Independence Day travel rush to bring long waits for people driving onto a ferry

Check online schedules often, especially for Edmonds/Kingston route

SEATTLE – Fourth of July travelers planning a state ferry ride over the holiday weekend should be prepared for long waits if boarding in a vehicle. In addition, all riders should regularly check online sailing schedules, as some timetables are dependent on crewing levels.

Schedules are likely to change most frequently on the Edmonds/Kingston route, where a second boat is added daily if crews are available. Customers are encouraged to sign up for rider alerts to receive an update each night and morning on what schedule is operating on each run.

Washington State Ferries is restoring service on a route-by-route basis outlined in its COVID-19 Service Restoration Plan (PDF 794KB). As shown in the latest plan Progress Report (PDF 587KB), service has returned to pre-pandemic levels on the Seattle/Bainbridge, Mukilteo/Clinton and Anacortes/San Juan Islands routes.

“With elevated cases of COVID-19, and continued vessel and crewing availability constraints, our service restoration efforts have slowed considerably in recent weeks,” said Patty Rubstello, head of WSF. “While we continue to hire new employees, our biggest issue is a lack of licensed deck officers such as captains and mates, who require significant training time. To encourage current crewmembers to become licensed deck officers, we’re developing a ‘Pilotage Training Program,’ so they’ll be paid to train as pilots and take required exams.”

Busy travel times

Ferries are popular every holiday weekend and people boarding a ferry by vehicle should be prepared for long waits. The busiest sailings will be westbound (or onto an island) Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1, then eastbound (or off island) Monday and Tuesday, July 4-5. To reduce or eliminate waiting, riders may consider taking an early morning or late-night sailing or walking on.

Before heading to a terminal or boarding, people driving on board should check terminal conditions. Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes also offer vehicle reservations.

Holiday schedules

On Independence Day, July 4, there will be a few holiday schedule changes for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands, Mukilteo/Clinton 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.

It is against the law to set off or transport illegal fireworks aboard a state ferry.

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

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan 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. For breaking news and the latest information, follow WSF on Twitter and Facebook.

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