Washington State Ferries Employee News

Read the September 2022 edition of Ferry Tales, the Washington State Ferries employee newsletter.

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

Free fares for all youth riders starting Oct. 1

Washington State Ferries will implement new policy and procedures supporting free fares on all our routes for passengers 18 years old and younger starting Oct. 1.

This action is part of the Move Ahead Washington funding bill passed earlier this year and applies to all our youth walk-on and youth vehicle passengers.

Named “Free Youth Transit Pass” to be consistent with our partner transit agencies throughout the region, there are some nuances that will be fully outlined in a Quick Notice in the coming weeks.

The law providing free fares applies only to youth riding as a passenger in a vehicle or walking on a ferry. We will also eliminate the surcharge for youth riding a bicycle.

A youth aged 16 through 18 driving a vehicle onto a ferry will not qualify for the free fare and will have to pay the combined adult-driver fare.

Free youth fare tickets will not be available at our kiosks or online. All walk-on tickets will need to be purchased from a ticket seller. Youth with a valid ORCA card may go directly to the turnstile and tap their card to pass.

All free youth fare tickets will expire after two hours to help reduce the risk of fraud.

What will not change? We will not change our practice for accounting for youth 18 and younger, except that the fare reported will be $0. Also not changing is the Coast Guard practice for counting all passengers on board. Captains will need to know the number of passengers on the vessel.

Questions? Reach out to your supervisor, a terminal manager, port captain or simply send an email to WSFEmployeeComms@wsdot.wa.gov.

Child on the outdoor deck of a ferry waving her arm while looking at another ferry
Starting Oct. 1, all walk-on and vehicle passenger riders 18 years old and younger will ride free on all routes. Some transit agencies started this fare-free youth policy on Sept. 1.

Headshot of a person
Rick Singer
Finance and Administration Director  

What’s New at HQ?

The Federal Highway Administration recently announced that we’ll be receiving $38 million as part of its Ferry Boat Program. That’s an increase of $21 million from what we’ve received in recent years as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. We’ll be working with the governor’s Office of Financial Management and the state legislature to determine how to use this funding.

We were also awarded with a $5.1 million grant from FHWA to plan and design a terminal wait time system. The goal is to determine what technology and infrastructure are needed to improve the efficiency of our terminal operations and reduce wait time for our customers in vehicles.

And lastly, we were just awarded $3.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to enhance vessel security.

Our grants team continues to scour the nation looking for potential sources of funding to meet our needs.

Headshot of a person
Nick Wakeman
Truckdriver Lead

Employee Spotlight

It’s not as visible to us or the public as our vessels and terminals, but our warehouse is just as vital in keeping our routes operating every day. Almost everything that’s needed to run our ferry system is processed at the facility before going out to various locations.

Those deliveries are Truckdriver Lead Nick Wakeman’s expertise. On any given day, you’ll find him loading up a truck and driving out to our vessels, terminals, Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility, 2901 and many of the region’s commercial shipyards.

So what’s inside the truck? Nick says it could be anything from cleaning supplies to spare parts. Many times, it’s something that repair crews need to get a ferry or terminal back up and running again. But aside from these emergency runs, most of his deliveries follow a set schedule that ensures all our facilities don’t run out of the supplies they need.

Nick has been with us for nearly 13 years and currently fills in as the warehouse foreperson at times and is the shop steward for the Teamsters union. He says his job is great because he loves the Pacific Northwest and is paid to drives around the region every day. But the most rewarding part of the job for him is the people he works with.

“Just the people that have come and gone in the warehouse, the people I’ve gained my experience from, the past drivers, the past storekeepers – just everyone – we have a great relationship here,” said Nick. “We’re almost like a little family.”

When he’s not working, Nick likes to go hiking, camping and paddleboarding. But he said most importantly, it’s spending time with his family. His wife Laina is his high school sweetheart and together they have two daughters, Ayla and Aubrey.

View a video profile of Nick.

Nautical Numbers

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

1,941,197 total riders

  • 869,957 drivers (with vehicle)
  • 1,071,240 passengers and walk-ons

11,728trips completed

64,527 service miles

97.1% trip reliability

206 medical priority loads/medevacs

11 lifesaving events

23 whale sightings

Why are our ferries green and white? It’s because of long-running tradition

Ever wonder why our ferries are green and white? Well, it’s actually a long-running tradition that goes back to the very beginning of the state ferry system.

When Washington State Ferries purchased most of the Puget Sound Navigation Company (Black Ball Line) in 1951, something was needed to distinguish the new publicly owned ferry system from the well-known black and white vessels.

The Kalakala, Rhododendron, Illahee and their sister ships received green stripes, marking them for the Evergreen State and starting the tradition for the green and white ferry fleet.

Now more than 70 years later we’re still using green and white, distinguishing our ferries across the Salish Sea in sunshine, rain, snow and fog, as evergreen as the tradition itself.

Drawing of a white flag with an green evergreen tree on it and the letter "W" within the tree
Flag that was flown from the wheelhouse of each vessel in the early days of Washington State Ferries that was phased out in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of our “Historian” Ray Deardorf, who retired in 2021.

From Our Social Media Feeds

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

Screenshot of a quote retweet from @wsferries showing a person sitting on a folding chair relaxing on the car deck of a ferry on a sunny day





What’s Up at WSDOT?

Secretary Roger Millar announced in July that he and fellow leadership team members wanted to meet with employees from around the agency.

The goal was to gather input on what can be done to enhance the employee work experience and help everyone succeed in their jobs.

In late August and early September, Roger spent four days visiting Washington State Ferries vessels, terminals and various facilities to meet with our employees. A member of our executive team joined him each day.

On the first day, Roger was out on our Port Townsend/Coupeville and Mukilteo/Clinton routes.

He spent the second day on our Anacortes/San Juan Islands run.

Roger visited our Edmonds/Kingston, Bainbridge and Bremerton routes on the third day, as well as our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility.

On the final day, he stopped at our Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth and Point Defiance/Tahlequah runs, as well as our warehouse in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

Thank you to all the employees who participated in these important conversations with Roger and our executive team members.

Two people talking at Coupeville terminal with a vessel docked in the background


Several people in the pilothouse of a ferry
WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar recently met with our employees to learn about their challenges and thank them.

Welcome Aboard!

Recent deck hires:

  • Timothy McGuire (returning)
  • Marsha Morse (returning)

Recent engine room hires:

  • Ellanora Anastasi
  • Ryan McLaughlin

Recent Eagle Harbor hires:

  • Kayleigh Averill
  • Stephanie Jackson
  • Abdulrahman Mohammed
  • Jeremy Phillips
  • Cody Richnow

Recent HQ hires:

  • Elise Chessman
  • Ari Iliakis
  • David Jokinen
  • Jefferson Kinnay

We’re Hiring!

Current job openings at WSF:

In the News

Employees in the news in August:

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

We are hiring!

We have a range of positions open across the state - view all current job openings.

Improved access to 98.2 miles of upstream fish habitat

through 15 fish passage projects in 2021.

28% increase in the value of exports and imports 

from $90.2 billion in 2020 to $115.5 billion in 2021.