North Sound News

Ferry wait times spike following staff shortages

MUKILTEO, Wash. — As a result of the pandemic, there are fewer employees on ferries, and departures are often cut in half.

“This is not a normal year. … I think we can all agree on that, and people shouldn’t expect this to be normal ferry service,” noted Ian Sterling, Washington State Ferries.

Before your next trip across the Puget Sound, it would be wise to have a budget.

A time budget, that is.

“The wait is pretty awful. Pretty awful. So it makes you resentful of the people coming over who are tourists,” said Don Lane, a resident of Whidbey Island. “As things open up in phases, it just gets worse and worse and worse.”

According to Sterling, ferry workers are doing more with less.

Currently, the number of passengers is going back up, but more than 150 employees are off the job due to the pandemic.

“Some (employees) are in that high-risk category, either by age, or whether by underlying health conditions, or both, so we want to keep them safe,” Sterling told KIRO 7 News.

It has led to a reduction in ferry runs.

Ahead of the Fourth of July period, ferry workers are already warning passengers the wait this weekend could exceed four hours.

“When it was really bad, there was nobody on the ferries, but that was just about and month and, since then, things have ramped up considerably,” said Lane.

“As long as we can keep employees safe and keep the customers safe, I think if you’re willing to wait, that’s OK,” added passenger Daniel Albert.

With COVID-19 spiking again, long wait times will likely happen all summer long, according to Washington State Ferries.

Other than in Mukilteo, wait times have also doubled in Edmonds and at the Colman Dock in Seattle.