State ferries welcome 1.3 million more riders in 2023

Surge in walk-ons drives year-to-year ridership increase to 18.7 million

SEATTLE – Over 1.3 million more riders boarded Washington State Ferries in 2023. The 7.4% spike from 2022 pushed annual ridership to nearly 18.7 million last year.

For the second year in a row, the rise in annual ridership was fueled by a large jump in walk-on passengers. The number of walk-ons soared by nearly 487,000, or 14.2%, as tourism and in-person work continue to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Vehicles carried climbed by a more modest 372,000, or 4.3%, even though four routes remain unrestored to 2019 service levels.

Current ridership trends

State ferry ridership in 2023 was at 78% of pre-COVID-19 levels, with vehicles at 86% and walk-on customers at 56% of 2019 numbers. Ridership is expected to steadily grow in the years ahead as travel demands increase and additional service is brought back temporarily to unrestored routes.

2023 route-by-route ridership highlights

The greatest year-to-year increase came on the Edmonds/Kingston run, which was restored to two-boat service in 2023. Total ridership on the route – vehicles and passengers combined – was up 15%. The Seattle/Bainbridge Island run was the system’s busiest in 2023 with 4.8 million total riders, followed by Mukilteo/Clinton with 3.7 million. Other system highlights include:

  • Seattle/Bainbridge Island: Total riders up 7%, vehicles down 2%, system-high year-to-year surge in walk-ons of 22% (remains busiest route for customers boarding without a vehicle).
  • Mukilteo/Clinton: Total riders climbed 9%, vehicles grew 7% (remains busiest run for drivers), walk-ons jumped 12%.
  • Edmonds/Kingston: System-high year-to-year increase in total riders of 15%, vehicles soared 13%, walk-ons rose 11%.
  • Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth: Total riders up 6%, vehicles climbed 4%, walk-ons surged 13%.
  • Anacortes/San Juan Islands: Total riders grew 2% from 2022, vehicles remained nearly flat, walk-ons jumped 9%.
  • Seattle/Bremerton: Total riders declined 3%, vehicles dropped 3%, walk-ons decreased 5%.
  • Point Defiance/Tahlequah: Year-to-year total riders increased 8%, vehicles rose 4%, walk-ons soared 19%.
  • Port Townsend/Coupeville: Total riders up 4%, vehicles grew 2%, walk-ons surged 11%.

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 the latest service updates, sign up for rider alerts and track each ferry using the real-time map online.

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In 2023, speeding continued to be a top reason for work zone crashes.

Even one life lost is too many.

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.