It’s been more than eight months since the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth ferry route was again reduced to two boats. Even for a busy holiday weekend, it’s not getting a third boat – and it’s not likely to see three-boat service restored until next spring, which could mean almost one full year from now. That’s according to both WSF’s latest Service Restoration Plan Progress Report and the updates given at WSF’s online community meetings earlier this month.
At the meetings – we watched the recording of the daytime session on June 14th – WSF managers went into exhaustive detail about the systemwide shortages of both staff and vessels that have put their service-restoration plan on “pause” right now. Regarding staff, they said the most critical shortage is of licensed captains and deck officers – they have 26 fewer than they need, and it’s not an easy position to fill, because the WSF captains and mates also have to be trained pilots, something that other large ships handle in Puget Sound by bringing a pilot on board. Meantime, they have five fewer vessels than needed. And new fleet additions are now even further in the future than before, as the state’s talks with Vigor to build the new hybrid ferries broke down (as first reported by the Kitsap Sun) and they’ll be going out to bid, which means no new ferry before 2027. The first one was supposed to be under construction by now, per the plan originally announced at a Vigor event we covered in 2019.
Back to service restoration in the shorter term – WSF reps were asked at the June 14th meeting why Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth is toward the bottom of the priority list for restoration, considering it includes a ferry-dependent community. System managers noted that Vashon has an alternative – the one-boat Tahlequah-Point Defiance run. They’re also not expecting to restore regular service levels to Seattle/Bremerton or Port Townsend/Coupeville until next spring, either.