Washington State Ferries Employee News

Read the November 2023 edition of Ferry Tales, the Washington State Ferries employee newsletter.

Watch the Oct. 19 fall all-staff meeting recording.

Have an idea for this employee newsletter? Email WSFEmployeeComms@wsdot.wa.gov.

At least 49 veterans in the WSF workforce

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is a somber sequence marking the end of World War I in 1918.

In a salute to all former military personnel, all operating ferries will sound their whistle at 11:11 a.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. We will also be flying the flags of one of the six military branches and the POW/MIA flag on all vessels in operation on both Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11. A recent Quick Notice has more information about these plans.

American, Washington state, POW/MIA and U.S. Army flag flying atop a ferry
Last year was the first time we flew the flag of one of the six military branches on each of our operating vessels for Veterans Day.

Veterans make up a sizable and vital part of our workforce. We employ dozens of former military personnel. We have 49 identified veterans, and there are certainly many more. You can find them across our system:

  • Communications
  • Executive Team (two directors)
  • Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility
  • Operations Watch Center
  • Terminal Engineering
  • Terminals
  • Training/Development
  • Vessel Crews
  • Warehouse

Here’s what some of our employees have to say about being a military veteran and working at Washington State Ferries:

“For me, it's about public service,” said Oiler Jeff Susedik. “I have a strong desire to serve my country and community. I always try to do the right thing. As a veteran, I apply my skills to the fleet in everything I do. As a veteran here at WSF, I strive to do my best and lead by example and work towards every promotion. I want to make a difference!”

Director of Vessel Engineering and Maintenance Richard Servance said: “Working at Washington State Ferries represents a continuation of the dedication to service and reliance on teamwork that I developed during my time in the military. At WSF, I find a sense of camaraderie among my colleagues that reminds me of the tight-knit bonds forged during my naval service. We work together, driven by a shared goal of providing safe and reliable transportation to our communities.

“Working at WSF allows me to continue contributing to something greater than myself, and I take immense pride in the vital role we play in connecting people and communities. Every day, I see the impact of our work in the lives of the people we serve. I've found a new mission at WSF, one that allows me to continue serving, and I'm honored to be part of the WSF team.”

Headshot of a person
Jacob Hiatt
Technology Services Division
Interim Assistant Director for Ferries

What’s New at HQ?

In the ever-changing landscape of technology, we are thrilled to share some exciting updates and transformations happening within our organization. 

As we embark on our transformative journey, we recently transitioned from WSF IT to the dynamic and forward-thinking Technology Services Division (TSD) Ferries. This evolution is more than just a change in name – it represents our commitment to innovation, efficiency and a future-focused approach to support WSDOT and WSF operations.  

From WSF IT to TSD Ferries 

With the rapid advancements in technology and the evolving needs of our passengers, the change to TSD Ferries signifies our dedication to providing cutting-edge technology solutions and services that align seamlessly with the demands of the modern world. TSD embodies our vision for a future where innovation and efficiency go hand in hand. 

A Vision for the Future: TSD's Mission  

Our vision at TSD is clear: to be an innovative technology enterprise that enables a safe, sustainable and integrated multimodal transportation system for Washington travelers. Our mission is equally robust – to provide secure, reliable and cost-effective technology solutions that enhance transportation options, fostering stronger communities and economic vitality for all.  

Modernization Efforts: Aligning with TSD's Vision  

In our pursuit of aligning with TSD’s mission, we have undertaken modernization efforts to better align our support for current and future technologies. We have transformed our legacy Physical Security Support Team into a more versatile Field Services Team. This strategic move allows us to broaden our scope of field technologies, enabling us to adapt to future advancements seamlessly. Our team is now better equipped to support emerging technologies, digital forms, Enterprise Asset Management, video messaging, ferry electrification and much more.

TSD Ferries Capital Program 

We are very excited to have successfully been awarded over $45 million in capital funding to address emerging needs and modernize some of our outdated technologies at WSF, which is significantly higher than we’ve ever received before. With that funding, we have developed a new TSD Ferries Capital Program to manage our portfolio of new initiatives. Brian Churchwell has transitioned to a new Senior Program Manager position to provide leadership and direction to multiple projects. Below are a some of the exciting new initiatives that we are focusing on: 

  • Travel Wait Times – Implement automated queue detection system to communicate vehicle wait times to reduce terminal congestion.
  • Ticketing & Reservation Modernization – Replace our reservation system to handle our continued success and growth of this program. 
  • Schedule System Replacement – Replace our Foundation system that manages our vessel and sailing schedule.
  • Credit Card Security Enhancement – Remove credit card info from our ticketing system to reduce our financial security risk.

