Leaving Colman Dock to the south

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski of Bremerton asks, “Is there any logical reason the Washington State Ferries almost invariably force all traffic leaving the terminal in downtown Seattle to proceed south on Alaskan Way?


The in basket: Tom Wisniewski of Bremerton asks, “Is there any logical reason the Washington State Ferries almost invariably force all traffic leaving the terminal in downtown Seattle to proceed south on Alaskan Way?
“I asked a ferry employee about this once and was told it was because it was a game day and there was lots of traffic downtown,” Tom said. “This struck me as totally ‘brilliant’ to force all those cars departing the ferry to drive TOWARD the stadiums. So is there a logical reason for this traffic flow or is it just their ‘policy?”
The out basket: Both, you might say.
Susan Harris-Huether of WSF replies that it’s a tale of the two traffic lights one might encounter leaving the Seattle terminal. Only the northernmost one permits left turns to go north or straight-ahead traffic to go east
“WSF does not control the north light which cycles every two minutes,” she said. “Thus if we have a boat-load of people, plus a lot of street traffic blocking the intersection at the north light, it is faster for us to off-load to the south where we do have control of the light and the intersection.
“On busy days, we also have an issue with people on the dock – bikes, people wandering, etc and so we also have safety concerns,” she said. “But, generally, it deals with speed to off-load and load.”

4 thoughts on “Leaving Colman Dock to the south

  1. So that’s why! In my rare trips to Seattle, where any intended destination is almost never south, I have been irked at being sent into the no-man’s-land of the industrial south end.
    I will still be irked, but the reason seems, well, reasonable.
    Thanks.

  2. The ferry employee’s and Harris-Huether’s comments are without substance! This unexplained phenomenon occurs every day, even when there are no games in the area. This beckons further investigation as to just WHY drivers are blocked from proceeding to the north exit, which always seems to clear quickly in spite of its 2-minute cycle. Harris-Huether hints that the south exit’s lights are controlled by WSF. If that’s the case, why don’t they make it clear to drivers that they are allowed to turn right from the exit onto Alaskan Way on a red arrow (after stopping, of course, and making sure traffic is clear). Most people will stop at the red arrow and wait until they get the green arrow, effectively backing up traffic at that exit… exactly what WSF doesn’t want! Here’s the BEST solution: allow exits at both the north AND south points (except, of course, when the Bainbridge and Bremerton boats are off-loading at the same time)!

  3. The fact is, Andrew, that the line to the north is much shorter and will block traffic behind it much faster right back onto the ferry itself so no one can move.
    The lines to the south will hold between 75-100 cars, nearly half a ferry load, plus the light is ‘long’ to get people off. The lines to the north might hold 25 total.
    The ferry system wants you off the boat and off the dock as fast as possible. If you insist on going north and encountering the light, you make it impossible for anyone behind you to go south. The operative word is “faster.” I would venture to say that if I went south and you went north, I could get turned around and to a northerly location faster than you could. I’ll beat you to the U District for sure, and probably even Ballard. If your destination is so close downtown that this would not happen, it begs the question. Why take your car? A taxi is cheaper.
    In fact, Harris-Huether’s comments have quite a bit of substance — you just have to be willing to understand and accept them. Of course if the ferries irk you that badly, you can always avoid the issue. Just drive around.

  4. Michael— you appear to think I know nothing about the geography of Colman Dock?

    The point is, Michael, that both the north AND south exits should be open WHEN FEASIBLE. If the WSF controls the lights at the south exit (per Harris-Huether), then they should be able to control the lights at the north.

    And yes, Michael, Harris-Huether’s comments ARE without much substance, given the main inquiry, and that she seems to be addressing safety concerns rather than “speedy off-loading”.

    Don’t assume I’m “irked”, Michael, I’m simply looking for a long-term solution.

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