Are Commuters the Backbone of the Ferry System?

I really didn’t get into the story about the ferry customer survey enough on Thursday. Lots of commenters couldn’t believe that most of the people riding ferries aren’t commuters. I don’t know about that, either. It was a surprise to the Transportation Commission, too, which seemed to welcome the news.
One finding showed 13 percent of riders take 45 or more one-way trips per month and 22 percent take 25 to 44 trips. That’s 35 percent that ride more than 24 times per month. So not only are the commuters not the majority, they also get discounted prices.
Only 37 percent of trip purposes systemwide were for commute to work or school. Bainbridge was 41 percent, Bremerton 49 percent, Kingston 30 percent and Southworth 48 percent.
Another interesting item was that 44 percent of Bainbridge riders were walk-ons and 62 percent at Bremerton, both of which dump into downtown Seattle. The other routes were way lower.
The state wants to shift riders out of peak times so it can stretch it’s boats and terminals, but only 44 percent of people travel during peak times and only 4 percent say they have the flexibility to move to non-peak.
Somewhat surprisingly, 65 percent of riders say they are at least somewhat satisfied with ferry service. Only 23 percent are somewhat dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.

6 thoughts on “Are Commuters the Backbone of the Ferry System?

  1. What about the Port Townsend-keystone route? Three quarters of the year it is overwhelmingly commuters that use the system, but that seemed to miss the report. Why is it that this route gets the least amount of attention, exposure and/or consideration?

  2. Surprise, surprise. It’s about time Washington State Ferries learned who their constituency actually is. I use the ferry system often, but not as a commuter. Most of my family’s trips are for medical care not available to us in Kitsap County, and we’re of an age and situation that requires trips several times each month. I’ve long advocated for changing the commuter fares to an advanced purchase category, with the same discounts, but without the 90-day expiration. The ferry system would have our money in advance of use and could earn investment interest on it, and we the almost-commuters would benefit from pre-paid fares. Makes sense to me, but apparently not to the ferry system.

  3. When did this survey take place? And why didn’t I get surveyed on my regular commute to Seattle?

    Did they survey the people who sit in their cars and sleep on their regular commutes? I know I always see more then a few people climb into their back seat or pull a blanket up for a nice hour long power nap. Some of whom, I almost feel depend on me to wake them up on the other side, I’ve had to do it so often to the same car and people.

    I’ve seen the same group of people every single day, sit in the same chairs every single day, that they might as well have their names on them. I’m not talking one or two people, I’m talking that I know who isn’t a regular because I don’t recognize them.

    If there was a survey, most of us regulars probably didn’t take it because we either didn’t want to be bothered by some kid asking questions while we’re trying to unwind or gear for work, or we know nothing changes otherwise the horrible service by ORCA with their outrageously overpriced food, $4 for a lousy hamburger?!, would be gone long ago.

    Perhaps, they could do something so simple as use the ferry data to compare how many 1 trip people vs monthly pass people to give them a better idea of percentages versus some survey that I never heard about until now.

  4. This part indicates that the vast majority of riders during the rush hours are commuters or people who are going to some sort of time-constrained place (like a medical appointment):
    “…only 44 percent of people travel during peak times and only 4 percent say they have the flexibility to move to non-peak.”

    Whether it is 4 percent of the total number of riders or 4 percent of the portion who travel at the peak hours, it seems that very few people say they have the ability to respond to peak-hour pricing that would be intended to give them an incentive to travel at non-peak hours.

    Does the report say what percentage of riders on each ferry run who were surveyed on peak-hour runs were commuters?

  5. That wasn’t a rhetorical question. Neither is this: Do you have a digital copy of the survey report that you can post on this blog?

    Here is a little more information from an article written by Charles Melton and published at the Port Orchard Independent:
    “On peak morning sailings (5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.), 75 percent of riders said they were heading for work or classes.

    “The survey probed commuters’ willingness to shift travel schedules as higher peak hour fares and incentives for off peak riders have been suggested as ways of spreading demand more evenly across the day.

    “Of those peak hour commuters, 22 percent said they could have taken an earlier or later ferry and only 4 percent said they could travel on off peak hours. One quarter of respondents system-wide supported higher fares during peak hours.”

    I suppose that is a system-wide figure of 75 percent commuters (work or school) during the morning peak traffic period.

    It makes sense then, that the other 25 percent include a few (4 percent of the total, I guess) who could have gone on a much later ferry — after the peak hour. The others among that 25 percent didn’t have to be on the particular ferry run that they were, but didn’t want to wait another couple of hours or so to begin whatever trip they were on.

  6. Since commuters tend to have monthly passes and the new “Wave to Go” system reads all passes electronically, can’t the ferry system produce statistics comparing the proportion of riders using monthly vs one-time passes? That would be a useful cross-check to the survey of willing participants. We commuters are notoriously grumpy about interruptions such as yet another survey that will be used to justify degraded service or increased fares.

Comments are closed.