Sure, ferry rides can be relaxing, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to irritate weary veteran commuters.
Oh, sure, there’s plenty to like about a ferry commute: A galley with coffee. Room to lie down most days. A beautiful view.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to irritate weary veteran commuters, whose schedules are timed precisely to the vessels’ movements and whose days are already long.
Noisy kids on field trips, dogs, roller bags, Mariners and Seahawks game days, car alarms that go off the whole trip, busking musicians, tourists …
But worst of all? Line cutters.
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On foot or by car, intentional or accidental, few things outrage ferry commuters more than those who flout the queue.
A particularly committed group stakes out the front of the Seattle-to-Bremerton 4:20 p.m. commuter run every day, and heaven help you if you come in from basking in the sunshine on the deck and expect to get in front of them.
They’re not bullies, they swear. Just nice people with somewhere to be.
Those who park in downtown Bremerton can save drive time if they get out to the parking garage before the cars aboard the ferry have a chance to clog the streets. Others have buses and other connections to catch.
Tami Foster has been commuting by ferry for 15 years, and while she’s not among the first-on-first-off crowd, she understands a little of what drives them.
“You do have to be mindful of your time, because if you have to be someplace and you miss a ferry by one minute, you’re screwed,” Foster said.
Ian Sterling, spokesman for Washington State Ferries, said official reports of line cutters are not as common in recent years as the chatter on social-media sites such as Reddit and Twitter might suggest.
“It obviously hits a raw nerve, though,” he said, noting that a recent WSF tweet urging people to report violators garnered 30,000 impressions. “It infuriates people like being cut off on the freeway, but a thousand times worse.”
Though there’s generally enough room on most ferry routes to accommodate walk-on customers any time of day, people still line up to get their favorite table or a spot to lie down.
Those who ignore the line and surge for the ferry when the gates open are likely to get called out on it.
“I’ve never seen an actual fistfight, but I’ve seen arguments,” said ferry regular Cheryl Erickson.
As a person with a disability that allows her to board the ferry early, Erickson said she’s also seen a few amusing, if dubious, ploys over the years.
“There was this woman who used to get on the ferry in the morning with a cane, and at night, she would literally run past all of us, zoom past us, to meet her husband at the car,” she said. “It was a little ridiculous.”
Car commuters may have it worse, finding themselves on busy days in a line that may mean they don’t make the next ferry or even the one after that.
Sterling said car line cutters are either people who know better and try to sneak in, or tourists or newcomers who just don’t realize that all those vehicles parked on the right side of the road are actually in the ferry line.
Commuters from the West Sound make up the bulk of winter customers on the nation’s largest ferry system, he said. But in the summer, most routes swell by 50 percent with tourists who’ve made ferry rides the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction.
“Some of them honestly don’t know any better,” Sterling said. “And then there are the people who just don’t care.”
Those who’ve been cut off can report the violation to the HERO program, the state’s HOV and ferry line offender hotline. But all that happens is that the car’s owner will get a notice in the mail that they’ve been reported. Commuters say that’s small solace.
Some people find comfort in shaming the offender by posting a picture of their car and license plate on Twitter.
But best of all, commuters say, is racing down to the toll booth to report the miscreant and then seeing them forced to the back of the line.
That’s “much more satisfying than someone getting chewed out for 30 seconds,” a Reddit user wrote in a comment thread on a 2013 post titled “Scumbag Ferry Line Cutter.”
Sterling, for his part, hopes we can all just get along.
“There’s some bad actors, and people are not always as polite as they should be,” he said of both cutters and commuters. “It’s a special ride, and we’d like everybody to be fair, understanding and willing to share.”