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Is line cutting at Washington ferry terminals getting worse?

A long line of waiting travelers at the Mukilteo ferry terminal. (Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest)

If you ask regular ferry riders if line cutting has gotten worse, you’ll probably hear a collective “yes.”

Highest ferry ridership in history of Washington

We’ve heard a lot about ferry lines and line-cutting this summer, which makes sense because passenger counts jump about 50 percent during the prime vacation season. Residents in Kingston are tired of people cutting the line and blocking access to their homes and businesses, but they aren’t alone. Every ferry dock has this problem, and there is only so much enforcement the state patrol can do.

“A lot of times it’s just people who don’t understand the system, don’t travel a lot,” said State Ferry spokesman Ian Sterling. “Once in a while, it’s someone who decides their time is more important than yours and cuts into line.”

State Trooper Kevin Fortino said the best thing you can do is report any driver you see breaking the law by cutting the line.

“There is a HERO line in place which is run by the Washington State Department of Transportation,” he said. “We urge drivers to call that number.”

There were 546 calls to 877-764-HERO this past July. That’s more than double the calls from July 2018. Another 200 emails were recorded. August is always the heaviest month for complaints so we’ll have to see if the trend continues when those numbers are made available.

And patience is running thin with line cutters. There was a fight at the Fauntleroy dock two weeks ago, where a gun was pulled, during a line cutting confrontation. We’ve heard from regulars that these confrontations are on the rise. Sterling has heard the same thing.

“People just get frustrated,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a road rage situation sometimes. If you cut somebody off in a ferry line that’s been waiting there for a number of minutes or an hour, it usually doesn’t go over very well.”

And Trooper Fortino said you should never confront someone over this, like we saw in West Seattle.

“You don’t know who you’re contacting,” he said. “You don’t know the potential there.”

You can also notify a WSF worker or a state trooper when you get to the dock.

The penalty for line cutting went up a few bucks this year. It will cost you $139.

Mukilteo usually leads the pack with the most HERO line complaints. Edmonds is usually second. Bainbridge and Kingston jockey for third and fourth.

With fewer vacationers now hitting the queue, and now that we’re passed Labor Day, the ferry system is hoping the complaints and the line cutting will fall off. The system usually sees a 20-percent drop in passengers after the holiday.

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