Washington State Ferries, the nation’s largest ferry system, carried nearly 24.5 million passengers in 2017, its highest ridership since 2002. Ridership increased for the ninth consecutive year and was up by more than 250,000 over 2016.
“We expect our ridership to continue to grow as more people move to Western Washington,” said WSF head Amy Scarton. “As part of the state highway network, the ferry system is a critical link between more affordable housing on the west side of the sound and key employment centers on the east side. Not to mention, we’re also a major tourist attraction and an iconic part of the state.”
WSF said the increase in ridership includes an all-time high on routes serving the San Juan Islands, despite a decrease in total sailings due to vessel breakdowns during the busy summer months. In 2017, state ferries completed 161,072 trips and travelled 901,288 miles.
The largest growth came on the Fauntleroy/Southworth segment of the “Triangle Route”, where ridership was up 8.2 percent, or more than 70,000 customers over 2016 totals. Vehicle transport was up vehicles up 8 percent within the segment.
The Seattle/Bainbridge Island route had the biggest jump in total riders with nearly 100,000 more passengers compared to the previous year. It was also the busiest route for total ridership with customers up 1.5 percent and vehicles up 0.1 percent. The route also welcomed thesystem’s third Olympic class ferry, Chimacum
, to the route in the spring.
Edmonds/Kingston saw the second highest total ridership with customers up 0.5 percent and vehicles up 1 percent.
, meanwhile, was the busiest route for drivers with vehicles up 0.9 percent and customers up 0.7 percent.
Anacortes/San Juan Islands saw record ridership despite summertime service disruptions for unplanned maintenance with customers and vehicles up 0.2 percent.
The Point Defiance/Tahlequah segment recorded its second largest year-to-year growth for total ridership with customers up 3.8 percent and vehicles up 1.9 percent.
Summertime vessel breakdowns on the Port Townsend/Coupeville service contributed to a small decrease in ridership with customers down 1.5 percent and vehicles down 1.8 percent.
Anacortes/Sidney, British Columbia
saw a noticeable drop because of summertime cancellations due to vessel breakdowns with customers down 10.1 percent and vehicles down 9.3 percent.