Washington State Ferries has installed plates and padlocks over nine electrical outlets in the passenger level of Colman Dock to discourage people from hanging out there for hours.
The crackdown surprised Bainbridge Island resident Mary Beth Abarbanel, who came home from a long flight two weeks ago. She couldn’t recharge her dead cellphone while waiting for the next boat across Puget Sound. “That is deliberately poor customer service,” she wrote to the agency Oct. 15, noting that many transportation hubs supply public-use charging stations.
A customer-service manager replied, “The locks have been put into place to keep the homeless from coming into the terminal and staying for long periods of time to charge their electronics.” Abarbanel said a terminal worker gave a different explanation, that cords presented a tripping risk.
Ferries spokeswoman Marta Coursey said, “We’ve had people wanting to come in and take control of a space all day long.” Some were charging not only telecommunications devices but also small personal appliances, she said. Coursey said anyone may enter the ferry terminal, which includes small shops, unless they disturb ferry customers.
The outlets were installed decades ago for maintenance (and one of them supplies a state-lottery vending machine), but ferry riders have plugged into them during layovers, like the people in a trendy “wall huggers” TV ad. Passengers are welcome to ask terminal workers to unlock an outlet, Coursey said. “If that’s true, why don’t they put up a little sign?” Abarbanel asked. “It’s a minor issue clearly, among the bigger issues.”