Monthly Archives: November 2016

Comments illustrate difficulties in fixing triangle ferry route


I don’t envy those who’ll be trying to fix the triangle ferry route.

The solution probably requires cutting sailings so boats have time to load and still keep the schedule. Riders from Vashon Island and Southworth don’t want less service. They want more, especially more direct runs, at the expense of each other.

Meanwhile, the Fauntleroy community doesn’t want anything to do with either of them. It would prefer that the ferry dock just go away. I’d probably feel the same way too if I was in their shoes, though the dock has been there probably longer than most of them have.

Ferry traffic creates a freeway through their neighborhood. They especially hate the motorcycles that get off the boats first, roaring down Fauntleroy Way early in the morning.

Washington State Ferry officials held “listening” meetings in Southworth, Vashon and Fauntleroy two weeks ago, writing down all of the public comments. WSF director Lynne Griffith and members of her executive team heard from more than 120 people and captured more than 400 comments.

They’re assembling a community task force to review the comments and other data to identify “quick wins” that could improve service by summer, and exploring longer-term solutions.

Fauntleroy residents rarely use the route, but suffer its consequences. Many of their comments suggested that it operate out of Colman Dock in downtown Seattle instead of in West Seattle. There’s an extra slip at Colman, but the dock is being rebuilt to strengthen it against earthquakes over the next five years. Construction will cause a frequent loss of one of the three slips and a reduction in vehicle holding capacity.

When WSF last proposed diverting Southworth ferries to downtown in 2006, the city of Seattle said it didn’t want any more cars brought into downtown, said WSF planning director Ray Deardorf.

And, what about the riders who aren’t headed downtown, who work south of there. This isn’t the first time the downtown vs. West Seattle question has been batted around.
An origin and destination study in 2013 showed 53 percent of Southworth travelers wound up south of the West Seattle Bridge and 47 percent went north. From Vashon, it was 59 and 41, respectively.

Fauntleroy commenters didn’t have much good to say about the route. Ferry riders clog up streets, throw cigarette butts all over, their big trucks shake houses.

“Remember that Fauntleroy is a residential neighborhood,” one read. “Most cars head to downtown/East side. They do not stop/shop or provide any value to West Seattle. They jam up the bridge for West Seattle residents.”

The destination study actually showed 18.8 percent of Southworth riders and 12.2 percent of those from Vashon are bound for West Seattle, nearly as many as are going downtown.

At the other extreme, Vashon and Southworth riders proposed that the state buy properties near the Fauntleroy dock, by eminent domain if necessary, so parking and staging areas can be enlarged. They call for more lanes and a second slip. One of the biggest issues is loading there. There’s not enough space to sort vehicles for two destinations, plus deal with pre-paid tickets and those who are buying at the booth.

Vashon and Southworth want more sailings, particularly more direct ones to or from Fauntleroy that they don’t have to share. There’s not much room to squeeze more trips into the schedule. Whatever one community gains would be at the expense of the other, a source of division for decades.

“Vashon gets 3 times service to Southworth and pay LESS,” wrote a Southworth rider.

“Eliminate the SW run!!!” said a Vashon resident.

“Vashon is an island, Southworth is not and ok with eliminating SW service,” said another.

Based on historical use, Vashon has received 65 to 70 percent of car spaces and Southworth 30 to 35 percent, Deardorf said. In 2015, Vashon had 67.7 percent of the traffic and Southworth 32.3 percent.

The most heated debate continues to be whether to fill up the boats at the expense of being late or having to cut sailings versus leaving on time.

“Never sail without loading those who arrived in line before the boat arrived!”

“Make it a priority to leave with full boats even if running late.”

The ferries system is more concerned with on-time performance because that is among performance measures it’s required to send to the Legislature.

I cherry-picked comments from the hundreds submitted to illustrate a point that this is no easy fix. There were many good suggestions, particularly about loading boats at Fauntleroy. That seems to be Job One, and one they can work together on because it should benefit everyone.