KIRO NEWSRADIO

Vashon Islanders can’t wait another 4 years for new ferry

Jun 4, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: Jun 6, 2024, 12:00 pm

Photo: Islanders for Ferry Action, a community organization based on Vashon Island, said that small...

Islanders for Ferry Action, a community organization based on Vashon Island, said that small businesses are struggling to make ends meet because of the frequent delays and outages with the ferry system to the island. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

KIRO Newsradio shared last November that the community of Vashon Island was in crisis because of the Washington State Ferry (WSF) system. Vashon demanded that state officials take meaningful action to address the problems.

Previous coverage: Vashon Island struggling economically due to state ferry crisis

Islanders for Ferry Action, a community organization based on Vashon Island, said that small businesses are struggling to make ends meet because of the frequent delays and outages with the ferry system to the island.

According to Amy Drayer, Director of Islanders for Ferry Action, small business owners said they are struggling to thrive and are tired of sitting by and waiting for the state to fix the problems.

“We often had one boat service to Vashon Island. This occurred during our annual Strawberry Festival event. We went down to one boat service, we had multiple interruptions,” Drayer said. “And, of course, that’s a big example. When disruptions happen at pivotal times, it makes a big impact.”

Drayer shared updated results from the latest state agency survey which showed 70% dissatisfaction among Vashon Island correspondents.

“You know, we understand that our riders have struggled in this ferry crisis. And we continue on Vashon to identify this as a crisis. We have not seen really improvement in service,” she said.

Drayer said as the community heads into the summer season, there will be more shortfalls and delays, furthering the crisis.

“So for us, a crisis is over Mother’s Day weekend when we went down to one boat, right? And that’s a crisis moving people on and off the island,” she said. “But it’s not just an inconvenience when you’re waiting three or four hours. It’s not an inconvenience when a friend of mine, you know, her son came over on a 7 a.m. boat and left on a 9 a.m. boat so that he can see his mom having to wait hours in line.”

For Drayer, an Islander, it IS a crisis when small businesses have a two or three-hour gap in midday service and cannot receive goods and services and can’t go off the Island to purchase goods and services.

Travel alert: Washington ferry prices have gone up amid wave of riders

Drayer explained how some businesses aren’t delivering to the island anymore.

“We have a number of businesses whose delivery companies have started refusing to come to Vashon. And if we can’t move goods and services off our island, that’s a problem,” she said.

And when it comes to health care and living on the island, Drayer told KIRO Newsradio, don’t break a bone because you can’t set it on the island.

“So if it’s a Monday and you’ve broken a bone and you happen to fall in that two-hour gap when the boat the south end and the north end, you’re sitting in line. And if it’s Monday during commute time, you can’t get medical priority loading unless you’re in an ambulance,” she explained.

She said fire and rescue are doing basic transport for those who might otherwise go to urgent care.

“But if you’ve got a broken leg, you’re sitting hours in line waiting for the boat. That’s a terrible crisis, a healthcare crisis for our community,” she added.

KIRO Newsradio asked Drayer what the ferry system can do to help soften the blow of this crisis.

Related news: Calmer waters ahead for Washington State Ferries?

“Washington State Ferries has acknowledged that we’re asking for a timeline to fix the two-boat schedule. Bringing back reliability to our service is going to be a huge driver of satisfaction. And it’s going to be a huge driver of success for our community,” she said.

WSF’s released a statement via email:

WSF is aware of the FROG survey results and appreciates all the work the Washington State Transportation Commission does to gather input from our customers. We certainly understand the frustration of Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth customers who have been on reduced service since the pandemic. Per our Service Contingency Plan, that route is the next to be restored. If we have a vessel and the crew available to operate it, we intend to run unscheduled three-boat service on the route this summer.”

Starting July 1, King County Metro will implement more midday water taxi services from Vashon Island to Seattle. The route will go from six round trips daily to 10, during the weekdays only.

You can read more of Micki Gamez’s stories here. Follow Micki on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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