Local Information

Ferry ridership surges to highest level in a decade

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 08:19

Ian Sterling, communications, 206-515-3959

New  stats show more than 24 million took to the water on state ferries in 2016

SEATTLE – Ridership topped 24.2 million commuters, tourists and travelers aboard Washington State Ferries in 2016.

State ferries completed 162,327 trips, and travelled 910,610 miles in 2016 – enough to circumnavigate the earth 36 times. The largest spike in passenger, car and truck traffic was on the Point Defiance/Tahlequah route, where there was an uptick of 5.8 percent over 2015 totals. The Seattle/Bremerton route carried 2.1 million foot passengers, the most recorded on the route since 2004.

“Ridership is definitely on the rise,” said Chief of Staff Elizabeth Kosa. “We are adding two new vessels to the system, however, maintaining aging ferries and providing enough service to meet demand continues to be a challenge.”   

Planned system improvements

WSF will address some of these challenges by assigning the newest Olympic Class ferry, Chimacum, to the busy Bremerton run in spring 2017. The ferry Suquamish, will replace a smaller, Issaquah Class vessel to increase capacity on the Mukilteo/Clinton route next year. Additionally, WSF is assembling a volunteer citizen advisory group to make recommendations to help improve service on the busy Fauntleroy/ Vashon/Southworth route, also known as “the Triangle.”  

System highlights from 2016 include:

  • The Seattle/Bainbridge route has the highest ridership in the ferry system, and carried 4.5 million people and 1.9 million vehicles last year.
  • Ridership grew significantly on the Point Defiance/Tahlequah route in 2016. Passenger service was up by 6.5 percent (319,936 total riders); vehicle traffic increased by 5.3 percent (764,558 total vehicles) Total combined passenger and vehicle growth swelled to 5.8 percent (812,788 total).
  • The Mukilteo/Clinton route hauled 2.2 million vehicles.
  • Ridership continues to increase between Fauntleroy, Vashon and Southworth with 3,059,587 total riders (2.8 percent more than last year), the fifth highest route ridership in 10-route system.

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 people and commerce through the most majestic scenery in the world. For breaking news and the latest information follow WSF on Twitter.

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