Summer ridership on ferries climbing

Heavy travel expected over weekend

SEATTLE — Summer ridership on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route has climbed to 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels on the eve of the Labor Day holiday, reported Washington State Ferries.

Walk-on ridership is at 91 percent of what it was in the summer of 2019 on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route, a much higher percentage than the 62 percent seen systemwide, state ferries reported.

The state agency compared ridership totals of the time between June 23, 2019, and Aug. 25, 2019, to the period between June 19 to Aug. 28 this year.

On the Port Townsend/Coupeville route, total ridership was 227,152 in 2019 compared to 181,026 this summer. Vehicles numbered 92,768 in 2019 compared to 74,112 this summer — 80 percent.

Walk-ons were 37,829 in 2019 compared to 34,518 this summer, for a total of 80 percent.

Since the start of state ferries’ peak travel summer season on June 19, the systemwide vehicle count is at 91 percent of pre-pandemic levels, with the Anacortes/San Juan Islands, Point Defiance/Tahlequah and Mukilteo/Clinton routes closest to 2019 numbers.

The total combined vehicle and walk-on summer season ridership through Aug. 28 is at 82 percent of pre-pandemic levels, state ferries said.

Ridership is expected to grow closer to pre-pandemic levels once the state ferries system restores service to eight routes. Port Townsend/Coupeville which was cut to one-boat service several years ago, is seventh on the list, which can be seen at the COVID-19 Service Restoration Plan.

In the fourth spot is the Edmonds-Kingston route.

“Unfortunately, our crewing levels are not at a point yet where we can begin adding full service back to our next route — the Edmonds/Kingston route — even on a trial basis,” said Patty Rubstello, head of state ferries, in a press release issued Wednesday.

“Doing so would put our restored runs in jeopardy. Until then, we will continue to add a second vessel to that route daily as crewing allows.”

Those planning a ferry ride over Labor Day weekend would do well to walk on the boats, according to Justin Fujioka, Washington State Ferries spokesperson.

Those boarding in a vehicle are advised to make reservations or, if they take the risk of having a spot available, arrive early, he said.

The busiest sailings will be westbound or onto an island today through Saturday and then eastbound or off an island Sunday through Tuesday, state ferries said.

Monday schedules will change on some routes, but not on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route.

Changes are planned for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Point Defiance/Tahlequah runs, along with the Edmonds/Kingston route if supplemental service is added.

The Seattle/Bainbridge Island run will operate on a Saturday timetable and the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route will run a Sunday timetable. Holiday sailings are marked on the schedules for each route.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear face masks in indoor public transportation settings, but they are no longer required.

Before heading to a terminal or boarding, people driving on board should check terminal conditions.

Ferry travelers are encouraged to sign up for rider alerts at wsdot.wa.gov/Ferries/RouteAlerts.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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