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Tired of Poor Ferry Service?

Another Empty Ferry
Another Empty Ferry

In between researching and starting to write my next book (that will cover fats in depth, microbes, plateau testing, and more) I veered off into the world of Vashon’s ferries. No doubt the frustrating process of writing played a role but, in truth, I was tired of long delays getting off-island when boats preferentially fill with Southworth cars and leave Vashonites stranded, tired of sitting on the Fauntleroy dock when WSF cancels or delays evening runs to avoid overtime and “restore order,” tired of poorly thought out tests such as having everyone stop at the tollbooth at Fauntleroy generating lines back up to California street while half-empty boats sail and ferry fares rise. I definitely was angered that WSF decided to repeat yet again a test with I think only one perceptible change: Vashon cars now got purple pieces of paper instead of green ones. This test did not work back in 2016 and, when all was said and done (according to WSF), did not improve things at all in 2017. But this miserable process will continue because WSF says it didn’t make things worse. Well, not worse for them but it was far worse for those of us stuck in long lines. But customers and their needs really do not count in WSF’s world.  So, in frustration, I drafted a general and a business petition and, with my sister’s help, began circulating them.

The results show that I am not alone in my frustration. In just weeks, with mostly the efforts of two people on a totally grassroots basis, we collected over 1100 signatures and got some 75-80 businesses to sign on. The next step will be to articulate clearly what we need and to whom in Olympia to direct our requests. What we need is a directive to WSF that customer service trumps other considerations (such as overtime costs) and a directive that WSF must respect that the islands it serves have needs that must be satisfied even if moving commuters from other locations might generate more income.

We need to bypass WSF because it is locked in unyielding positions and has more things it “cannot do” than it can do. As well, WSF seems unable to respond in a meaningful way to public input. They currently have a triangle task force composed of people largely selected by WSF. Information on these members (other than their names) is not posted online and, unless you have time to attend a weekday afternoon meeting in Fauntleroy – where you may speak for one minute – you, as a member of the public, are not a part of the process.

I went to their August meeting. The whole focus of this meeting was on how the latest changes affected how many cars moved through Fauntleroy between 3 and 6 on weekdays. Although the stop-at-the-booth rule applies 24/7, no thought at all was given to how the changes affected Vashonites on mornings, evenings, or weekends. And in analyzing the 3-6 hours period, no data was presented on how long the lines grew or how much time Vashonites spent waiting to get on a boat. At the September meeting ferry scheduling is on the agenda.

The Triangle group is made up of seemingly quite nice and sincere people but the fact that this committee will soon be advising on how the Vashon ferry schedule might be changed is upsetting. In August, Vashon was “represented” by a single person fairly new to Vashon without personal experience as to what the ferry system used to do or actually might be able to do. Fauntleroy has three members who certainly can speak to the effect ferry traffic has on West Seattle but should not be deciding what Vashon needs in terms of ferry runs. Southworth’s three representatives likely understand the desires of commuters from Kitsap but, without clear guidelines, will be hard pressed to balance those desires against the needs of an island. Certainly, before any changes are made – or even discussed - in the service to Vashon, we deserve Vashon advisors chosen by us, who gather input from, and answer to, us.

Hence the petition. I’ve been told that no one is going to listen to our voices, that our legislators are in constant contact with professional ferry spokespersons and are quite comfortable with the “all is well” assurances they are getting from them. I still believe, however, that if we speak up, we can prevent unwanted changes to our schedule and maybe even get WSF to test some methods that might restore service at least to past levels of efficiency. Presently, the Vashon Chamber is completing a ferry project that should be finished in no more than a few weeks. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, why don’t you sign the ferry petition? And why don’t you ask your neighbors, co-workers, families, and friends to sign as well? Petitions are available at Vashon Print & Design, Kronos, The Burton Store, the Minglement-Roasterie, and Sarah St.Germain’s salon. Or sign the online petition: If you would like a a few more signatures, email me ( and I’ll send you a petition.

Do make sure you & those close to you sign the petition. We know better than to expect anything near perfection from WSF but Vashon cannot thrive without decent ferry service where customer service is the primary goal and the unique needs of islanders are given real weight. And we certainly will not thrive if our ferry service is cut, curtailed, or worsened.