Local Information

Half-million people to ride a ferry this holiday weekend

Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 09:15

Ian Sterling, communications, 206-714-1556

Plan for long lines, busy terminals as ridership swells for Memorial Day

SEATTLE – About 500,000 people are expected to hop aboard a ferry during the next five days (May 24 – 28). That means more than two times the population of the city of Spokane will be sailing around the Sound this Memorial Day weekend, the first busy weekend of the summer travel season.

Washington State Ferries expects many holiday weekend passengers to sail westbound Thursday and Friday, and then eastbound Monday as people return from their Memorial Day getaways. There will be additional service Monday with most routes on a holiday schedule, but passengers should still expect crowds and lines during peak travel times.

“As the weather warms up and the clouds clear, the region’s maritime landscape becomes even more majestic, attracting many more people to ride our iconic fleet,” said WSF head Amy Scarton. “We typically see a 50 percent increase in customers between Memorial Day and September compared to winter.”

Extra sailings
The following sailings are being added to accommodate increased traffic and are not indicated on the printed or online sailing schedule:

  • Sunday, May 27
    • 10 p.m. Clinton to Mukilteo
    • 10:30 p.m. Mukilteo to Clinton
    • 1:30 a.m. Clinton to Mukilteo
    • 2:05 a.m. Mukilteo to Clinton
  • Monday, May 28
    • 1:55 p.m. Anacortes to Orcas Island
    • 3:15 p.m. Orcas Island to Anacortes
    • 10:30 p.m. Friday Harbor to Orcas Island to Lopez Island to Anacortes

To reduce or eliminate wait times, customers may consider walking on the ferry. Passenger capacity is far greater than vehicle capacity on all WSF ferries.

Travel tips

Online vehicle reservations
WSF is expecting a high volume of visitors to vehicle reservations website starting at 7 a.m. Saturday. Users attempting to access the site will likely encounter difficulties or delays due to a record number of customers trying to make reservations from the San Juan Islands to Anacortes on Memorial Day.

Similar to purchasing tickets for a popular event, the number of spaces are limited, and they go quickly. If unable to initially secure a reservation, customers are advised to check the website frequently throughout the day, as reservations are often moved or canceled. Once reservation space is full, customers can still choose to travel stand-by, which may require long wait times at the terminal.

Drivers should also plan ahead for increased congestion on highways as they make their way to the ferry terminals with real-time traffic information on the WSDOT traffic app for their mobile device.

Memorial Day weekend ridership highlights

  • Ridership numbers are expected to be similar to or slightly higher than last year, when just over 480,000 people traveled system-wide between Thursday and Tuesday.
  • About one-fourth of all customers over the holiday weekend, or about 120,000, will ride the Seattle/Bainbridge Island route, which is by far the busiest.
  • Both the Edmonds/Kingston and Mukilteo/Clinton routes are projected to carry 80,000 passengers each.
  • The most noticeable increase in traffic will be on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes, where ridership will be up 25 to 40 percent compared with other weekends in May.

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.

Get Our Mobile App

  • Our Android and iPhone apps include statewide traffic cameras, travel alerts, mountain pass reports, ferry schedules and alerts, northbound Canadian border wait times and more.