PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry service will be reduced to one boat starting Tuesday, part of a seasonal shift that will return to two-boat service next May.
The reduction will allow Washington State Ferries to bring one ferry in for maintenance, public information officer Ian Sterling said.
The MV Kennewick will be in service for the next month while the MV Salish will get some repairs, and then they will rotate as maintenance requires, Sterling said.
Two-boat service will return for Mother’s Day on May 10, 2020.
“We wish we could do two [ferries] all year round, but that’s not how it’s worked out in the last few years,” Sterling said.
The service reduction takes into account a number of factors, including ridership demands and the cost of running two boats instead of one, Sterling said.
Statewide, there’s roughly a 50 percent reduction in travelers during the winter months, he added.
“Port Townsend-Coupeville is definitely a route there seems to be a demand for, but it’s certainly much less outside of the tourist season,” Sterling said.
The ridership numbers are on a slight downward trend from a record-setting year in 2018, Sterling said.
The Port Townsend-Coupeville route had about 1.2 percent fewer riders, from 681,000 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2018, with 673,000 during the same period this year, he said.
Statewide, the margin is wider at a 3.72 percent drop during the same time period. Sterling attributed that to the week-long snowstorm that hit the greater Puget Sound region in February.
“Hundreds of thousands of people did not travel system-wide, enough that it caused a blip [in ridership numbers],” Sterling said.
“This is the first time we’ve seen ridership numbers drop in about a dozen years,” he said.
Sterling also said passenger-only ferries run by Kitsap and King counties likely had an impact on state ferry riders.
“We believe the fast-ferry service in Kitsap County, coupled with the construction at Colman Dock, that a lot of people have moved over to the foot ferries,” he said. “We don’t see them as competition. It just gives people other options.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected]