UPDATE: Please note that only the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route will have holiday schedule changes for Friday, Dec 24, and Friday, Dec. 31. All other runs will now operate on their current Friday schedules on both days.
Vehicle reservations reopen Friday, Dec. 17, for travel after Jan. 1, 2022
SEATTLE – While Santa is making a list and checking it twice, state ferry customers traveling this holiday season should regularly check online sailing schedules. Due to an ongoing staff shortage, the busy Seattle/Bainbridge Island, Edmonds/Kingston and Mukilteo/Clinton routes remain on one-boat service, with a second boat added daily as crewing availability allows.
“Because of our recent hiring efforts and new crewing agreements with our labor partners, we’ve been able to add service nearly every day over the past month on our central Sound routes and operate a full four-boat fall schedule on our Anacortes/San Juan Islands run, but challenges remain,” said Patty Rubstello, head of Washington State Ferries. “I encourage riders to sign up for our rider alerts to receive an update each night and morning on what schedule we’re operating on each route.”
WSF temporarily switched to alternate service schedules on most runs on Oct. 16, to reduce last-minute sailing cancellations caused by crewing challenges. The severe staffing shortage is due to many variables including a global shortage of mariners that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, an aging workforce, COVID-19 cases and quarantines.
Reopening of vehicle reservations
Vehicle reservations for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Port Townsend/Coupeville runs will reopen at 7 a.m. Friday, Dec. 17, for sailings on Jan. 2 through March 26, 2022. New reservations for both routes were suspended Oct. 16 when the San Juan Islands was temporarily downsized from four boats to three. The fourth boat returned Nov. 19 on a trial basis to see if all four boats could be reliably crewed before reopening reservations.
Busy travel times
Ferries are popular every holiday weekend and people boarding a ferry by vehicle should be prepared for long waits. With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, the Thursday and Friday before, and the Sunday following each holiday are expected to be the busiest. Delays are possible in both directions on several routes. To reduce or eliminate waiting, riders may consider taking an early morning or late-night sailing or walking on.
On Friday, Dec. 24, and Friday, Dec. 31, the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth run will operate on a Saturday timetable on both days. Holiday sailings are marked on the schedule page for each route. On Christmas, Dec. 25, and New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, all routes will operate as a typical Saturday.
Before heading to a terminal or boarding, customers are encouraged to sign up for rider alerts and check terminal conditions. A face covering is required in all indoor areas of vessels and terminals in compliance with the governor’s “Washington Ready” proclamation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s order for public transportation.
People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan ahead for potential holiday travel backups and delays by checking real-time traffic information on the WSDOT traffic app for mobile devices or online using the updated WSDOT travel map feature.
WSF, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries tens of millions of people a year through some of the most majestic scenery in the world. The system is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. For breaking news and the latest information, follow WSF on Twitter and Facebook.