Ferries Missed Just Half a Percent of Trips

Washington State Ferries put out some end-of-year stats recently. They show that of the 162,568 trips scheduled in 2010, 161,882 were completed. That’s a 99.5 percent completion rate.

There were 809 cancellations. Guess what caused most of them. No, not crew members oversleeping. They say that only 17 cancellations were crewing-related. Two hundred forty-five trips were canceled because of tides. I would think most if not all of them were on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route. Right behind was vessel maintenance, which caused 235 trips to be canceled, and 132 weather-related, most of which probably were also at Port Townsend.

Rounding out the aborted sailings were 61 for emergency medical response (transporting ambulances), 13 terminal-related, four security-related  and two safety-related.  There were 100 miscellaneous cancellations, which are generally attributed to resetting a sailing schedule because ferries were running late.
WSF also added 125 extra trips for medical emergencies to and from Vashon Island. These really tick off the Southworth riders. I’ll write about that one of these days.
The on-time averages for 2010 were: 84 percent between zero and 5 minutes and 94 percent between zero and 10 minutes, which is a respective 2 and 1 percent improvement over last year.

2 thoughts on “Ferries Missed Just Half a Percent of Trips

  1. WSF is judged basically by two things. On Time Performance (OTP) and Customer Complaints.

    The following numbers come from this quarterly report by the Secretary of Transportation. The section referring to WSF begins on page 17.


    WSF carries over 22 million passengers per year. According to Paula Hammond’s latest numbers, we do that with 99.7% reliability and are on time 88.3% of the time. Of the 11.7% of the trips that are more than 10 minutes off schedule, 38% of those are due to mechanical issues, a medical emergency or a “security situation.” A large portion of late departures (I don’t have numbers handy) are due to trains in Edmonds, traffic lights in Seattle and Bainbridge, and Customs issues up north. The majority of the rest of our late departures are due to something that our passengers did (locked their keys in their car, forgot the left their bicycle on the ship, dead batteries etc…..).

    WSF get complaints from its customers. Many of them are justified and reflect valid public concerns. According to Paula Hammond’s numbers, complaints were up of the same period last year but WSF identified this spike as an organized letter writing campaign regarding a galley issue on the Hyak. This being said, the actual complaint numbers are particularly interesting. Paula Hammond states that WSF received 8.3 complaints per 100,000 customers, an increase of 2.4 complaints per 100,000 customers over the same period last year. This increase includes the 14% spike due to the Hyak galley situation. Even so, 8.3 complaints per 100,000 customers is equal to 8.3/1000ths of One Percent!

    During the State’s Budget Crisis, the maritime unions voluntarily gave back negotiated and ARBITRATED pay raises. During the same period of time, some members WSF management were given HUGE raises. How much you ask? See: http://lbloom.net/dot07.html and look up the names of some of the top folks at WSF Headquarters. Compare their salaries for 2007 and 2009. You will see huge raises in annual compensation ($15k, $18k, $20k and even $35K!!). Somebody should look into that…

    Maritime union labor has had some bad press this year… Some of it was justified but it needs to impressed upon the Legislature and the public that WSF vessel crews (the union labor) are the highly trained and licensed people that come to work every day, enduring no end of lousy work schedules to ensure that the ferries continue to go back and forth across the water and move those 22 million people even if 8.3/1000ths of one percent are going to complain about how we do it. It needs to be impressed upon the Legislature and the public that there are not enough properly licensed, documented and certified people in that whole WSF HQ building to legally move even our smallest ship away from the dock. The vessel’s union workers are the ones who move the ships, passengers and maritime commerce across the Puget Sound. It can not be done without them however there may be some serious economies to be realized at WSF HQ…

    The latest PVA study (Governance) emphasizes that all other arguments aside, a steady funding source must be identified for WSF. The study also suggests a major change in the way WSF is managed, holding WSF managers accountable for the wasted funds and taking governance of the system away from the competing political agendas of the Legislature by setting up an independent board to run it. See HB 1005. This governance issue is pretty sticky. No matter where you look, somebody will be having a piece of the pie pulled off their plate and there is nothing like losing control of an agency that can start a turf war.

    Are there economies that need to be made? Yes, but focusing on the workers (recent bad press and all…) is not the answer. The workers are not the ones making the multimillion dollar mistakes at WSF…

    Washington State Ferries needs a steady funding source. How we got here does not matter but cutting service and attacking the people that run the ships(King 5)is not the answer. What matters is that in order to provide continued service, we need to fix the funding problem. Anything short of that is just a band-aid that will not stay on when you immerse it in water.

    WSF moves 22 million people per years with only 8.3/1000ths of 1% of our customers making complaints. This figure is astounding and should be celebrated. Are you as statistically pleased with any other aspect of your life?

  2. Thanks Ed for bring this subject up. Sometimes an economic crisis can cause us to throw out the good with the bad .
    And Dan that was quite an educational summation, I would suggest you send it in to the paper as a editorial piece .

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