Thank you for your dedication and continued support. Your contributions are invaluable as we navigate these exciting changes together. If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please feel free to reach out.  

Headshot of a person
Srikanth “Sree” Ramoju
Asset Management Engineer

Employee Spotlight

When he began working at WSF in 2017, he’d never sailed on our ferries, nor did he know much about ferries themselves.

Yet the unique blend of skills in the job description – engineering combined with data science – captured Asset Management Engineer Srikanth “Sree” Ramoju’s interest.            

“The interview was based on job description only. Not on anything I knew about WSF,” he said. “After that, I got to the terminals and onto the vessels and learned more.”

Today he wears a lot of hats. Each could easily be a job on its own. But he’s blended them.

“I learned about program development and management and began splitting my time between that and asset management,” Sree said. “Then I wanted to learn more about design and asked to be involved, which is how I got into sea-level rise. It’s a lot of data that is packaged and analyzed to tell a story, to help make meaningful decisions.”

With degrees in engineering and statistics, Sree crunches numbers from the asset inspections of our 20 terminals to figure out what needs to be replaced and when. Assets such as trestles and vehicle transfer spans, essential to ferry operations. The numbers he arrives at are those we take to the Legislature to seek funding.  

The numbers might reveal it’s time to make a case to build a new terminal. Such as at Fauntleroy. His work also helps us answer the question, can we actually deliver on a new trestle with all the other commitments we already have?

Though terminal engineering’s work is more behind the scenes than that of our vessel and terminal staff, it shares the same focus on safety.  

“It is our priority to make sure that the passenger is safe while navigating through the terminal,” Sree says. “Not just in its current state, not just for today, but ten years from now.”

We like to say we’re nimble at Ferries. But not many roles are so fluid, so to speak, as the one Sree occupies. Another is related to resiliency – specifically analyzing how our terminals must adapt to inevitable sea-level rise. And then, the solution we arrive at for one terminal – via extensive data crunching and calculations – does not exactly fit another. Each presents its own challenges.

“What excites me is the work we’ve been doing on sea-level rise lately because it’s quite challenging. There are no set guidelines from any governing body for how to work with that. Sea-level rise is unique to everyone. Terminals are affected differently than roadways and highways.”

Some would count as a challenge. Sree sees as an opportunity.

“The work we do with resiliency is to minimize impact to operations. How do we adapt our terminals with increasing sea levels so 50 years down the line so we can continue operations and not shut down a terminal when sea level is high?

“Anything that has uniqueness to it, I’m on for it,” he says. “This is a role you don’t find elsewhere. It’s just so different. I like it.”

When he’s not working, he enjoys the outdoors. “I love to hike and play tennis and soccer. I like to learn. I watch scientific documentaries. I like problem-solving. To take on new things.”

Like Ferries.

Nautical Numbers

Here are some numbers that recap what we did in October:

1,470,838 total riders

  • 730,158 drivers (with vehicle)
  • 740,680 passengers and walk-ons

12,090 trips completed

65,683 service miles

97.8% trip reliability (based on scheduled trips)

238 medical priority loads/medevacs

7 lifesaving events

51 whale sightings (46 of them orcas)

Construction Corner

Seattle Multimodal Terminal at Colman Dock Project

On Monday, Oct. 23, Gov. Jay Inslee was joined by Transportation Secretary Roger Millar, Assistant Secretary Patty Rubstello, tribal, county and city leaders, as well as project staff and contractors at a dedication ceremony for our new Seattle Multimodal Ferry Terminal at Colman Dock.

Several people posing for a photo in front of a plaque on the wall of a building
Event speakers pose for a photo following the unveiling of a project plaque. From left to right are King County Executive Dow Constantine, Muckleshoot Tribal Vice Chair Donny Stevenson, our own Patty Rubstello, WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar, Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. Suquamish Tribal Council Vice Chair Josh Bagley also spoke at the event.

The facility opened in stages, with the entry building and elevated pedestrian walkway debuting just three months ago. They serve as a connection between Alaskan Way and the passenger building that fully opened in November 2022.

The terminal is built to current seismic standards and includes environmental features such as passive heating and cooling.

