‘Tis the season for busy state ferries

Edmonds/Kingston route to begin trial of restored two-boat service Jan. 1

SEATTLE – Hundreds of thousands of people will be dashing through the sea in white and green ferry boats through the end of the year.

Travelers planning a ride aboard Washington State Ferries this holiday season should prepare for busy sailings and long waits if boarding in a vehicle. Riders are also encouraged to regularly check online sailing schedules, as some timetables are dependent on staffing or may be affected by winter weather.

Customers can sign up for rider alerts to receive an update each night and morning on what schedule is operating on each route. The alerts also provide updates if staff shortages lead to unexpected service reductions.

Service restoration update

Schedules are likely to change most frequently on the Edmonds/Kingston run, where a second boat is added daily if crews are available. The route is next in line in WSF's Service Restoration Plan (PDF 794KB). Starting Sunday, Jan. 1, WSF will begin operating consistent two-boat service on a trial basis as a first step toward full restoration of the run. The Seattle/Bainbridge, Mukilteo/Clinton and Anacortes/San Juan Islands routes are fully restored. Workforce development is key to restoring sailings on other routes.

Virtual community meetings

The Service Restoration Plan is just one of several topics that will be discussed during WSF's upcoming semiannual virtual community meetings. The public is invited to join WSF staff at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, or 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. Both meetings will cover the same material. Participants will be able to ask questions and provide comments. Advanced registration is required.

Busy travel times

Ferries are popular every holiday weekend. The busiest sailings will likely be westbound (or onto an island) now through Saturday, Dec. 24, then eastbound (or off island) Sunday, Dec. 25, and in the days after Christmas. To reduce or eliminate waiting, riders may consider taking an early morning or late-night sailing or walking on. Historically, far fewer people catch a ferry around the New Year's holiday.

Holiday schedules

On Christmas, Dec. 25, and New Year's Day, Jan. 1, all routes will operate as a typical Sunday. On Monday, Dec. 26, and Monday, Jan. 2, there will be a few holiday schedule changes for the Edmonds/Kingston, Mukilteo/Clinton and Point Defiance/Tahlequah runs. The Seattle/Bainbridge Island route will operate a Saturday timetable on both days. The Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth run will operate a Sunday schedule on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. Holiday sailings are marked on the schedule page for each route.

The Anacortes/San Juan Islands run will switch to winter season timetables on Jan. 1 and operate a Friday schedule on Jan. 2.

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.

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.  

People using state highways to get to the ferry terminal should plan ahead for potential holiday travel backups and delays with 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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In 2023, speeding continued to be a top reason for work zone crashes.

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Fatal work zone crashes doubled in 2023 - Washington had 10 fatal work zone crashes on state roads.

It's in EVERYONE’S best interest.

95% of people hurt in work zones are drivers, their passengers or passing pedestrians, not just our road crews.