(Another guest post from Derek.)
I don’t know how many times I’ve been out with friends in
Seattle when I’ve been blindsided by this question. “What time do
you need to catch your boat?”
Naturally, my jaw goes slack and the hamster upstairs starts
running a little faster. Oh, and I pull out my iPod Touch. The rest
of this post is also for you iPhone owners.
Those crumpled ferry schedules in your pockets are SO 2004. Now,
when you need to find out when the next boat leaves, you reach for
your smartphone. This doesn’t really apply to you hardened ferry
commuters who can recite the schedule for your usual run backwards,
frontwards, divided by three and in Swahili. But for occasional
rider, or those of us who sometimes use other routes (I take
Edmonds/Kingston to get to my Dad’s house, but use the
Bremerton/Seattle ferry 90 percent of the time.) having access to
schedules on your iPhone/iPod Touch are mighty handy.
Right now, there’s a $5 app, an app in development that says
it’ll be free, and my slightly more homebrew solution that’s
First up: WSF Puget Sound Ferry Schedule app, $4.99
Here’s what you get:
- Ferry times and service alerts for all the runs.
A map of the routes.
Access to the state’s terminal Web cams.
The ability to search schedules for different dates.
My thoughts: I own this app, actually. It has a load of features
(some of which require internet access that I don’t always have on
my iPod, but what iPhone users would.) and is essentially a
repackaged version of the Washington State Ferries’ Web
site. You can access the full schedules without an internet
The next app, which is apparently in
development, could be a problem for this developer. The reason? It
appears to offer the same features, but will apparently be free. I
like the convenience of a schedule in my pocket, along with alerts
and cams, but $5 is kind of steep. (As a side note, I downloaded a
much earlier version and don’t recall paying $5. I can’t remember
for sure, but I think it was a couple bucks.)
*NOTE: This app was created by a private developer, not the
iFerry, a effort by a
Bainbridge company that is “coming soon” to the app store,
according to its Web site.
It looks like it’ll have much the same functionality of the
previous app, with a few nice additional touches. And it says it’ll
Let’s run down it’s planned features:
- Current schedules for all the routes.
- Real-time route alerts.
- Terminal cameras.
- Fare information, including those for bikes or larger vehicles
or multi-passes. (A nice addition, IMHO)
- Updated wait times for ferries.
My thoughts: Looks neat. Hope it stays free. Gonna put a dent in
the other app’s sales if it is free. It will have ads. But the
other app does, too. Keep an eye on both apps to see what happens
when they compete. Will they both be free? Will they both decide to
charge? Will they not have any real impact on the other?
My super-cheap workaround.
If you just CAN’T wait until the new app, and don’t want to spend
money on the first one, have I got a slightly convoluted, but free
solution for you. I’ll give you a couple, actually.
First, for those of us with iPod Touches who don’t want to pay
$8 (YIKES) for WSF’s Boingo wifi, you can simply head to the WSF
site at home, and pull up the schedule or schedules to your
most-used routes. On your iPod (Or iPhone) align the schedule so it
fills the screen nicely, and hit the round button, and top on/off
button at the same time. I’ll make a screen grab from your device,
and save it in your Photos thingamajig. Every time you need to scan
the schedule, just pull up the photo. Our Kitsap schedules stay
pretty much the same. Naturally you won’t get automatic ferry
updates, terminal cameras and other gee whiz geegaws, but it’s
f-r-e-e. And you don’t have to worry about losing that paper
schedule you crumpled in your pocket.
For those of you fancy pants people with iPhones, here’s a free
workaround to get the two most important features: The schedule and
First, you could just bookmark the schedule page. Or, you could
add that page as an icon on your home page. Just pull up the
schedule in your browser, click the + button, and select “Add to
Home Screen”. Icon created! Magic!
You want route alerts, do you? Well, you’ve got internets in
so head to the state’s Web site here, and sign up for ferry alerts
to your routes of choice. Every time a service alert is sent,
you’ll get an e-mail.
There you have my thoughts on ferry planning for iPod
Touch/iPhone owners. Those of you with Blackberries, Android or
WinMo phones, share your tips in the comments, eh?
And for those of you Luddites who still use paper schedules?
Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, actually. And that, too, is
- Derek Sheppard