Washington State Ferries look to expand in 2023
Washington State Ferries details 2023 changes after difficult year

Source: Google News

WSF looks to increase staffing and help regulate a growing trend of unruly passenger behavior.

SEATTLE — Officials with Washington State Ferries said the agency experienced plenty of ups and downs last year, with one of its biggest challenges being a workforce shortage.

“We grappled with some challenges, but also had a lot of successes,” said Hadley Rodero, a spokesperson with WSF. 

Rodero said the agency is looking to add services back as the system continues to recover from the pandemic. WSF has half of its 10 routes fully restored. The rest depends on vessel and crew availability. Right now, it needs to fill about 50 unlicensed deck positions, which primarily deal with the riders.

“Sometimes it’s not a great place to work when you have customers calling you names,” said Hadley. “You know homophobic, racist, sexist comments toward our employees makes them think twice about whether they want to keep a job with Washington State Ferries.”

Last year there were a little more than 31,000 riders, less than half of the 65,000-plus riders that took the ferry in 2019. Despite the decrease in ridership, Hadley said staff has seen a growing trend of unruly passengers. To help with that, WSF is implementing a new warning system in the coming weeks to keep the riders in check.

“A system where they’ll be issued a yellow card, kind of like soccer, you know warning,” said Hadley. “That says if you don’t abide by this code of conduct you could end up having Washington State Patrol issue a no trespass order meaning you would have a certain amount of time when you weren’t allowed on the Washington State Ferry.”

As far as vessels, Rodero said WSF has big plans on the horizon for this year. One is starting construction on a new electric ferry, which is slated to be up and running in 2027.

“We have 21 vessels in our fleet right now, our long-range plan which looks out to 2040, calls for 26 vessels so we do need to keep building new ferries, a lot of our ferries are old and getting near retirement so we’re doing a lot of maintenance work to keep those in service,” said Rodero.

The agency is also slated to open the new Coleman Dock Terminal on the Seattle waterfront fully this spring. 

“Hopefully our passengers can have some patience with us we do try to restore service levels we’re doing the best we can, and our crews are doing an amazing job,” said Rodero.