CHOKEPOINTS

Ferry riders won’t accept solutions at troubled West Seattle terminal

Jun 16, 2016, 6:57 AM | Updated: 8:36 am

fauntleroy, Labor day weekend, spread ashes...

Washington state ferry. (Ben Tesch, Flickr)

(Ben Tesch, Flickr)

The Vashon Island ferry run is plagued with problems. The boats often run late and they often leave with empty spaces. When the state tries to make changes, riders get upset.

Here is the reality for this ferry run — the Fauntleroy Terminal in West Seattle is too small to handle today’s traffic load. The ferry runs in a triangle, serving destinations at Vashon and Southworth, and the schedule really doesn’t work anymore. It hasn’t been changed in 15 years.

Related: Over-taxed ferry terminal has advantages, major challenges

“We’re stuck at a terminal that is not big enough,” said Ian sterling, spokesperson for the state ferry system. “People in West Seattle probably don’t want to see a larger ferry terminal. And we’re in a neighborhood so your chances of expanding or adding a toll booth or an extra holding lane are challenging. Some of the issues here are going to continue for some time.”

“Do you try for on-time performance — leaving on time — or do you try to fill every single boat all the way?” he said. “Those are some of the conflicts set up here. It’s kind of an either/or (situation) or a balance.”

But changes prompt complaints. A new ticketing system aimed at speeding up loading was implemented last month. It only lasted three weeks.

South Region Terminal Manager Shawn Vogt says riders did not like the new ticketing procedure.

“We’ve been doing it this way for 40-50 years down here,” Vogt said. “Over on Vashon people weren’t used to the change. And they felt the change physically — you were in line a little bit longer.”

Vogt says they’re trying to fix the system. Under the old system, pre-ticketed riders simply drove past the toll booth and had their tickets scanned in line.

But the scanners don’t work.

Worker Bruce tried up to four times with me to get the scanner to work. It didn’t. The new way was to have everyone stop at the toll booth, but the lines backed up. So now, we’re back to square one.

Sterling says a new schedule change implemented last weekend shows some promise. It gets rid of most of the multiple destination sailings, opting for direct routes.

“Your trip will be quicker but maybe there aren’t as frequent boats. So far, that seems to be working pretty well. We worked with the community to come up with this plan and we are hopeful that it will work out for the summer weekends. Then we can take a look at ways to make the schedule work for everybody.”

One other situation that plagues this run is the number of emergency calls from Vashon Island. Those calls have gone up about 80 percent over the last few years. Boats must wait or leave early for ambulances.

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Ferry riders won’t accept solutions at troubled West Seattle terminal