23.2 million ferry riders are really about 300,000 people

The in basket: Lynne Griffith, the latest head at Washington State Ferries, has initiated a system update that is e-mailed weekly. I don’t know how widely it’s distributed, but I’m on the list. It’s remarkably brief and easy to read.

The past week’s version advised readers of expected heavy loads of bikers for Sunday’s Chilly Hilly event, apologized to Bremerton/Seattle riders for the MV Kitsap’s mechanical troubles, reported that she’d met with a tribal representative to discuss Colman Dock upgrades, reported the completion of a steel wing wall at the Bremerton terminal, and commended specific WSF employees for their response to a passenger’s medical emergency Dec. 17 on the Kingston run, and generally for their contributions to last year’s United Fund Drive.

An earlier weekly report back in January said WSF ridership totals for 2014 were 23.2 million riders, a 2.7 percent increase over 2013.

I used to write news stories about such statistics when I was a reporter, and often wondered how many actual people they represented. A commuter who rides back and forth daily during the week would make maybe 280 trips one-way in a year, doubled to include the trip home, so he/she would be 560 of the 23.2 million.

Casual riders like my wife and I would be about 10 of them, representing an approximation of our one-way trips from Southworth. We usually drive around coming home.

I asked WSF if they have any idea how many actual people ride the ferries. It would reflect how many have a vested interest in the boats and would support funding proposals to make them successful and affordable.

The out basket: WSF does indeed have an idea of that number, says Ray Deardorf, its long-time planning director.

According to a study of possible fare strategies done in 2012 by the Joint Transportation Committee of the state Legislature, drawing on origin-and-destination studies done in 1999 and 2006, buttressed by a 2008 survey by the state Transportation Commission, there were 297,000 individuals riding the ferries in 2008. Announced total ridership that year was 22.7 million. So actual people comprised only 1.3 percent of that total.

The combined population of King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Mason, Skagit and Thurston counties in 2010 was 4.26 million. So ferry ridership comprises about 18 percent of the populace most likely to care about ferries, meaning for 82 percent of them, the ferries are probably just a curiosity and something to do some weekend when friends or family are visiting.

3 thoughts on “23.2 million ferry riders are really about 300,000 people

  1. Well, probably the families that are being supported by those ferry riders also care. And the businesses supported by the extra money those people are bringing home from their Seattle jobs compared to what they can make in Kitsap county. And the people who work at the ferry system, regardless of whether they use the ferries to commute to their jobs. And probably all the businesses clustered around many of the ferry terminals.

  2. Well, I guess you don’t count all those tourists who support businesses across the peninsulas as “actual people”.

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