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Washington ferry ridership drops to lowest levels in almost 50 years

Newly-released data reveals that in 2020, the Washington ferry system saw its lowest ridership numbers since Gerald Ford was in the White House.

Washington ferry ridership fell 41% in 2020, with only 14 million customers. Those numbers have not been that low since 1975.

“We saw a drop of about 10 million customers over the course of 2020,” the ferry service’s Justin Fujioka said.

For the first time in the agency’s 60 years of operations, the boats carried more vehicles (7.6 million) than passengers (6.4 million).

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The loss of daily commuters and tourists created an 80% drop in walk-on passengers, with the Seattle-Bainbridge route experiencing the largest overall year-over-year decline of 64%.

“As we sit here in January, we’re still running only about 60% of our pre-pandemic levels,” Fujioka said. “Vehicles are running higher, at about 70% of 2019 numbers, but our walk-ons remain at 20% of 2019 numbers.”

With the walk-on traffic down so much, the Mukilteo-Clinton route took the top spot as the most-used for the year. That’s a spot usually always reserved for the Seattle-Bainbridge route.

The international sailing between Anacortes and British Columbia only operated four days last year because of the travel restrictions into Canada.

Overall, the system is still not operating at normal capacity. The state is hoping to add more service as demand returns.

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