State ferry service changes

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Most every state and local government and organization is joining the fight against COVID-19 by enforcing social distancing practices, reducing service or access to the public. Washington State Ferries is no exception, as they begin several measures to prevent the continued spread of the virus and alleviate its effects on individuals.

Due to low ridership numbers and the availability of crew personnel, ferries will not transition to a spring route schedule, but instead remain on the winter schedule until at least April 25, according to a press release.

“We know schedule changes affect many people, and we don’t make these decisions lightly,” Amy Scarton, head of WSF said in a press release. “But following discussions with health authorities and state officials, we had to make this difficult decision to help slow the spread of the virus while still preserving some service options.”

Galley food service has been suspended for all ferries in accordance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation to close all dine-in restaurants and food services.

WSF will also be more lenient with ticket refunds and reservation no-shows as people change their travel plans. Requests for refunded travel passes can be submitted online up to 90 days after the purchase time.

All no-show fees for vehicle reservations will be suspended on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands ferry and the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry until further notice.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 between the U.S. and Canada, Washington State Ferry service between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C. is suspended until April 28.

The service was scheduled to resume on March 29 after a three-month winter break but has been pushed back to April.

This will not affect domestic service in the San Juan Islands as it is “vital to the residents, businesses and economy of the San Juan Islands,” according to a Washington State Ferries press release.

Ridership numbers for the Bainbridge/Seattle ferry show how much Washingtonians are staying home, as numbers are down dramatically.

On Sunday Feb. 16, the Bainbridge/Seattle ferry route saw 14,009 riders, including passengers and vehicles. On Sunday March 22, the same route saw only 2,902 riders.

Ridership on the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry on the other hand, has decreased as well, but not as dramatically over the same time period.

The first small decrease happened last week after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all dine-in restaurants and certain other types of businesses to cease operations, dropping from 1,666 riders on Sunday, March 15 to 837 on Thursday, March 19.

According to a WSF press release, this is typically a slow time of year for the ferries as overall ridership is down 40%.

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