More than 260 people turned out to Washington State Ferries’ meeting Wednesday night regarding the final draft of the triangle route schedule slated to go into effect in March. Ferries will accept comments about this draft through Dec. 18.
Ferries has not made substantial changes to the schedule since 2003. It did so now in part to better accommodate a larger ferry this spring and to address current travel patterns, particularly the long lines at Fauntleroy and boats that sail partially full despite waiting vehicles. Indications from Southworth and Fauntleroy representatives are that they believe the new schedule will be an improvement over current service for their communities. Changes include eliminating single-destination sailings westbound from Fauntleroy in the afternoon commute and better alignment with the King County passenger-only boats for Southworth commuters. Most routes will see the same number of sailings per day or an increase. The exception is Vashon to Fauntleroy, which drops from 34 sailings per day to 30. While Ferries made some adjustments to the evening commute from Vashon to Fauntleroy from previous drafts, a long gap remains to sail from Vashon to West Seattle. The latest version of the schedule shows a ferry leaving at 6:45 p.m. and the next sailing not leaving until 8:20 p.m.
On Wednesday, WSF Communications Manager Hadley Rodero said that change is intended to get boats back as quickly as possible from Southworth to Fauntleroy to clear vehicles moving in the peak travel pattern.
“Our goal is to put the capacity where it needs to be (during peak hours) and still maintain connectivity and fill in gaps as much as possible,” she said.
In the public comment time at the end of meeting, some islanders raised concerns about the apparent reduction in service off the island. Others expressed the desire for Ferries to further evaluate the so-called pendulum schedule, which its proponents say would better serve all communities with evenly spaced runs throughout the day and night.
On Vashon, the interest in the schedule is large, and many islanders took a school shuttle bus over to the meeting, arranged by Rick Wallace, Steve Stockett and supporters of their effort, VashonsOnlyRoad. Following the meeting, Wallace said they are asking islanders to weigh in on the latest draft.
“I believe comments are really important. They are tabulated and are part of the public record,” he said.
He added that he and Stockett are hopeful that they will be able to meet with ferry officials in a working meeting regarding the pendulum schedule, accompaned by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Sen.-elect Joe Nguyen. Both representatives have indicated they would sit in on such a meeting, Wallace said.
Both Nguyen and Fitzgibbon attended Wednesday night. In a conversation following the meeting, Fitzgibbon said that he is intrigued by some recommendations from islanders, including the possibility of not charging for passengers at Fauntleroy in order to expedite the loading process. He also requested that islanders get in touch with him, both now and after the schedule is implemented, with specific problems they have so that he can advocate with Ferries to keep or restore specific runs. He noted that he planned to talk about the long gap in Vashon’s evening service with WSF’s Director of Government Relations John Vezina before he left that evening.
As of late Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the meeting, Rodero said she had received more than 30 comments. She added that ferry officials will wait until the comment period closes before taking action on potential revisions.
Comments are due Dec. 18. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be sent to the island’s elected officials at Joe.Fitzgibbon@leg.wa.gov, Eileen.Cody@leg.wa.gov and email@example.com.
See information about WSF’ schedule here.
This story is a preliminary version and will be updated.