Ferry reservations up for discussion at Nov. 10 meeting | Ferry Fare | November

The public can learn about and speak up on Washington State Ferry reservations at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10, at the Kingston Community Center.

Ferry officials will be reviewing, answering questions, and taking comments on the results of a ferry reservations study that has been ongoing since August.

The study assesses what would be needed to have a reservations system here on Kingston-Edmonds. It includes the policies, facilities, costs and risks. Given the time constraints the Nov. 10 meeting will focus on the riders’ perspective how reservations should work.

The important thing to keep in mind is that this meeting isn’t about whether or not we should have reservations here. That debate will come later and would take all night.

Some background

Last winter the legislature charged WSF to study a reservation pilot and report the results back by Dec. 15. Legislators will then consider it and, in their 2010 legislative session, decide whether to fund a Kingston-Edmonds reservation pilot or not.

The goals for having reservations is to reduce the cost and impact of building ever-larger holding areas, to reduce ferry traffic on the street and to improve the ability of customers to get on the ferries without long waits.

Things to think about

Here are some key aspects of reservations that have been discussed and what’s presently under consideration.

Making a reservation: Reservations can be made 24/7 on-line, by phone or at terminal kiosks but not at the toll booths. When placing the reservation you’d be paying the fare in advance through a credit card, multi-ride card or a commercial account. The latter two would not actually be charged until you make the trip.

Priority Access: It’s easy to imagine summer boats being filled up in advance, squeezing out those who depend on ferries; like commercial trucks, commuters and less frequent riders who would be hugely inconvenienced by driving around. Some of the boat would be set could sign up for a program to give access to this set-aside space.

How far in advance can we make a reservation? About six months and perhaps about four weeks for the priority access space.

Percent of the boat reserved: To allow for unplanned travel and accommodate those arriving at the ferry not knowing about reservations, reserved space would need to be limited to about 70 percent of the boat. The remaining space would be available on a first come first served basis.

No-shows: At Port Townsend, because there’s no penalty for missing a reservation, the no-show rate is about 35 percent. If you were a no-show you’d lose some or all of your ticket deposit. As most no-shows are probably because they just missed the boat, there’d probably be no penalty if you used the ticket within 24 hrs.

Cancellations and Changes: You’d be able to cancel or change your reservation up until about 15 minutes before departure. There would be limitations to prevent someone from making a lot a reservations and then canceling all but one.

Arrival times: For the system to work, and have some room for standbys, you couldn’t arrive for your reservations before the previous boat departure. How late you show up would be whatever the ferry crews need to be able load standbys in your place without delaying the boat … about five minutes.

Late boats and canceled sailings: You get you money back or get put into the standby line for the next boat as you want.

Want more info?

Go to WSF’s Web site, http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries, and click on “Vehicle Reservations Pre-Design Study.”