The new Save a Spot vehicle reservations system (VRS) is available for customers on the Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/Sidney, B.C. routes and for commercial customers in the San Juan Islands. WSF will look at expanding the VRS to other routes in the system. Read the project overview (pdf 380 kb) to learn about the implementation phases for the VRS.
In WSF’s 2030 long-range plan, a vehicle reservations system is identified as a primary demand management strategy. Vehicle reservations are estimated to save the state of Washington $280 million in capital improvements, by avoiding the need to expand ferry terminals and holding areas to accommodate projected increases in vehicle traffic. Vehicle space during peak traffic times is WSF’s greatest constraint and creates demand for additional service and larger facilities. There is little capacity to support traffic increases in peak periods, especially in the summer, when a recreational traffic surge causes even greater capacity challenges. Meanwhile, vehicle capacity is under-utilized during the off-season and non-commute periods. Because of a significant reduction in funding for terminal improvements, WSF is moving forward with vehicle reservations as a way to operate a high-quality service without the expense of expanding terminal facilities.
Some of the benefits associated with vehicle reservations include:
- Reduce or eliminate traffic congestion on roads leading to terminals
- Provide predictable and convenient travel
- Increase business in ferry-served communities
- Reduce air pollution from idling vehicles
- Save money by mitigating the need for terminal expansion and/or added service
- Reduce traffic control costs and holding area maintenance costs
Routes with existing reservations systems (Anacortes/Sidney, B.C., Port Townsend/Coupeville, and commercial-only in the San Juan Islands) will be upgraded to the new technology identified in the 2009 vehicle reservations predesign study (pdf 1.5 MB) first. WSF will test and refine the reservation system and its new features on these routes before expanding to any other routes.
We acknowledge that there have been concerns brought to our attention by some customers and community members about whether vehicle reservations can meet their needs. WSF is committed to addressing these concerns and will work with community and customer route-based partnerships before and during implementation to ensure the system is meeting customer needs. Some of this work has already begun.
Existing WSF Vehicle Reservations System
Vehicle reservations have been successful on the Anacortes/Sidney, B.C. route for several years. More recently, WSF began taking vehicle reservations on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route in May 2008. WSF now takes more than 100,000 reservations per year, over 70 percent of which are customer generated online.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will the vehicle reservation system save the state money?
The vehicle reservation system allows WSF to more efficiently utilize its boats and terminals instead of having to make expensive capital investments.
How will the vehicle reservation system benefit customers?
The vehicle reservation system will benefit customers by providing more predictable and convenient travel and significantly reducing wait times during peak periods.
How will the vehicle reservation system benefit ferry communities?
The vehicle reservation system will benefit ferry communities by reducing lines and congestion and pollution from idling vehicles around the terminals.
Will the vehicle reservation system be implemented on all routes?
Not all routes will have vehicle reservations. Currently, there is no plan to bring the vehicle reservation system to non-commercial customers on the following routes: Mukilteo/Clinton, Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth, and Point Defiance/Tahlequah.
When are reservations coming to my route?
During Phase I (Summer 2012) the new vehicle reservation system will only be implemented on the Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/Sidney routes; the San Juan Island routes will have commercial reservations only. After successful piloting, additional routes are expected to get the reservation system as described in the proposed implementation timeline section below.
How much is the vehicle reservation system costing the state?
The Legislature appropriated $5.7 million for a vehicle reservations system through fiscal year 2013. This money is part of a larger program totaling $15.9 million for the reservations system and associated traffic management projects to support the program. Funding for subsequent biennia must be approved by the Legislature.
Customer and Community Partnerships
Edmonds/Kingston - 2009
In 2009 while the predesign study (pdf 1.5 MB) was underway, WSF worked with a partnership for the Edmonds/Kingston route to evaluate vehicle reservations. We selected this route to study because it presents many challenges, including diverse vehicle traffic (recreational, commuter and commercial), a high volume of vehicles, and limited vehicle processing time at both terminals. The partnership met eight times in 2009 and WSF accepted public comments at all of the meetings as well as at community meetings at other locations served by the ferry system. This public process was instrumental in learning valuable lessons and developing the basic structure of a vehicle reservations system, and contributed to the 2009 Vehicle Reservations Predesign Study.
Port Townsend/Coupeville - 2010-2012
In spring 2010 we convened the Port Townsend/Coupeville Partnership to introduce the Vehicle Reservations Predesign Study to this group and discuss how to upgrade the vehicle reservations system on this route. Meetings were paused as WSF worked to develop system specifications and a procurement strategy that could be shared with the group. The group was reconvened in 2011 with additional members to collect input on system prototypes and discuss implementation options.
July 25, 2012 - Meeting summary (pdf 72 kb), Meeting materials (pdf 1.5 MB)
April 25, 2012 - Meeting summary (pdf 72 kb), Meeting materials (pdf 687 kb)
March 13, 2012 - Meeting summary (pdf 72 kb), Meeting materials (pdf 390 kb)
Jan. 25, 2012 - Meeting summary (pdf 108 kb), Meeting materials (pdf 828 kb)
Dec. 15, 2011 - Meeting summary (pdf 220 kb), Meeting materials (pdf 1.5 MB)
Nov. 3, 2011 - Meeting summary (pdf 120 kb), Meeting materials (pdf 1.8 MB)
San Jan Islands commercial representatives – April 2012
Met with commercial representatives to discuss implementation schedule, options and system prototypes.
San Juan Islands – fall 2012
WSF convened a San Juan Islands customer group to discuss program policies, feasibility, implementation schedule and options. This group represents San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez islands and Anacortes. It is composed of customers and representatives from a broad spectrum of user groups, including tourism, business and the ferry advisory committee.
System-wide commercial representatives – 2013
Meet with commercial representatives across the system to discuss an expanded commercial reservation program.
- April 2009 - Legislature directed WSF to conduct predesign study
- July-December 2009 - Met eight times with Edmonds/Kingston Community Partnership
- January 2010 - Provided final predesign report to Legislature
- March 2010 – Legislature provided $5,851,000 for WSF to begin pursuing a vehicle reservations system and associated communications projects
- April 2010 - Convened Port Townsend/Coupeville Partnership group
- September 2010 - WSDOT Office of Information Technology (OIT) hired an IT Project Manager to lead system specifications development and procurement effort
- October 2010-March 2011 - Refined system design and changed procurement plan from purchasing an off-the-shelf system to developing one internally
- August 2011 - Completed system requirements document for all phases of the reservation system; development began
- April 2012 – Usability testing with customers
- May 2012 – Customer outreach at the terminals and on the vessels
- June 2012 – Customers able to make reservations using the new system for the Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/Sidney, B.C. routes and commercial customers for the San Juan Islands
- Summer 2012 – Began redeeming reservations in new system; evaluated and refined new system; began formation of partnerships for expansion of the system
- Fall 2012 - Convened San Juan Islands Partnership Group and began Phase 2 planning
WSF Communications Manager
VRS Program Manager