What do Washington state ferries and “It’s a Small World” have in common?

Obese Americans.  That is what they have in common.

According to The Log, a southern California boating newspaper, ferry operators have had to adjust the number of people approved to ride aboard due to new US Coast Guard rules.    Most of the ferries operating in the U.S. were built many years ago, and the assumed rule for an “average passenger” was 160 pounds. The Coast Guard has adjusted their official “average passenger” weight to 185 pounds.  This will have a material revenue impact on the ferry system at large, as they will not be allowed to take as many passengers on popular and often sold-out routes.

This reminds me of the often discussed/urban legend about the “real reason” that Disneyland closed “It’s a small world” for over a year.  “It’s a Small World” was built in 1965 and the size of the little boats was not designed to handle today’s size of visitor. According to a few disney-watching blogs, Disney closed the ride to build new boats with more room and floatation.

I hear giggles at stories like these, but it also reminds of the economic consequences of obesity.  We typically measure the obesity problem in healthcare costs with the myriad, and seemingly increasing number, of issues for which obesity is a known risk factor.


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