Ferry route down to four boats

The Washington State Ferry boat Hyak (left) leaves the Anacortes terminal as the Samish approaches in July 2017.

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ANACORTES — Washington State Ferries is trying out a new schedule to allow it to adjust to snowstorms and other severe weather.

State Ferries activated its severe weather schedule Wednesday for a few hours on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route — the first use of the new schedule on any route, State Ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling said.

Anacortes received 12 inches of snow late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

“They had to dig the terminal out, and everyone was getting stuck,” Sterling said. “It was a mess up there.”

During the severe weather schedule, the route will operate with three boats instead of four. The change will reduce the number of sailings and delay the start time of the first sailing, giving crews more time to arrive at the terminal and shovel snow, Sterling said.

States Ferries created the schedule following declining ridership in 2019, which was due to factors including snow, according to a State Ferries news release. Ridership fell 1% on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route in 2019.

“Last year illustrated once schools are closed, transit shut down and roads closed. It doesn’t make sense to continue ferry service when there is little demand for it,” Sterling said. “(The new schedule) allows us to have a little more predictability and stability, otherwise you have canceled sailings.”

Sterling said the decision to switch to a severe weather route is based on school closures along the route and the weather forecast.

State Ferries will notify riders when its switches to a severe weather schedule through ferry alerts and social media, according to the news release.

Severe weather schedules for all State Ferries’ routes are available on its website.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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