New Kingston summer ferry schedule shows results

KINGSTON — More ferries are running on time on the Edmonds to Kingston route since a scaled-back summer schedule began on June 20, but some riders are still frustrated by the reduction in service.

In the week of June 20-26, 84 percent of boats sailed from Edmonds within five minutes of their scheduled departure time. During the same week in 2009 only 49 percent of boats were departing within five minutes of their departure time.

Ferries spokeswoman Marta Coursey said there isn’t enough data yet to draw broad conclusions but early results from schedule change are encouraging.

“It’s still early, but so far they show significant improvement in on-time performance,” Coursey said. “We hope that will continue.”

Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee member Dennis Cziske agreed the numbers show a marked improvement, but riders shouldn’t be satisfied until the boats are all running on time.

“They cut our service to fix the problem, and the expectation is the results would be there,” Cziske said.

Washington State Ferries implemented the new schedule to get more ferries running on time on the route, which is among the worst in the system for on-time performance.

The new schedule eliminated sailings from all days except Friday, giving boats more time to load and unload. Two sailings were taken from the schedule on Monday through Thursday, three from Saturday, and one from Sunday.

In the first week of the summer schedule there were 328 sailings between Kingston and Edmonds, compared to 352 in 2009. This year, 98 percent of those sailings left the dock within 10 minutes of their scheduled departure time, compared to about 70 percent in 2009.

For some riders, no amount of performance improvement will make up for the loss in service.

In the spring, Mark Lowe of East Bremerton caught the 5:05 a.m. and 3:05 p.m. ferries going to and from his job in Bothell. It was already more than a three-hour commute.

With the new schedule, Lowe’s morning ferry leaves at 4:55 a.m. and his return boat is bumped to 3:15 p.m. That means earlier mornings and more time spent waiting in a ferry line to get home.

“The Kitsap people end up paying for whatever Washington State Ferries does,” Lowe said.

Washington State Ferries plans to review the performance of the summer schedule in September.

The agency is also looking into ways of improving the Edmonds terminal, including speeding the loading of cars from the upper holding lot and making the railroad crossing less severe.

Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee member Walt Elliott said improvements will be the real test of the state’s commitment to fixing late boats.

“It’s challenging because it’s different agencies, and different jurisdictions, but we don’t want ferries to lose sight of that,” Elliott said. “Changing a schedule is easy. Changing a schedule is like waving a magic wand.”

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