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Expect long wait times for vehicles boarding a ferry


Last updated 12/21/2018 at Noon

Passengers wait to embark on a ferry from Edmonds to Kingston on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of people will be dashing through the Sound on a crowded state ferry over the next several days. People driving onto a vessel should plan for long wait times as many travelers head to or from their Christmas or New Year’s getaways.

It turns out delays may be longest on the Edmonds-Kingston route, where a smaller-than-normal vessel is in service.

“Walk-out capacity is never a problem,” said Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling. “But we’ve seen some lengthy wait times this year, longer than I can remember – up to four hours. That’s just symptomatic of everybody wanting to travel at the same time. And we’re also getting more walk-on passengers.”

Want to ease your ferry hassles during the holidays? Remember to take some patience with you. And here, Sterling shares some important information from Washington State Ferries:

Busiest travel times

The Saturdays prior to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are expected to be the busiest. With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, many passengers are also likely to travel on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday following the holiday. Delays are expected in both directions on several routes.

To reduce or eliminate wait times, customers may consider walking on the ferry or travelling early in the morning or late in the evening.

Vehicle capacity reduction on Edmonds/Kingston route

Despite a spike over Christmas week, vehicle traffic during this period is far less compared to the summer months. To minimize possible summertime service disruptions, several vessels are undergoing wintertime maintenance.

As a result, the 188-vehicle Walla Walla is substituting for the 202-vehicle Puyallup on the Edmond-Kingston route through early 2019. Customers will need to plan ahead as the reduction in vehicle space could contribute to longer wait times.

Historically, far fewer people catch a ferry for the New Year’s holiday.

Holiday schedules

There will be a few holiday schedule changes for the Edmonds-Kingston, Mukilteo-Clinton, Point Defiance-Tahlequah and Anacortes-San Juan Islands-Sidney, British Columbia, routes on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

The Seattle-Bainbridge and Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth routes will operate on a weekend timetable on both days.

Travel tips

• Check terminal conditions before leaving.

• Sign up for ferry travel alerts.

• Follow WSF’s Twitter account for automatic updates on travel conditions.

• Review the fall sailing schedule for best times to travel and holiday service.

• Make a vehicle reservation for the San Juan Islands, Sidney, British Columbia or Port Townsend/Coupeville routes.

People who travel the highways should plan ahead for potential backups and delays as they make their way to the ferry terminals with real-time traffic information on the WSDOT traffic app for their mobile device.

Winter sailing schedule begins Jan. 6

There will be new sailing timetables on many routes starting Sunday, Jan. 6, when the winter schedule goes into effect. There will be fewer sailings on the Anacortes-San Juan Islands and Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth routes, and service to Sidney will be suspended until spring.


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