When ‘same size’ doesn’t mean ‘same size,’ and what else emerged from Fauntleroy ferry-dock replacement Community Advisory Group’s latest meeting

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The latest meeting of the Fauntleroy ferry-dock replacement project‘s Community Advisory Group was as notable for what members didn’t get as for what they did get.

First, they were expecting to get long-awaited research information at Wednesday’s meeting on promised studies of how dock traffic might be affected by changes such as using the Good To Go! electronic payment system. That information, as Fauntleroy resident Frank Immel said, is what “we all have been waiting for.” Some have long contended that the more efficient fare-paying can be made, the less space the new dock will need. WSF promised at last month’s meeting (as we reported) that the information would be available at this meeting, but said Wednesday it wasn’t ready after all.

Second, some members complained that they didn’t get the time they needed to review a 64-page environmental-analysis report that Washington State Ferries had sent to them the day before the meeting. (See that report here.)

Otherwise, there was one major headline from the meeting:

A new WSF memo (read it here) clarified something that Immel had pointed out at the previous meeting – none of the alternatives currently under consideration for the new dock and terminal would have exactly the same footprint as the current one, despite descriptions WSF had used that could be interpreted as if some did. From the new memo:

…These alternatives include A, A-1, A-2, and A-3 that keep the dock size as small as possible, hold the same number of vehicles and support the same operational functions as the current terminal. These alternatives increase the size of the dock by about 30%. WSF regrets any confusion caused by earlier references to these alternatives as “same size.” WSF considered A, A-1, and A-2 as same-size options because they hold a similar number of vehicles and accommodate existing functions without a reduction in reliability, service, or operational efficiency.

Replacing the dock with a new dock that is the same square footage as the current dock does not meet the project’s purpose and need because it cannot provide operational efficiencies and support reliable service. Replacing the facility with the same square footage would significantly reduce vehicle holding capacity and available space for terminal operations …

The memo explains that’s largely because of design standards that require more room for certain things – like semi-trucks – than the current dock has: “For a same footprint alternative to meet the current design standards, WSF would need to reduce the capacity to two lanes for holding vehicles and two lanes for unloading vehicles. This configuration greatly reduces WSF’s ability to safely and efficiently sort, manage and load vehicles and bicycles for different sailings and destinations.” The memo also throws a little advance cold water on those hoping the Good To Go! study results will support a not-that-much-bigger dock: “While Good To Go! may provide operational efficiencies in fare processing for vehicles, WSF does not expect GTG! to overcome deficient operational constraints, like the space required to effectively sort and stage vehicles.” This page from the meeting slide deck shows the square footages of the alternatives under consideration:

Trying to downplay the prospect of a larger dock was disingenuous, CAG member Mardi Clements said when the memo came up for discussion late in the meeting: “In the beginning, this was called terminal replacement, not terminal expansion.” She also pointed out that dock space isn’t the ultimate limitation for WSF, “it’s vessels and crews.” (As widely reported, the system is short on both, and not expecting to remedy that for years.) However, WSF was unyielding on its contention that it’s imperative for the dock to be larger – that the question is only, how much larger?

Otherwise, the meeting focused on environmental considerations, as that’s the stage the project is in right now – the Planning and Environmental Linkages Study.

The briefing/discussion led by WSF’s Marsha Tolon went through a variety of environmental factors taken into consideration (see the full slide deck here). Among the several that were spotlighted: Effects on parks – this slide showed the alternatives that would most and least affect Cove Park to the dock’s north:

All the factors analyzed, and the results of the analysis, are in that aforementioned 64-page document, meant to be taken into account as screening of the potential options continues. No conclusions or recommendations were reached at the meeting – that’s later in the process.

WSF also said that it’ll be embarking on another round of wider community “engagement” this spring:

These events, tentatively planned for April and May, will be more briefings/reminders than feedback sessions, said WSF’s Hadley Rodero. So watch for word of those soon. Meantime, more meetings are ahead for the Community Advisory Group – anticipating the Good To Go! studies next time. As Fauntleroy’s Judy Pickens emphasized, “We have been waiting for this information for the longest time.” WSF convened the group almost three years ago, at which time construction was envisioned to start as early as 2025, but now the timeline runs a few years beyond that, with design and construction projected 2027-2029 (also, it should be noted, when construction is supposed to start for Sound Transit‘s West Seattle light-rail extension).

ADDED: Here’s the video recording of the meeting.

30 Replies to "When 'same size' doesn't mean 'same size,' and what else emerged from Fauntleroy ferry-dock replacement Community Advisory Group's latest meeting"

  • John March 23, 2024 (1:45 am)

    For the life of me I can’t understand why WSF ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to add a second slip to the Fauntleroy dock. It would be cheaper than widening the dock and more efficient for loading/unloading 

    • Derp March 23, 2024 (9:25 am)

      Why do they need a second slip ? Mukilteo, Bainbridge, Vashon, Southworth, all only have one slip. 

