‘The worst it’s ever been’: Vashon residents voice frustrations with troubled ferry route

Sep 18, 2023, 12:56 PM

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

State legislators are probably going to get an earful yet again from Vashon Island residents about the major issues many of them see on their ferry route that runs from Fauntleroy to Vashon and Southworth.

On Monday morning, an issue with a ferry forced it to leave the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route to unload vehicles at Pier 52 in Seattle.

The issues on this ferry line have been a point of complaint for years — long lines of vehicles at Fauntleroy are common, so much so that an entire Facebook group is dedicated to it and other issues on the ferry route.

Many ferry riders have also complained that at times, boats do not travel at full capacity.

On Monday night, citizens are going to take their complaints right to state lawmakers.

Rachel Ehlers is one of the people who commutes back and forth. She posed a simple question back at KIRO 7′s crew regarding the ferry and reliability: “What are we paying for?”

Our crew also met Stephanie Kollar, who lives in West Seattle, but spent Monday morning waiting for a friend to sail over from Vashon. She admitted that doing the opposite can be trying when it comes to catching the ferry.

“You kind of take what you can get — and they’re really great, but you kind of show up and hope you get on close to the right enough time,” said Kollar.

Even Kollar admits that “close to the right enough time” is a far cry from a ferry that gets her friend to their visits “on time.”

It’s why state legislators and Washington State Ferries will face the public on Vashon. They will hear residents, parents, and businesses who’ve complained for years that the line was, and still is, unreliable.

Ryan O’Neal, a Vashon Island resident, was catching the ferry early Monday morning heading to Vashon and echoed the feeling that many people have: that the ferry route is not the most reliable.

“I would say one could agree,” he said.

Rachel Ehlers also was taking the ferry back to Vashon early Monday and lamented that the reliability factor — or lack thereof —continues to be an issue.

“I’ve been commuting back and forth for 20 years. This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Ehlers.

Monday morning, a WSF alert said the ferry Cathlamet at one point was unable to unload vehicles, so it had to go to Pier 52 in Seattle to unload, causing delays on the route. The Cathlamet eventually returned to the route and even docked and unloaded vehicles at Fauntleroy around 8 a.m.

Despite that, some people have said children have been stranded due to issues on the ferry route. They also say emergency vehicles have been delayed and businesses’ bottom lines are getting hit when it comes to costs and dealing with the ferries.

Ehlers — who says her family runs a business on Vashon — is unsure if another meeting can solve things.

“It’s taking all day to get employees there, it takes all day to get supplies over, losing hours and hours…I should go, we all should go (to the meeting), but generally, when I’ve been to these meetings in the past, it’s just a rant fest,” said Ehlers.

This all comes after other lines in the ferry system had issues.

The Edmonds-Kingston route had to go down to one boat last week due to a mechanical issue on a ferry, and the Bainbridge route had a vehicle ban for six days due to construction at the Bainbridge Island terminal.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Vashon Island High School.

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‘The worst it’s ever been’: Vashon residents voice frustrations with troubled ferry route