Nearly three weeks after Washington State Ferries officials implemented new loading procedures at the Fauntleroy dock in an attempt to help boats leave on time and filled, the procedures have been abandoned.
According to Washington State Ferries (WSF) spokesman Ian Sterling, the processes that were implemented on May 23 and involved a bypass lane around the tollbooths during peak hours as well as the distribution of colored papers designating Southworth-bound vehicles from Vashon-bound vehicles, “drove people nuts.”
As of last Friday, loading procedures returned to the way they were before the change. Once again, passengers with pre-purchased tickets will be waved through the tollbooth and their tickets will be scanned on the dock. Passengers who do not have tickets must stop to buy them at the tollbooth.
“We have learned from passenger feedback and direct observation that the new procedures were not working,” a Thursday evening alert from WSF indicated.
The changes came after islanders voiced longtime concerns over the loading process at the Fauntleroy dock, that boats were leaving with empty spaces and were leaving late.
However, after changes were implemented, Vashon commuters began voicing opinions and complaints about the new procedures. Many said that the processes were actually complicating the loading more and were creating even worse delays.
Greg Beardsley, head of Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee, said earlier this month that islanders were under the impression that loading changes would not involve any more paperwork and would streamline the process, but that’s not what happened.
Sterling agreed that there were problems the new processes did not address.
“There were several things that this (new process) was meant to address and it didn’t address them,” Sterling said.
He said that the underlying problems with the Fauntleroy dock stem from the fact that the current schedule is 15 years old and was created at a time when there were “smaller boats, much less traffic and 80 percent fewer medical transports.” He also said that the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route has the most fare discrepancies of any WSF route, likely due to the fact that some tickets are purchased and scanned at the booth, while others are scanned by hand on the dock.
“These factors create conflict between maintaining the schedule and filling the boats,” the WSF alert stated.
Sterling said that schedule overhauls will take time and that a larger dock at Fauntleroy is not likely, as the city of Seattle and residents of West Seattle do not want or need it.
WSF officials will now go back to the drawing board and conduct more meetings with the public and ferry advisory committees before trying to come up with solutions.
WSF has also announced that come the end of the month, wi-fi will no longer be available onboard any ferry.
The summer sailing schedule also began on Sunday.