      • Eric March 23, 2024 (9:36 am)

        Because fauntleroy way gets backed up to California way in heavy traffic days. This blocks buses and locals and Vashon and southworth commuters.

        The dock is severely undersized for the volume of traffic in peak travel days, by definition it is non accommodating infrastructure to anyone near or that has to use those ferry’s.

        It’s a joke to assume good to go will make hundreds of commuters and tourists to disappear during peak travel days in the spring and summer.

        • John March 23, 2024 (2:54 pm)

          They could widen the dock to 10 times what they have but if they can’t get the boats loaded and unloaded in an efficient way or there’s one boat filled with cars waiting offshore it makes no sense. If they’re really looking to the future two slips is the best option

      • Jon Wright March 23, 2024 (10:18 am)

        Because adding a second slip would be neither cheaper nor more efficient?

      • Kyle March 23, 2024 (11:30 am)

        Bainbridge has two slips.

      • Ivan Weiss March 23, 2024 (12:22 pm)

        Vashon has two slips. This is because unlike Fauntleroy, ferries go in two directions from Vashon, and because, also unlike Fauntleroy, sometimes Fauntleroy-bound and Southworth-bound boats are using the terminal at the same time. There is no need whatever for a second slip at Fauntleroy. None.

        • John March 23, 2024 (2:55 pm)

          There are many times where a boat will be headed directly for Southworth from Fauntleroy or headed towards Vashon. Also with the volume of cars would make more sense to not have a fully loaded boat sitting offshore while another loads and unloads

          • Ivan Weiss March 23, 2024 (4:46 pm)

            Even with two slips,  both boats couldn’t load and unload at the same time. They can’t, and they don’t, at Vashon, where there are two slips. So little to no time is wasted on the rare occasion where a boat has to idle offshore while another loads. Two slips at Fauntleroy is a pipe dream, based on a pipe dream, which would piss off the Fauntleroy Community Association more than they are already, for negligible gain.

        • Vashonite March 23, 2024 (5:56 pm)

          Vashon has three slips for WSF plus the foot ferry slip. Two slips at Fauntleroy makes sense as ferries depart Fauntleroy to both Vashon and Southworth. Even if that wasn’t the case, one could be unloading and another loading which often happens on Vashon.  It’s a waste of resources to have ferries waiting to dock at Fauntleroy.

          • Ivan Weiss March 23, 2024 (8:45 pm)

            If you’re a Vashonite, then you know perfectly well that the third slip at the Vashon terminal is a holding slip only for an out-of-duty boat, and there is no passenger access to it, for either foot or vehicle passengers. For purposes of passenger traffic, Vashon has two WSF slips.

          • Anne Higuera March 24, 2024 (8:25 pm)

            @ivan weiss, the 3:50p, (WS via Southworth) and 4:35pm from West Seattle regularly arrive at Vashon at the same time and unload simultaneously. I have never seen them load simultaneously, but they can and do unload at the same time. When the 3:50pm boat from WS to Southworth is sufficiently late, it has to wait at Southworth for the fast ferry there to leave, which causes additional delays.Both of these situations reduce operational efficiency.  @vashonite, there is an open question about the cost of a replacement dock with one slip and how that aligns with state funding. The cost of a dock with two slips will surely be beyond that.  

        • Shannon March 24, 2024 (7:46 pm)

          When the boats get out of sync with the schedule…which is frequent…things get even more messed up when they have to dwell offshore waiting for a boat at Fauntleroy to depart

      • Karl Larsen March 24, 2024 (1:52 pm)

        Actually, Vashon and Bainbridge have 2 slips, and a third tie-up slip.

      • Come on For Real March 24, 2024 (2:55 pm)

        You might review your comment. Vashon definitely has two slips, and Bainbridge. 

      • Shannon Flora March 24, 2024 (7:38 pm)

        Not correct. vashon has two slips plus and over night maintenance slip plus the water taxi slip 

    • Will March 24, 2024 (6:07 pm)

      I totally agree and have asked this at each meeting. A second slip would improve safety, on time performance, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Do they listen? Never. 

  • Eric March 23, 2024 (9:32 am)

    Good to go isn’t going to solve anything. Without a bigger dock, Fauntleroy way will still get filled all the way back to California on busy tourist season days. Good to go only helps last minute arrivals.

    Between the horrible traffic that occurs, blocking public transit and in turn often blocking major sections of Fauntleroy way on busy summer and spring days, it’s amazing to see people still assuming that 200-300 cars will magically disappear and no longer cause such issues with good to go.

