Bremerton ferry riders: Does that receipt say Bainbridge?

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Josh Farley writes: 

Have you driven aboard the Bremerton ferry from Seattle, only to find your receipt says you went to Bainbridge Island?

Lots of people have. In the words of Yogi Berra this story is “like deja vu all over again.” The most recent time, it was Kitsap Sun columnist Ann Vogel who took to Facebook to vent this complaint:

“Once again, at the ferry ticket booth in Seattle, I tell the employee that we are driving on the Bremerton ferry and he hands me a receipt for the Bainbridge route. This time, I ask to have it corrected and explain why. He tells me that the computer system automatically defaults to Bainbridge for all receipts and thus, for record keeping of ferry use. Time to write a letter. No wonder we have so few evening ferries while Bainbridge’s are so frequent.”

I asked the Washington State Ferries’ Marta Coursey about this frequent complaint. First off, we are only talking about cars here — pedestrians are counted at the turnstile where tickets are scanned at Colman Dock in Seattle.

For vehicles, it is ferry policy that all sales are credited to the correct route for each ticket sold. The ticket seller has a choice — Bainbridge or Bremerton — and the ferry system believes it’s important they pick the right one for the purposes of tracking ridership stats and planning, as well as accurate accounting.

In short, Ann, it’s not OK for the ticket seller to credit your Bremerton voyage to Bainbridge Island, and Coursey says the ferry system is “working directly” with those sellers and managers to “ensure staff is following procedures correctly.”

Here’s what you do if you’ve been issued a ticket incorrectly. Take your receipt, and mail it to:

Washington State Ferries 

Attn. Operations Manager Kathy Booth

2901 Third Avenue, Suite 500

Seattle, Washington 98121

The big question is whether undercounting Bremerton cars actually harms Bremerton ferry service, the subject of a piece by Kitsap Sun reporter Ed Friedrich a few years back. But if nothing else, having accurate record keeping is important. And that means Ann’s ferry trip should count toward Bremerton — not Bainbridge.

3 thoughts on “Bremerton ferry riders: Does that receipt say Bainbridge?

  1. If I recall correctly, the explanation years ago was that the system at the ticket booth uses the same destination for every ticket until the person in the booth finally presses the key that selects the other destination. By default, it stays on the destination that was last pressed by the WSF employee. That makes sense, if a line of cars is all headed for the same destination.

    It is obvious when you look at the data WSF publishes for the number of vehicles and passengers that the data is based on ticket sales. It is separated by categories showing how many paid full fare and how many paid a discounted fare. They cannot possibly know who paid full fare to go to Bremerton, or a discounted fare to Bremerton, except by sorting the data by destination first–then sorting by fares paid.

    It may only make a difference of a few hundred a day, but who knows? I looked at the actual traffic counts for the “highway” that includes the ferry runs several (many?) years ago, and I found that there were two or three hundred (if memory serves correctly) that seemed not to be coming back to Bremerton. Of course, they might have really not been on a ferry for the return trip, but that’s the point of insisting that WSF employees make the tiny effort to press that key on their machine and select Bremerton. It’s the only way to know how many rode the Bremerton ferry from Seattle.

    If they find the tiny effort of pressing the Bremerton key too burdensome, then have someone force them to press the Bremerton key in the morning and remove the Bainbridge key from the machine. It won’t take long for the heat to become unbearable when all the cars departing Seattle show up in the data as going to Bremerton rather than Bainbridge. ;-)

  2. This happened to me 3 times over a 2 week period of time.
    So frustrating when you bring it to the ticket booth
    Attendants attention and they just say sorry that’s the way it is! Really?

  3. I sent a letter to Jesse Jones and the Kitsap Sun on March 2, 2012 about this subject. In that letter I suggested that either one of them look into the statistics on ferry ridership since the numbers are usually skewed towards Bainbridge because of the ticket issued. Nothing was apparently done. More riders need to complain about tickets that are issued in error.

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