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Fewer People Rode Washington State Ferries Last Year: Here's Why

Patch logo Patch 5 days ago Lucas Combos
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SEATTLE, WA — Washington State Ferries said severe weather last February, ongoing construction projects, and more transit options played an outsized role in a rare drop in ridership in 2019. According to Ferries data, 800,000 fewer customers rode ferries last year -- an overall drop of 3.2 percent.

Ferries said more than one-third of the decline could be traced to a record series of snowstorms in February, which saw tens of thousands of travelers cancel or delay travel plans. On some days during the snowfall, just 10,000 customers rode ferries — compared to an average of 50,000 to 60,000 on most winter days. Following that storm, the ferry system instituted a severe weather scheduling system, which limits runs on days with notable storm events.

Overall, the largest annual drop in ridership was seen on the Seattle/Bremerton route, where ridership was down 15 percent.


  • The Seattle/Bainbridge Island route remains the busiest route in the system, accounting for 26 percent of all ridership. Customers were down 2.2 percent in 2019, and vehicles decreased by 6.9 percent.
  • The Mukilteo/Clinton route now has the second-highest ridership in the ferries system and is the busiest route for vehicles.
  • The Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, B.C. route saw gains above 4 percent among walk-ons and vehicles, despite a monthlong suspension of the route, due to maintenance issues.

Ferries said statewide ridership is forecast to grow 30 percent by 2040.


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