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Washington ferries to continue operating at half-capacity for summer

Washington ferries will operate on reduced capacity this summer. (WSDOT)

Riders on weekend ferries got a taste of what the summer is going to look like this year: two to three hour waits at the docks, as the service crawls at half its normal capacity.

Washington ferries to stick with reduced schedule ‘until further notice’

The Edmonds-Kingston route and the Mukilteo-Clinton route, two of the more popular weekend routes in the system, were down to just one boat each all weekend because they didn’t have enough people to work them.

The ferry system is down 100 to 150 workers who are in the high-risk category for COVID-19. The ferry system’s Ian Sterling said that has left bosses scrambling to find enough workers to man the boats.

“Despite the valiant efforts of our dispatch center that made hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of calls trying to fill the jobs, they weren’t able to do that to staff the vessels where they needed to be to satisfy the Coast Guard requirements,” he said.

And while workers have been siphoned off from Seattle-Bainbridge ferries due to a lack of demand to fill positions elsewhere, it just couldn’t happen this weekend.

“They joined a lot of the other routes in going to 50% capacity,” Sterling said.

Washington ferry ridership craters amid coronavirus crisis

Sterling also warned that this is what we can expect moving forward. Even with demand returning on the weekends, the ferry system is going to stay at 50% capacity system-wide this summer.

“We just don’t have the crew, the vessels, the funding or the demand the rest of the week to restore service at this point and time,” he said.

If you are planning a ferry ride, be sure to check the ferry system website. It has all the latest cancellations and updated sailing schedules.

Just know you probably won’t be able to roll up to your favorite dock and immediately catch a boat this summer.

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