    Pickleball courts are too loud for wildlife? Well, cars idling and sitting all the way up the road doesn’t do much service to wildlife as well. A bigger dock with 4-5+ lanes will help a LOT with mitigating idling cars next to the park and blocking traffic, which causes a major transportation and health issue.

  • Ellisotrec March 23, 2024 (4:01 pm)

    A 2nd slip will cause more erosion and environmental issues.  It isn’t an option.  That is also the problem with a bigger dock.  People forget how important the environment is and shouldn’t focus on traffic needs.  If you live on an island you have to realize the impact of ferry traffic. 

  • Susan March 23, 2024 (6:09 pm)

    “Rush Hour” (such a quaint expression any more!) is Rush Hour… whether you’re crossing town on surface streets, or creeping on 99 or the freeway, or waiting for the ferry. Ditto with holiday weekend travel.  It makes no sense to me why ferry riders don’t recognize that. The congestion lasts for a couple of hours, and then unclogs.  Help me understand what would be served by an even larger, mostly empty dock, for 20 hours a day?And please, don’t compare the RESIDENTIAL setting of the Fauntleroy dock to the COMMERCIAL zoning of all of the other WSF docks.  That’s comparing apples to oranges. 

  • stay on your island March 23, 2024 (11:46 pm)

    One of the most frustrating aspects of this design discussion is hearing from the Vashon drivers that think they have every right to expand a terminal in a city they fled. A ferry monstrosity would permanently destroy at least the nearby beach if not a significant chunk of Lincoln Park and the surrounding neighborhood. Meanwhile, if King Country makes any attempt to locate any kind of housing or municipal services on or near Vashon, we see the island’s community rise in solidarity to claim all kinds of preservation necessity, tribal rights, power/water/drainage capacity, or whatever slogan comes up in the self-imposed-hardship playbook. You can’t have it both ways, Vashon. Our neighborhood is not your driveway. If you want to be a wealthy whites-only enclave separate from the city, just stay there and give us peace. You moved to an island to escape city life, stay there. Please. Stay there. Otherwise, move here. Don’t claim mistreatment for the lifestyle you chose and pollute West Seattle’s beaches and endanger West Seattle’s neighborhoods with commuter traffic. Stay home. We owe you nothing.

    • Ivan Weiss March 24, 2024 (1:21 pm)

      Please consult with your physician and ask that your dosage of hyperbole pills be reduced. The ferries are, by statute, an integral part of the state highway system, and they are for everyone’s use, not just ours on Vashon. The biggest increase in traffic has been caused by increased residential development in Kitsap County, which has meant more Southworth traffic. And if you don’t understand that the lineup of cars on Fauntleroy Way SW is a safety hazard, which an expanded dock would alleviate, then you must not get down there much.

      • there you go March 24, 2024 (3:33 pm)

        Yup, it’s that time in the debate. Remember that there are high capacity docks in downtown Seattle. No need to wreck a residential neighborhood for Vashon’s selfish preference. Plenty of space downtown where additional capacity is available. 

        • Al King March 25, 2024 (6:24 am)

          There you go. Will use your “selfish preference” argument if the city tries to put a homeless shelter or group home or rehab facility in my neighborhood. You’re with me on that?

          • and there you are March 25, 2024 (10:26 pm)

            Here’s the difference and why calling Fauntleroy/Gatewood families “NIMBY” is disingenuous on it’s face: Your ferry dock in our neighborhood is a luxury. You can drive the Maury bridge to go south or go downtown to go anywhere else (Southworth passengers have multiple options as well). The shelters and clinics you campaign against are necessities of a thriving county, essential growing pains to invest in our own community health. These are not optional, and your judgement and resistance to them are proof positive that you see your island as absolution from your place in King County. Vashon Island is a net expense. You take more from our tax base than you contribute and want more more more like a financially failing red state. Seattle has a nice big ferry terminal downtown as well as a small one here. Deal with it or work from home.

      • S March 24, 2024 (4:04 pm)

        The ferry doesn’t just serve people who live on Vashon. There are West Seattleites who depend on it as well. I live in West Seattle and work in Port Orchard, and take the ferry to work. I have friends who live in West Seattle and use the ferry to get to schools on Vashon and vacations on the Olympic Peninsula. Quit it with the “us versus them” NIMBYism.

  • Robert Dannenhold March 24, 2024 (10:56 am)


  • LEN Berkowitz March 24, 2024 (1:17 pm)

    I was told there are plans to make the dock a destination per a deli/coffee restaurant highlighting  local artisan works from our diverse community. The native artists in this region have been systematically overlooked. Their contributions are immense and should be celebrated. This has been a topic at the a Gatewood Hill Social Association many times. We are going to reach out to our partners at the Morgan Junction and  Arbor Heights community Association per nominating indigenous artists who have opened our eyes and hearts to artistic expression and cultural diversity. 

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