Who sailed where in 2018? Washington State Ferries reports ridership hit highest level in 16 years

(WSB file photo – M/V Tacoma in Elliott Bay, with Duwamish Head in the background)

West Seattle is unique in the Washington State Ferries system as home to the city’s only WSF dock in a residential area (Fauntleroy). So you might be interested in the 2018 ridership report just released:

Thirty-four times the population of the city of Seattle – that’s how many people Washington State Ferries carried in 2018.

Annual ridership on the nation’s largest ferry system increased by more than 225,000 last year to nearly 25 million, its highest level since 2002.

“Our ridership is up 10 percent from five years ago and it’s forecast to grow another 30 percent to all-time highs over the next 20 years,” said WSF Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton. “In order to support this projected demand with reliable service, our recently released 2040 Long Range Plan calls for 16 new vessels by 2040.”

The largest jump in 2018 came on the Southworth/Vashon route, where ridership was up 8.8 percent, or a gain of nearly 17,000 customers over 2017. This is the third year in a row that the biggest percentage increase has been on a route serving Southworth, as people move to more affordable housing in South Kitsap County.

WSF customers took more than 161,000 trips aboard state ferries last year, travelling nearly 1 million miles – enough to circumnavigate the earth 36 times.

2018 route-by-route ridership highlights

· System total: Customers up 0.9 percent from 2017 to 24.7 million, vehicles up 1.1 percent to 10.8 million.

· Seattle/Bainbridge Island and Bremerton: While it remains WSF’s flagship terminal servicing the most customers throughout the system, there was a year-to-year drop of nearly 60,000 total riders (0.6 percent) passing through Colman Dock. Vehicles down 2.3 percent on Bainbridge Island route, up 3 percent for Bremerton.

· Edmonds/Kingston: Second highest total ridership with customers up 2.2 percent. Biggest year-to-year increase in total vehicles, going up nearly 40,000 (1.8 percent).

· Mukilteo/Clinton: Welcomed system’s fourth Olympic class ferry, Suquamish, to the route in the fall. Busiest route for drivers with vehicles up 1.5 percent and customers up 1.7 percent.

· Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth: Customers up 1.4 percent and vehicles up 1.5 percent, led by the Southworth/Vashon segment, which had the largest year-to-year percentage growth with customers up 8.8 percent and vehicles up 6.8 percent.

· Anacortes/San Juan Islands: All-time record ridership with customers up 1.4 percent and vehicles up 1.5 percent.

· Point Defiance/Tahlequah: Customers up 2.9 percent and vehicles up 3.7 percent. Ridership up more than 250,000 from low point in 2008.

· Port Townsend/Coupeville: Customers up 4 percent and vehicles up 3.8 percent. Ten-year ridership increase of more than 350,000.

· Anacortes/Sidney, British Columbia: Slight drop due to a two-week suspension of the route due to vessel breakdowns with customers down 0.7 percent and vehicles down 1.8 percent.

· Route-by-route ridership numbers: Available on the second page of WSF’s Fact Sheet.

· Additional highlights: See more in WSF’s 2018 Year in Review.

5 Replies to "Who sailed where in 2018? Washington State Ferries reports ridership hit highest level in 16 years"

  • Bradley January 17, 2019 (2:13 pm)

    I ride ferries across the Sound at least twice a week and have for many years.

  • Susan January 18, 2019 (7:31 am)

    Thanks for opening with the point that the Fauntleroy terminal is in a residential area. 

    • Mark Yancy January 18, 2019 (10:33 am)

      Huh?  The Vashon and Southworth docks are surrounded by….residents.  

      • WSB January 18, 2019 (11:55 am)

        The commenter meant my reference to the fact that it is the only *Seattle* dock in a residential area. Which it is.

  • Craig January 18, 2019 (11:14 am)

    Shouldn’t ferry ridership be measured not as a raw ridership number/percent, but in comparison to the population growth it serves? The denominator (who could be riding) and numerator (who does ride) are growing at different rates. So, if ridership is up in 2018 1.1%, but Seattle population is up 2% in the same year that could mean the ferry demand is not growing at the same rate as the population it is supposed to serve. For the Water Taxi, I’d wonder if it’s being adopted by riders at the same rate that WS is growing. If it is, that’s great, if it’s not then why? But for all of these it’d be wise to factor in who is eligible to ride the ferry (employment growth within 10mi[?]) of ferry terminals, etc. Just wondering if that’s how they look at it as more than just blunt force growth alone. 

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