Ferry ridership on a roll

0527_KSLO_TokitaeGot a couple ferry email alerts Thursday. At 11 in the morning, drivers were having to wait an hour on the other side to catch a boat to both Kingston and Bainbridge Island. That’s typical for getaway Fridays, but Thursday? At 11 in the morning? And for the first time ever this summer I’ve seen four-hour Sunday waits at Kingston.
That got me to wondering what the ridership numbers are looking like. Washington State Ferries has them on its webpage, by quarter and year.
First, some background. After WSF lost license tab money in 2000, it started jacking up fares, boats broke, the economy tanked. Ridership plummeted 17.2 percent through 2012. It finally turned around in 2013 with a 1.5 percent gain, followed by 2.7 last year. Through the first half of this year, it has spiked 4.5 percent.
It’s rebounding with the economy and relatively cheap gasoline, says longtime WSF planner and Central Kitsap High alum Ray Deardorf. The mild winter and spring weather also contributed.
The increases have been in discretionary and commercial travel, he said. Commuter trips have been stable or dropping, depending on the route.
This last quarter, April through June, for example, there was an 8 percent jump in full-fare passengers (those without passes), while those with multi-ride cards and transit passes (commuters) declined 5 and 5.8 percent.
Also last quarter, WSF carried 6,254,301 riders, the highest count in that quarter since 2002, Deardorf said.
A couple new 144-car boats, Tokitae and Samish, have bumped 87-car Tillikum and Evergreen State, which didn’t hurt the numbers but probably didn’t add significantly, either. Two more boats will be arriving in the next couple years, which will retire the Klahowya, last of small, old ferries.
During the second quarter, the Bremerton route gained 6.9 percent more riders, Kingston 4.5 percent, Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth 3 percent and Bainbridge 2.2 percent.