrics in the three critical system elements of crew, vessel, and budget. Combined these metrics provide a system health check, and as service levels are improved, system health checks will continue on a regular basis to ensure that incremental improvements in the level of service do not negatively impact the reliability of the system as a whole.
Crew: Employee morale, the happiness and well-being of our crews and shoreside staff, is an important indicator of our ability to retain our people and the overall health of our system. The availability of crew positions and relief pool points to our ability to meet the planned schedule, as well as any increase in service level.
Budget: The deployment of financial resources for service and maintenance should align with projections of state appropriation levels.
Fleet: Needed maintenance, overhauls, and capital projects are balanced with operating needs for safe and reliable vessels.
DOT&PF has been reporting on these critical system elements to the public on a regular basis. The status of these critical system elements is shown in the graphic below. Currently, though the budget is available, our system is behind in vessel maintenance, with an aging fleet. Most critically, the system is suffering severe staffing shortages, and those crew that is available are overworked, often needing to forgo vacation days in order to keep ships sailing.
Supporting our communities is critical to AMHS. As a result, mitigating measures will be implemented to help support our communities until the system reaches Full Steam Ahead status. These mitigating measures will fall into three main categories: Fares, Communications, Policies.
We are excited to embark on this new journey with you and look forward to building trust. We will be reaching out again soon with more information as the Program progresses.