WASHINGTON — Washington State Ferries officials are addressing riders’ concerns amid the agency’s proposed fare changes and construction of new vessels. They are in the middle of a series of public meetings to address those challenges.
Ahead of peak summer ferry service, cars and walk-on passengers are already packing on and off the Edmonds to Kingston afternoon ferry.
Kelson Newsom is a regular passenger on the route for work. He said he was glad to see it return to pre-pandemic service levels in recent months.
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“Very good. It’s easier to access across the water and get to work on time and get back in a timely manner,” Newsom said.
In a Zoom meeting Thursday, ferry staff provided updates about the changes passengers can expect this summer and in the coming years. They are scrambling to recruit licensed deck officers amid their staff shortage and are transitioning the fleet to hybrid-electric ferries.
“We’re building new vessels, we’re converting new vessels and electrifying terminals,” said WSF Assistant Secretary Patty Rubstello.
Passengers asked about a reservation service for the Edmonds to Kingston route to help with long lines. It’s something officials say needs to be discussed further.
“The long-term plan we completed before the end of covid also calls for the possible addition of a third boat in a few years, so we will review all of that,” added Director of Planning Customer and Government Relations John Vezina.
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Ridership is growing, but officials expect it will be years before it reaches pre-pandemic levels. Riders like Newsom said he’ll adapt, knowing his usual 20-minute wait in line will likely get longer soon.
“It’s more cars, but you have to get here earlier and make sure you have a spot available for you,” Newsom explained.
Officials also presented three proposals to increase fares on all routes. The public can weigh in before state ferries takes the final proposal to a transportation commission on June 21. See details here.
So far, more than 300 people have joined the first four meetings of state ferries. See the schedule for upcoming meetings here.