After seeking input from ferry passengers to help shape its long-range plan, Washington State Ferries has shared the findings of public meetings and a broad survey, concluded in May. WSF’s report outlines areas identified by the public as means of improving service into the year 2040.
With 869 total responses, public comment generally focused on key points such as increased service reliability and the need to build new vessels while maintaining an aging fleet; ideas for how to manage pressure on ridership, such as expanding vehicle reservations and the consideration of new routes; suggestions for improving overall accessibility, including offering real-time schedule information, and reducing carbon emissions in the interest of climate change.
“As the region continues to grow, we need a ferry system that promotes mobility and allows people to thrive and participate as active members of their community while supporting our natural environment,” said WSF in the community engagement summary.
Overwhelmingly, commenters addressed the importance of standby vessels to avoid service disruption. Additionally, riders feel strongly about additional passenger-only service, as well as making improvements to transit connecting with the ferries and offering more accommodations for people with disabilities. Mobile ticketing and text alerts were also favored among many of the survey responders, with some asking for better Orca Card integration and a simplified fare system.
Many of those who responded to the survey were concerned about WSF’s ability to sustain service in the event of an emergency, as well as new challenges due to rising sea levels and resulting effects on existing infrastructure.
Initial public outreach included feedback from islanders, with WSF officials leading an open house at Vashon High School on April 24.
A draft working plan will be released to the public sometime later this year and be open to public comment for 45 days, with the second round of community meetings occurring in the fall. The final draft plan will be submitted to the state legislature in January.
“Over the next few months, we will continue assessing system needs and potential service scenarios and investments. We will consider our customers’ priorities, along with technical analysis, as we develop the draft plan,” said WSF in the recent report. For more information about the long-range plan, see wsdot.wa.gov/ferries and click on “Plans, Publications and Statistics.”