‘It’s ferry Tetris’: Washington ferry issues leave passengers stranded overnight

Nov 1, 2023, 6:44 AM

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

Washington’s fleet of ferries has mounting problems and officials told us there’s no end in sight as to when these problems will be solved. Right now only 14 of the state’s 21 ferries are up and running. That means seven of them are currently out of service.

The most recent ferry to be taken off its route is the Chimicum. It was docked over the weekend after a rod got caught in one of its engines. Ian Sterling from Washington State Ferries said they moved the Issaquah from the Edmonds Kingston crossing to the Seattle Bremerton crossing to make up for the loss.

“It’s ferry Tetris right and there’s no good solutions but you can leave Bremerton with zero boats, zero service and that’s not going to make people very happy and it’s not fair to that route,” Sterling said.

The Edmonds Kingston crossing is now down to just one boat when it usually operates two. Sterling also said there is a possibility the fleet could be down another boat come December, but they’re doing everything they can to keep routes open and running. He said the true remedy would be getting more boats, but that’s still another two to three years down the road.

On top of that, there are staffing issues. Malachi Belluscio lives on Vashon Island and told us he tried to get the last ferry out of Fauntleroy Monday night but learned when he got there it had been canceled.

“To not have a way home is really an awful feeling,” he said. “Especially when it was like wicked cold last night and we don’t have blankets in the car.”

Belluscio said he and his coworker had to car camp until the next morning when they could catch one of the early morning ferries. He said ferry workers told him the cancellation was due to staffing and suggested they camp until the next morning.

“It seems a little crazy that you know they can’t figure it out and whatever they’re doing it isn’t a good solution,” Belluscio said.

Sterling confirmed that it was a staffing issue.

“Crewing continues to be a concern for us. We just don’t have the people we need to run the boats,” Sterling said.

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‘It’s ferry Tetris’: Washington ferry issues leave passengers stranded overnight