An open letter to Washington State Ferries | Letter

An open letter to Washington State Ferries | Letter

Mr. Sterling,

It is now 7:10 p.m.

The m/v Samish is not shown on Vessel Watch information, but the map shows the boat in Anacortes.

The m/v Yakima apparently has no schedule, although the map display indicates it is off Lopez.

The WSF schedule for the San Juans has no boat assigned to the number 2 position.

The Vessel Watch map indicates the m/v Chelan is approaching Friday Harbor, but the table below the map says it is in Anacortes for a 7:10 p.m. departure.

There is no terminal information status (space remaining on remaining sailings) displayed on the Anacortes web page.

So if islanders want to know the status of the 7:10 or 9:05 westbound departures, well, they’re out of luck at this time.

The reservations system was unable to be used for the Labor Day’s added afternoon service, and the system’s apparently complex way of managing schedule changes—planned or otherwise—along with severe bandwidth problems at 7:00 each morning, is extremely frustrating. I have been in transportation operations and consulting for my entire career, but have never confronted such a dysfunctional reservations environment.

We understand the stress that WSF is under, what with crew shortages, budget shortfalls and uncertainties, and the February schedule’s inability to accommodate the San Juan Islands service commensurate with late summer traffic levels, even at the current reduced levels owing to the virus. Still, the almost total absence of information that might make it possible to understand what the rest of this operating day holds for us is in my view totally unacceptable.

If all of this were isolated situations there might be some explanation; it is, I regret to say, an almost daily pattern of WSF’s operations in the San Juans, with unexplained delays, incomplete information and a reservations system that is not serving us well.

We deserve better.

Bob Distler

Orcas Island

Note: Distler previously served on the State Transportation Commission and before that as chair of the San Juan Islands Ferry Advisory Committee.