State ferries enters busy summer season with marked improvement

The Edmonds-Kingston ferry. (File photo)

As the crewing situation improves at Washington State Ferries, the sailing cancellation rate has been cut in half over the past year, according to a news release.

That’s good news for the hundreds of thousands of people that will take to the Salish Sea for the unofficial start of the busy summer travel season. State ferry ridership is expected to approach 350,000 over Memorial Day weekend, from Thursday, May 23, through Monday, May 27.

Travelers can download the WSDOT mobile app for up-to-the-minute service information, including rider alerts and a real-time map to track the boats. People boarding in a vehicle should be prepared for long wait times and are encouraged to:

• Check terminal conditions before arriving at the dock. Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes also offer vehicle reservations.

• Avoid travel during peak times. Early morning or late-night sailings are usually less crowded. Midweek sailings are also a good option.

• Consider alternative methods of transportation. There is always capacity for those not traveling with a vehicle with minimal to no wait on all sailings.

Increase in completed sailings

For several years now, WSF has been vigorously recruiting, hiring and training employees to increase crewing during a global shortage of mariners. Because of those efforts, the system completed 99.1% of sailings scheduled in January through April of this year, up from 97.8% during the first four months of 2023.

“I want to thank hardworking employees from all across WSF serving this holiday weekend to ensure customers get to their destinations safely and efficiently,” said Steve Nevey, head of WSF. “We still have a lot of work to do to strengthen and stabilize our workforce and our fleet, but these employees continue to deliver for the people of this state.”

Busy travel times

People boarding a ferry by vehicle can expect the busiest sailings will likely be westbound (or onto an island) Thursday through Saturday, May 23-25, and eastbound (or off island) Saturday through Monday, May 25-27.

Holiday schedules

On Memorial Day, May 27, there will be a few holiday schedule changes for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands, Edmonds/Kingston, Mukilteo/Clinton, Point Defiance/Tahlequah and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes.

The Seattle/Bainbridge Island run will operate a Saturday timetable and the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route will run on a two-boat weekend timetable. Holiday sailings are marked on the schedules for each route.

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan for potential holiday travel backups and delays by checking real-time traffic information on the WSDOT mobile app or online using the WSDOT travel map feature.

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