The Triangle: Improving Service on the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth Route


October 2017

Vashon and Southworth Public Meetings: ​Thank you to all who were able to join us for our recent public meetings. View our presentation (pdf 799kb) and a summary of the public comments (pdf 108kb). You may also view a video of the Vashon Public meeting.

Upcoming Task Force Meetings: All task force meetings are open to the public and are held at Fauntleroy Church located at 9140 California Ave SW, Seattle. 

  • Tuesday, October 3, 4:30 - 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 9, 4:30 - 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 13, 4:30 - 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 18, 4:30 - 7 p.m.


In Fall 2016, WSF launched a public process to gather community input on how to improve the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route, also known as "the Triangle." As part of this process, WSF convened a citizen advisory group called the Triangle Improvement Task Force, an advisory group comprised of volunteers from each community served by the route. 

In June 2017, the Triangle Route Improvement Task Force teamed up with WSF to change how we process vehicles at the Fauntleroy tollbooth and on the dock. This new tollbooth procedure helped us address several questions. 

What causes long waits?

The basic issue is that during the busy summer season, demand for vehicle spaces on this route – and many other routes across the system – exceeds the capacity of our terminals and vessels during peak travel times. This leads to longer wait time as more customers arrive for the ferry than can be loaded on board. This same capacity issue causes backups on our state’s highways, bridges and surface streets during rush hour.

Beyond the fact this terminal and route is over-capacity at peak time, Fauntleroy faces unique constraints in our system:

  • The single dock serves two destinations.
  • The dock is too small to hold a full ferry-load of vehicles: Only about 80 vehicles fit on the dock, while our typical vessel on the route holds 124 vehicles.
  • We have a single holding lane for two destinations on the shoulder of Fauntleroy Way, which makes it impossible to sort the vehicles by destination.
  • There are only two tollbooths to process all that traffic.
  • With more than 40 sailings per day, Fauntleroy has the most frequent departure schedule in the system.

How can there be empty spaces on ferries when there is a long wait?

The factors listed above result in a situation where we have both long waits and unused vehicle spaces aboard our vessels.

  • Small dock and single holding lane: During peak time, more vehicles arrive than the dock can hold, which means drivers for both Southworth and Vashon must wait in a single line on Fauntleroy way. When the vessel arrives, we quickly load the vehicles from the dock to the vessel, and start processing vehicles through the tollbooth. For single destination sailings, a police officer has to pull as many vehicles as possible out of line to board the sailing. This takes time, because a police officer must walk up Fauntleroy way and manually call vehicles out of line, waiting for gaps in through traffic to allow the vehicles to safely pull out. Sometimes there are so many vehicles lined up for the destination that is NOT sailing, that there are not enough vehicles within a quarter-mile of the terminal to fill the vessel.
  • Single dock and frequent sailings: Customers often ask that we wait “as long as it takes” to fill each ferry, because they believe this will get them to their destination faster. Due to the single dock at Fauntleroy, this is not the case. When we delay departure to wait for more vehicles, the vessel will be late picking up passengers at its next stops, and late on its return back to Fauntleroy to pick up more rush hour traffic. In addition, because there is only one dock, the next ferry can’t land. People on the incoming ferry then arrive late, which results in unexpected delays to their trip and missed transit connections. That vessel will also be late at its next stops.

What about a by-pass lane?

In some circumstances WSF used to let drivers “by-pass” the tollbooth by using the exit lanes. Due to cross-traffic, limited visibility and speed, this practice is unsafe for our employees. WSF cannot put our employees at risk in this way.

What is WSF doing to make the situation better?

WSF is working with a volunteer citizen task force, to develop solutions to improve the Triangle route. In June, we implemented new tollbooth procedures that were developed in partnership with the task force. Data from the first 30 days suggests that the new system has resulted in marginal increase to the number of cars that pass through the tollbooth in Fauntleroy and has improved operations at the terminal including:

  • Safer, more orderly flow
  • Tollbooths now operate like toll facilities at other ferry terminals
  • Less fare evasion
  • Sets up tollbooth for phone ticket redemption
  • Allows us to better monitor transactions
  • Improvements to employee morale and work conditions

What are the next steps?

Washington State Ferries will continue to monitor the new tollbooth procedure and share results with the task force WSF will host two public meetings, one in Southworth and one on Vashon, in September, to discuss the new procedures and address community concerns.


Phase 1: “Quick Wins”, January - June 2017

During phase one, the task force met to study the route and identify “quick wins” for WSF to implement this summer. Quick Wins Report (pdf 196 kb)

The quick wins implemented include:

  • Improve vehicle processing at the Fauntleroy tollbooths, in order to get more vehicles through at peak time. New tollbooth operations: Flyer (pdf 288kb)
  • A public information campaign to educate drivers about steps they can take to save time while using the route. Buy tickets in advance: Poster (pdf 390kb), Flyer (pdf 388kb)

Phase 2: Long term planning, June 2017 - Present

Phase 2 of the task force’s work includes monitoring WSF’s implementation of the “quick wins” and exploring mid- and long-range strategies to further improve performance on the Triangle route. 

Phase 2: Meeting and Materials Library

  • June 6, 2017: This meeting covered the following topics: WSF budget process and timeline, the pilot project (Phase 1), the Public information campaign for summer (phase 1),  and the plan and potential priorities of phase 2 of the task force process. Meeting agenda (pdf 73kb), Official notes document (pdf 85kb)
  • July 12, 2017: This meeting covered the following topics: WSF budget process and timeline, the pilot project (Phase 1), the Public information campaign for summer (phase 1),  and the plan and potential priorities of phase 2 of the task force process. Meeting agenda (pdf 78kb), Official notes document (pdf 84kb)
  • August 10, 2017: This meeting covered the following topics: Data from the first 30 days of the new tollbooth procedure, history and background of schedule and ridership patterns, task force priorities for the schedule, and an update on public involvement campaign. Meeting agenda (pdf 85kb), Official notes document (pdf 84kb)
  • September 14, 2017: This meeting covered the following topics: Data from the second 30 days of the new tollbooth procedure, history of the previous WSF planning efforts for the route, and the upcoming public meetings.  Meeting agenda (pdf 84kb), Presentation