With several Washington State Ferries routes on a reduced schedule, travelers planning to drive onto a state ferry should expect longer wait times as they head out of town for the Fourth of July weekend.
Passengers are likely to see the longest wait times at the Edmonds, Kingston, Mukilteo and Clinton terminals. State Ferries expects the heaviest traffic heading westbound on Thursday and eastbound on Sunday.
While “it’s hard to guess what it will be this coming weekend,” Kathy Mesa, a spokesperson for State Ferries, said passengers have waited between 90 minutes and three hours the past few weekends.
Riders who wish to avoid the crowds are advised to walk on or take an early morning or late evening sailing.
The agency has reduced its service capacity over the spring season due to limited crew availability because of concerns about spreading the coronavirus. More than 100 employees are considered to be at high risk if they contract the illness, State Ferries said.
Esther Bryant Kyles, who worked for 25 years at Washington State Ferries and most recently as a ticket seller at Colman Dock, died in late March after testing positive for COVID-19.
Decreases in fare revenue, which helps fund the system, and limits to the ability to perform maintenance on vessels during the pandemic have also affected the agency’s sailing schedule.
“I know how service changes can be frustrating, especially for communities that rely on us as a vital link to the mainland,” Amy Scarton, head of Washington State Ferries, said in a news release. “I ask for your patience during this difficult time, when most counties remain under directives to travel for essential purposes only.”
Ridership fell by more than 75% in March compared to 2019, according to State Ferries data. Ridership has recovered somewhat and is now down about 50%. The biggest drops have been on the Seattle to Bainbridge and Seattle to Bremerton routes.
All walk-on passengers are “highly recommended” to wear a face covering and maintain social distancing. State Ferries may limit the number of walk-on passengers on each sailing, if necessary, to enforce distancing needs.
Drivers are “strongly encouraged” to remain in their vehicle throughout the sailing.