SEATTLE — An analysis of data from Washington State Ferries shows ferries are falling further behind this year than they have in the past decade, with a steady decline in on-time performance.
Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling told the Seattle Times that each summer, with 50% more passengers traveling by ferry, it’s not unusual to see a drop in punctuality from June to September.
But delays are more pronounced this year, and passengers on the Anacortes/San Juans route pose particular challenges, according to agency data.
While this route generally experiences more delays than others, in June nearly half of all departures on this route were delayed. The newspaper reports that this is a gap of 40 percentage points from the agency’s goal of running 95% of rides on time.
The agency attributes lower punctuality to a shortage of staff and higher passenger numbers on busy routes.
On weekends, especially holiday weekends like Labor Day, passengers on popular tourist routes such as Anacortes/San Juans and Port Townsend/Coupeville are more likely to experience delays on Thursday and Friday after- noon leaving the Seattle area and returning Sunday and Monday afternoon.
In July this year, the agency recorded a 6% decline in its workforce since 2019, when it was operating at full capacity. The agency is short of more than 100 people.
Last month’s hiring narrowed the gap to 4%. Still, it will be some time before recruits are fully trained to help fill staffing shortages.
The biggest staff shortage is in the engine room – the department has 45 fewer engineers – a drop of more than 10% from 2019, when it was operating at full capacity.
The staffing shortage extends to the deck crew. Since 2017, 66 captains and 24 seconds have left the system.