Several people posing for a photo at Colman Dock in Seattle in front of a sign on the terminal building
The project team, led by Terminal Engineering Director David Sowers (third from left), gather for pictures with Transportation Secretary Roger Millar and Gov. Jay Inslee.

The event capped a seven-year, $489 million construction project. TVW recorded the full dedication ceremony. Visit the project’s Flickr page for photos of the event and stages of construction.

Person putting a pin onto someone wearing a safety vest
During the Oct. 23 event, Gov. Jay Inslee named Terminal Attendant Carol Stearns, a 48-year WSF employee, as “Washingtonian of the Day.”

The city is leading construction on several other elements near our Seattle terminal, including a new Marion Street pedestrian bridge that will link Colman Dock to city streets that’s scheduled to open soon.

In 2024, we plan to open two new tribal-named plazas, a new passenger pickup/drop-off area along Alaskan Way, a bike corral, up to 10 food and retail businesses and a refurbished Colman Clock.

What’s Up at WSDOT?

Open Enrollment, your opportunity to make changes to your 2024 medical and dental plan coverage, started on Nov. 1. Everyone is encouraged to review their medical plan choice this year due to plan changes and increases in 2024 premiums.

How to review your plan and make changes

The Open Enrollment period runs from Nov. 1-30. Employees can review their current plan and make changes through their Washington State Health Care Authority benefits program – Public Employees Benefits Board, also known as PEBB – My Account link, or can fill out a form and submit it and any supplemental required documentation to benefits@wsdot.wa.gov.

A few notable changes (please read your plan information for additional changes):

  • Nearly all Kaiser Permanente plans are seeing double- or triple-digit percentage increases for 2024 premiums. This increase is not just occurring on PEBB medical plans. Kaiser rates are also increasing on the non-government Washington individual market and nationwide.
  • Kaiser Permanente of Washington is changing its copays for many services. Visit KPWA for more information. (Kaiser Permanente of Washington serves most of Washington but is separate from Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest, which serves SW Washington & Oregon.)
  • Uniform Medical Plan Plus–University of Washington Medicine Accountable Care Network will expand to Benton and Franklin counties but will no longer be available in Kitsap County.
  • The IRS raised the minimum deductible for high-deductible health plans. This affects all consumer-directed health plans – including Uniform and Kaiser plans.
  • Health savings accounts and flexible spending arrangements are increasing their maximum contributions (i.e., you can save more in these accounts).

Where can you find additional information

If you have questions or concerns about your medical or dental plan, please reach out to your Human Resource Consultant, our Employee Services team at 855-707-8100 or benefits@wsdot.wa.gov.

Video of Oct. 19 all-staff meeting

Thank you to everyone who attended our all-staff meeting on Oct. 19.

Employees who were unable to join can watch a recording online.

A link to a recording of our most recent meeting is always available at the top of our Ferry Tales webpage.

Our next all-staff meeting will be held in January. We will announce a date and time soon.

HR manager wins Leadership Award

Human Resources Manager Sarah Lynn Smith was announced as this year’s WSF Leadership Award recipient during the Oct. 19 all-staff meeting.

This award recognizes an individual who leads by building trust, inspiring others and working hard to make WSF better as a whole.

According to colleagues, Sarah has been an excellent leader in human resources, managing the HR team that provides services to the fleet. She is creative and collaborative in her work to improve our hiring, retention and office modernization efforts.

Sarah has also created a space where staff can readily learn about professional development options.

Congratulations and job well done!

Welcome Aboard!

Recent Eagle Harbor hires:

  • Houmir Totaan
  • Darrah Yeam

Recent HQ hires:

  • Troy Jorgens
  • Brent Null
  • Ronald Olson

We’re Hiring!

Current job openings at WSF:

From Our Social Media Feeds

Tweet with most impressions (times it shows up in somebody's timeline) on @wsferries Twitter account in the month of October:

Screenshot of a post on X/Twitter featuring a photo of the American flag and a "Forever Rapinoe" flag flying atop a ferry

Have an idea for this employee newsletter? Email WSFEmployeeComms@wsdot.wa.gov.

Slow down on ice and snow.

It's easier to skid or lose control traveling at higher speeds. Give yourself more time to stop.

Carry chains, practice installing them.

Winter conditions could mean chains are required on your route. Practice putting them on your vehicle ahead of time.

Pack your winter car kit.

Carry extra supplies like warm clothing, ice scraper and brush, jumper cables and other emergency items.