Washington State Ferries will host a public meeting on the island at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at Vashon High School.
The meeting is part of WSF’s spring series in which officials will talk about a variety of issues: proposed changes to fares; implementation of the 2040 Long-Range Plan, including what the Legislature funded and what it did not; the new schedule and the upcoming renovation of the Fauntleroy dock.
The first half of the meeting will include a panel presentation with WSF executives and staff sharing information with islanders, according to WSF spokesperson Hadley Rodero. Included in the mix will be head of ferries Amy Scarton, Senior Planning Manager Ray Deardorf and Director of Government Relations John Vezina, among others.
The second portion of the meeting will be given over to comments and questions. The same format is being used at all nine meetings WSF is conducting in the series, Rodero said, noting that the meetings are split roughly in half, between the presentation and community questions/comments.
Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee chair Greg Beardsley said that group intends to attend and ask WSF for improvements to the two-boat schedule so that it prioritizes Vashon.
Committee members also intend to ask for a few adjustments to the new schedule. Those requests include improved filling of the 3:30 p.m. sailing from Fauntleroy with more Vashon-bound vehicles as well as changes to the 4:10 p.m. sailing from Fauntleroy, which goes first to Southworth and then to Vashon.
These sailings were the subject of discussion at an April 24 meeting the Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee held. One islander there, a teacher in West Seattle who commutes with his two toddlers, expressed frustration with long commutes because of it. He noted that on a recent day, he had been in line at 3:15 p.m. and on the dock by 3:30 p.m., but he did not get home until 5:45 p.m. because he was on the vessel that went to Southworth first.
Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee member Justin Hirsch spoke up about this issue at that time.
“The 4:10 sailing direct to Southworth has to go,” he said.
He noted that he believes WSF should commit to the dual destination schedule it established and not deviate from it by sending a vessel to Southworth first.
Hirsch also plans to ask for changes to the loading procedures when vessels start to run late, including loading passengers only after cars get on and having cars pull all the way to the gate while waiting to board the vessel. Those two changes would help save significant time when the system is stressed, he said.
In related news, Washington State Ferries recently contracted with the Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC) on a small study regarding operations at the Fauntleroy dock.
This three-month study — separate from the TRAC study the Legislature commissioned that will begin in July — includes a look at operations at Fauntleroy now that the new schedule is in place and is also intended to provide suggestions on how WSF might encourage more people to leave their cars behind.
TRAC Director Mark Hallenbeck said that the study so far has shown that while it used to be that the ticket booth slowed ferry loading, the challenge now to filling boats comes with loading the final portion.
He noted that filling the first two-thirds of the vessel is relatively easy, but because Vashon cars cannot be blocked and ferry workers do not know how many Vashon and Southworth cars are in line, filling the remainder of the boat efficiently is difficult — that is the puzzle TRAC is working on addressing.
This study is expected to conclude in June, before TRAC’s larger study of the Triangle Route begins.
Hallenbeck will be at the May 30 meeting, but does not intend to address the group, he said.