Washington State Ferries released the latest draft of a new triangle route schedule proposal on Monday afternoon, starting the clock on a 25-day public comment period that will include open houses in Fauntleroy, Vashon and Southworth. The ultimate goal is to finalize a new schedule in December to be implemented in the spring with the reassignment of a third 124-car Issaquah class boat to the route.
An initial draft schedule that featured reduced direct sailings between Fauntleroy and Vashon as well as multiple “layover” sailings was presented to the Triangle Route Task Force and all three advisory committees last month and was met with extensive criticism — both for the schedule itself and the lack of outreach to stakeholders.
“One thing we really want to get across is that first draft was really rough,” WSF spokeswoman Hadley Rodero said. “They were taking some ideas for the morning, and some for the afternoon and stitching them together. That schedule hadn’t really been intended to be an official draft.”
The “Sailing Schedule Revision” released Monday, however, is, in Rodero’s words “a full schedule that the planning team thinks is a good, complete schedule that was created using feedback from all sources.”
The proposal, which can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ybtb99uo, still includes a reduced number of direct sailings between Vashon and Fauntleroy, specifically in the late afternoon. With this proposal, anyone wanting or needing to go off island via the north end between 5:45 and 8:20 p.m. would have to go to Southworth first, adding a significant amount of time to that trip.
Sailings between Vashon and Southworth in the proposal have been increased in the afternoon, presumably to accommodate the westbound trafffic created by the lack of direct Fauntleroy trips.
There are also fewer direct sailings from Fauntleroy to Southworth, though the reverse trip has added direct sailings — but longer wait times between them.
The number of sailings from Fauntleroy to Vashon remains unchanged from the current schedule in the new proposal, though departure times have been adjusted throughout to provide more dwell time.
“This schedule will allow us to fully load boats in the afternoon from Fauntleroy,” WSF Senior Planning Manager Ray Deardorf said of the draft.
“We’re really hoping to accomplish a revision to implement next spring when the bigger ferry joins the route,” she added, “to take advantage of that, and get people out of Fauntleroy in the afternoons.”
Acknowledging an intial lack of outreach in that first attempt, planner Justin Resnick said that this time was different.
“I’ve spoken with the school district and fire department,” he said. “And I don’t view those conversations as just a one-time thing.”
Not content to rely solely on a conversation, the Vashon Island School District board made a proclamation to WSF, outlining the importance of maintaining direct, similarly timed sailings (to the current schedule), given the number of commuter students and employees that come to the island for school and work.
Specifically, the district requested that the 7:05 and 8:25 a.m. direct sailings from Fauntleroy, as well as the 3:25 and 4:35 p.m. sailings from Vashon, and, the 9:30 and 10:40 a.m. trips from Fauntleroy — for Late Start days — be maintained. According to the revised draft, they have been.
Superintendent Slade McSheehy stated that while reduced and layover sailings would be detrimental to the district, its students and employees, he felt that there were others in the community who would suffer more, such as seniors who need off-island medical care.
Vashon Island Fire & Rescue Chief Charlie Krimmert explained that his conversation with Resnick was a little different given that a ferry can be called to the island for an emergency medical transport at any time.
“It was a dialogue,” he said. “But I did emphasize that getting my paramedics/EMTs back to the island in a timely manner after a transport was the most important thing for us. That surprised them.”
The route’s schedule has not seen any major changes since 2003, and the proposal states that WSF reviewed close to 500 comments over the past year regarding priorities to consider in the development of a new one.
Public comments are requested and may be made in several ways:
• fill out a comment card at one of the open house events
• email comments to WSFPlanning@wsdot.wa.gov
• send comments by letter to Washington State Ferries, c/o Hadley Rodero, WSF Communications, 2901 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121
Vashon’s open house takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Vashon High School.
The comment period closes on Nov. 9.