VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — On Vashon Island, people live by the rhythm of the ferry schedule.
Now, the state is redoing the schedule for the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run for the first time in 15 years, cutting four late-day sailings from Vashon to Fauntleroy.
Two of the remaining sailings, at 6:40 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., would go via Southworth, extending a 20-minute ferry ride to 45 minutes.
Cheryl Lubbert is the owner of Nashi Orchards, which makes hard cider.
Fewer evening sailings to Seattle would make it tough for her to meet with restaurant customers and for her off-island employees to get home.
"Adding extra time makes it harder in a really tight labor market for us to find the right people to work in our businesses, and it's already hard enough because we're on an island," Lubbert said.
In addition, more than 230 students travel from off-island to attend Vashon schools, and district leaders are concerned about families being able to get home from evening events.
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Washington State Ferries officials said they are reconfiguring the schedule to accommodate growing traffic to Southworth, factor in a larger vessel coming to the route and provide more time for boats to load at Fauntleroy.
"We've had a chronic on-time performance problem here," said Ray Deardorf, of Washington State Ferries.
Deardorf said reducing late-day direct sailings from Vashon to Fauntleroy is necessary to get boats back to Fauntleroy for moving afternoon commuters west.
A group of islanders proposes the state switch to a so-called pendulum schedule, where all ferries on the triangle-shaped route stop at both Vashon and Southworth.
While that would add 10 minutes between Southworth and Fauntleroy, pendulum schedule supporters say ferries could reliably sail from each dock every 35 minutes, providing far more frequent service from Southworth.
Chief Charlie Krimmert, of Vashon Island Fire and Rescue, is among those backing the idea.
He needs to get aid units back on the island quickly after taking patients to Seattle hospitals.
"I think it's a very, very promising solution, and I think it should be taken very seriously," Krimmert said.
Ferry officials say they incorporated elements of the pendulum idea into their revised plan, but a complete switch would not serve commuters well who travel to and from Fauntleroy and would eliminate well-used sailings in the peak commute.
The ferry system hosted an open house Wednesday evening on Vashon Island about the schedule changes, and is hosting another one Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Harper Church in Port Orchard.
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