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July 30, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Boat shortage causes Edmonds-Kingston ferry delays

Washington State Ferries is down to one boat on the Edmonds-Kingston route today, causing full loads and waits of about 2 hours on either side of Puget Sound.

A ferry was removed from that corridor so that WSF could supply two boats on the Bainbridge-Seattle route — where the ferry Tacoma lost power on Tuesday and is currently docked at the Eagle Harbor maintenance base.

WSF around 11:30 a.m. started sending out service alerts that cars in Edmonds are already being staged for the 1:30 p.m. departure to Kingston.

Meanwhile, passengers on the Bainbridge-Seattle run have been complaining, in messages this morning to The Seattle Times, that delays on Tuesday evening stretched more than three hours.

Amy VanFossen, of Indianola, said she reached the Seattle dock at 4:20 p.m. but couldn’t board a ferry until 6:30 p.m.

“The ferries were not filled to capacity. On this 6:30 boat, the car deck was only about 1/3 full, and there were lots of empty passenger seats,” she said in an e-mail message.

Some said the Walla Walla was leaving with many empty seats.  Capacity is limited by Coast Guard regulations and the ability to evacuate people in case of emergency.  Ferry officials said Tuesday the vessel is allowed to carry 1,200 people. Several passengers said the Walla Walla was being limited to only 600 persons per trip.

“It was very upsetting for people who got on the boats, to see the boats were only half full,” said Judy Kennedy of Pouslbo. Kennedy said she waited three hours  in line at Colman Dock, without a chance to use the restroom, until nearly 6:55 p.m.

“The strict crew members in the terminal did the best they could to keep order and except for a very few line cutters, most people were being very good sports about the terrible conditions – standing only, no bathroom accessibility, no water, no free vouchers given to any of us, and very poor communication,” Kennedy said by e-mail.  “The ferry system needs to be better prepared for such emergencies and needs to communicate with the passengers. We were literally held back by yellow tape into holding areas.”

WSF didn’t have an immediate reply, but said it will comment further about capacity and delays by Wednesday afternoon.

The ferry Wenatchee is undergoing repairs in British Columbia, which left the system shorthanded when the Tacoma broke down. WSF tweeted late this morning: “Engineers investigating the ferry Tacoma are looking at the switchboard that controls ship’s propulsion. Hope to have answers next week.”

Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: ferries, Kingston

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