People driving vehicles onto vessels should plan for long wait times
SEATTLE – Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but a ferry ride is so delightful – especially for those who plan ahead, avoiding the busiest travel times Christmas week.
More than 700,000 people are expected aboard Washington State Ferries between Friday, Dec. 20 and Monday, Dec. 30. Drive-on customers should plan for long wait times as many travelers head to or from their holiday getaways. Delays may be longest on the Edmonds/Kingston route, where a smaller-than-normal vessel is in service.
Busiest travel times
Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, meaning the Monday and Tuesday before, and the Thursday, Friday and Saturday following the holiday are expected to be the busiest. Delays are expected in both directions on several routes. Historically, far fewer people catch a ferry during the week of the New Year’s holiday.
Vehicle wait times of one hour or more are likely during peak travel times at the Edmonds, Kingston, Mukilteo, Clinton, Fauntleroy, Seattle (to Bainbridge only) and Bainbridge terminals. People planning to drive on a ferry should sign up for ferry travel alerts for updates on vehicle wait times and check terminal conditions before leaving.
Customers may reduce or eliminate wait times by walking on the ferry, and travelling early in the morning or late in the evening. Plan ahead for potential backups and receive real-time traffic information with the WSDOT traffic app for mobile devices.
Vehicle capacity reduction on Edmonds/Kingston route
Despite a spike over Christmas week, vehicle traffic this time of year is much less compared to the summer months. To minimize possible summertime service disruptions, several vessels are undergoing wintertime maintenance. As a result, the 188-vehicle Walla Walla is currently substituting for the 202-vehicle Puyallup on the Edmond/Kingston route. Customers should plan ahead as the reduction in vehicle space could contribute to longer wait times.
Routes with vehicle reservations
Vehicle wait times should be minimal on routes with vehicle reservations, which are highly recommended. Space will be limited on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route on Saturday, Dec. 21 through Friday, Dec. 27, as several afternoon and evening sailings have been cancelled due to tidal currents.
There will be a few holiday schedule changes for the Edmonds/Kingston, Mukilteo/Clinton, Point Defiance/Tahlequah routes on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. The Seattle/Bainbridge Island route will operate on a weekend timetable on both days.
Winter sailing schedule begins Jan. 5
There will be new sailing timetables on many routes starting Sunday, Jan. 5, when the winter schedule goes into effect. There will be fewer sailings on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth routes, and service to Sidney, British Columbia will be suspended until spring.
Washington State Ferries, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries nearly 25 million 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.