WSF’s ferry reservations debate continues in January | Ferry Fare | January

This column summarizes a ferry reservation proposal which is posted on the state ferries Website along with copies at the library.

This column summarizes a ferry reservation proposal which is posted on Washington State Ferries’ Web site; copies are also available in person at the Kingston Library.

The Kingston Citizens’ Advisory Council will review reservations on Wednesday, Jan. 6, in the firehouse at 7 p.m. As the Legislative session starting in January will decide what to do next, state Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, and county Commissioner Steve Bauer will be at the advisory council’s meeting to take input. Please attend, it may our most important ferry decision in decades.

What’s going on?

The ferry system has completed a study to help the Legislature decide whether or not to approve a reservations system. While the study is for Kingston-Edmonds, it will likely be tested first as a pilot on Port Townsend-Keystone and on in the San Juan Islands. When reservations come here they will be phased-in starting with commercial freight traffic.

Why reservations?

With the demand for ferries growing, the lines of waiting cars will increase unless holding lots are expanded. Reservations are intended to cut back those lines, reducing both wait times and terminal costs. Because reservations will be made where the space is available there’ll be less underutilized boats. The alternative to a reservation system is a peak hour pricing strategy which would drive up fares while putting an unfair burden on the working stiffs who depend on ferries.

Reservation system goals include:

  • Flexible and convenient to use.
  • Meet needs of different customers.
  • Provide certainty of getting onboard.
  • Provide sailing and reservation status information.
  • Reduce downtown congestion.
  • Reduce capital costs.

How would it work?

Three rider categories will have different allocations of ferry space. These are: general customers; customers with commercial accounts: and customers with “Wave to Go” or “Good the Go” accounts. This last customer category will help anyone who depends on ferries. Van and car pools will continue to have priority.

Reservations may be made 30 days in advance for peak times and 6 months in advance for other times. Reservations may be made, changed or canceled up to 30 minutes before sailing with just about any communications device, e.g., kiosk, phone, cell phone, computer, texting etc. Expect limits on the number of reservations that we can make in a day to prevent “gaming” the system.

There’s no extra charge for reservations. General customers will be buying their ticket in advance while others will have their account charged when they use their reservation.

Cars without reservations wait in standby. From 50 percent to as much as 90 percent of the boat will be available for reservations and the space not used for reservations will be filled with standbys.

Late reservation arrivals, that is, those showing up less than 15 minutes before the sailing, will join the standby line. No-shows will need to use their ticket some time that day to avoid a penalty.

Real-time information (e.g. sailing status, reservation availability and standby wait time) will be displayed on three layers of electronic road signs: one layer many miles from the terminal, another just before the terminal, and a sign at the terminal.

Ferry lines in Kingston are expected to be minimal as our lot can hold the cars with reservations for one boat and a few boatloads of standbys. As the Edmonds lot is smaller, it would be expanded by pushing the split lanes further up State Route 104 and adding a tollbooth at Pine Ave.

Expect schedule changes and fewer runs in 2010 to improve on-time performance.

A bottom line?

System-wide reservations are estimated to cost $20 million while saving $300 million in terminal costs. Whether or not the money saved will actually be spent for ferry construction is, as usual, up to the Legislature.

We wish you a Ferry Merry Holiday and we’ll see you on Jan. 6th.