Draft versions of new schedule options for the triangle route as proposed by WSF. (Courtesy Photo)

Draft versions of new schedule options for the triangle route as proposed by WSF. (Courtesy Photo)

WSF seeks comment on new draft schedules

In preparation for a change to the triangle route schedule next June,Washington State Ferries presented two draft options last week, one of which would substantially affect weekday morning service from Fauntleroy to Vashon and from Vashon to Southworth.

Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee will hold a meeting on Vashon next Wednesday evening and an open conversation time Thursday evening for islanders to learn more about the schedules and respond directly to WSF, which wants feedback about the schedules by the end of the month.

WSF presented the information Aug. 15 to a joint meeting of the Triangle Route Improvement Task Force and the three related ferry advisory committees. Now posted online, the presentation shows that in Option #2, after the 7:05 a.m. sailing from Fauntleroy until a 1:25 p.m. sailing, no boats would run directly to Vashon from the mainland. Rather, they would all travel to Southworth first, and then to Vashon, extending a 15-minute trip to more than 45 minutes. For example, a 7:40 a.m. boat from Fauntleroy would arrive at Southworth at 8:02 a.m. and then arrive at Vashon at 8:27 a.m. Similarly, passengers heading to the Kitsap Peninsula from Vashon would need to travel to Fauntleroy first during this time frame.

Calling this draft “a real bummer,” longtime Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee head Greg Beardsley said he did not understand WSF’s rationale.

“Why is WSF taking away our ‘road’ to benefit another community, who actually does have an option, whether they like it or not?” he said, after the meeting.

Beardsley noted that King County representatives, tradespeople and other workers, such as delivery drivers, are often on the morning sailings and would need to be paid for the time spent on the longer ferry rides. He added that he already has difficulty getting contractors to come to Vashon and expects this option would make that situation worse.

“I looked at this for hours and could not figure out what they think they are doing to solve the problem,” he added.

On Monday this week, WSF’s Justin Resnick, who drafted the schedules, said this option is structured to serve the peak morning commute pattern with vessels sailing from Southworth to Vashon to Fauntleroy and back to Southworth.

“People traveling from Vashon to Southworth or Fauntleroy to Vashon during this morning period would have service via ‘layover’ sailings, similar to people traveling from Southworth to Fauntleroy in the peak direction both in the morning and the afternoon,” he said via WSF spokesperson Hadley Rodero.

He added that while WSF recognizes that layover sailings involve longer travel time than a direct sailing, the system of “peak direction sailings” should allow WSF to move more people and cars with more regular departures via dual destination sailings than the current system of single destination sailings.

He added that he received feedback at last week’s meeting that the draft did not include direct sailings for people traveling in the non-peak direction in the morning and might even put them in a position to compete with people traveling in the peak direction.

“This feedback is extremely useful as WSF works toward formulating a draft schedule to bring to the public for broader outreach in October,” he said, noting that WSF plans to revisit the morning portion of Option #2 before it presents a new version for triangle route communities to comment on this fall.

The morning schedule of Option #1 is less drastic for Vashon. There would be a 7:25 a.m. departure from Southworth to Vashon then Fauntleroy instead of an 8:20 a.m. departure, for example. And there would be more than an hour gap in ferries leaving in the middle of the day, with a departure from Vashon to Fauntleroy at 11:30 a.m. then not again to 12:45 p.m.

Additionally, dwell time at Fauntleroy would be set at 20 minutes from its current range of 12.5 to 22.5 minutes.

Beyond those changes, the afternoon schedule in both proposals is not substantially different for commuters going with peak flow except for between 3 and 6 p.m., when there would no longer be single-destination sailings. This change is intended to help traffic flow at the Fauntleroy dock, where Southworth cars often block Vashon cars.

For commuters wanting to travel against the primary flow, however, it is another story. For example, both schedule options would have boats leaving Vashon directly to Fauntleroy at 3:25 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 7:20 p.m. and 8:20 p.m., but other sailings between those would go to Southworth before heading to Fauntleroy.

Notably, both afternoon schedules would have less capacity than the current schedule provides between 3 and 6 p.m., but in June, when the schedule is set to go into effect, a new, larger vessel is slated for the route, and that would add some capacity.

Islander Eric Beckman, who was recently appointed to the Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee and is serving as the committee’s delegate to the Triangle Route Task Force, said overall he sees a schedule built around predominant passenger flow: going east in the morning and west in the afternoon.

He acknowledged that the morning schedule of Option #2 would make trips longer for those coming to the island at that time and does not believe there has been enough outreach yet to people with commercial interests in the schedule. He stated, however, that he is particularly concerned about allotments on the vessels — how many Vashon and Southworth vehicles are allowed on each sailing.

“Allotments are the key to ensuring there is equitable distribution,” he said.

This element is not reflected in the schedule, he said, and could be readily changed one way or the other with more ease than the schedule itself.

WSF’s Hadley Rodero cautioned that the two schedules presented last week were drafts and could be changed considerably before WSF presents a proposed schedule for feedback this fall — islanders should expect that meeting in October. The Triangle Task Force will meet again next in November, when it will be tasked with reviewing the comments WSF received. In the meantime, islanders are invited to attend the meeting and open conversation time next week.

The Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee’s public meeting will be from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the Vashon Library, and Greg Beardsley will be available for further conversation about the schedule from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, also at the Vashon Library. People are encouraged to review the presentation, including the proposed schedules, before the meeting.

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