On The Real Capacity Of A Bigger Ferry

On February 5 2018, LineTime asked this question of Ferry Manager Rachel Rowe and Paul Randall-Gutter of Public Works:

Glosten’s presentation to the Commissioners shows loading and unloading of the ferry takes 70% of the available time. That’s 21 minutes out of 30. In order to increase the number of cars to 32, Public Works will need to save at least 7-9 minutes to keep to the schedule with those additional cars. Obviously, some of that might be removing ticketing delays but those don’t exist on the Guemes side. 

Would you please explain your plan to ticket, load and unload 10 more cars in the same amount of time that now is barely sufficient for 21? 


By February 9, we had not received a reply. We then asked Skagit County Comissioner Ron Wesen who has nudged Public Works to reply to us previously:

Once again I feel like I’m communicating with a rock. No reply from anyone as yet. This question is critical, too. If they can’t load and unload 64 cars in half an hour (full loads both sides), then we gain nothing with a larger boat. In fact, we lose levels of service (twice an hour runs and the 84 cars an hour we can currently carry) that we often depend on. I am skeptical that it is even possible to load/unload and reload and unload 64 cars in 20 minutes, even if the rides were free, that is with no ticketing issues to slow loading down.

Instead, he responded:

The ferry needs to run Two round trips per hour. Ticketing system needs to be improved. Loading ramps on both Anacortes and Guemes sides need to be wider to allow cars and passengers to load at the same time. The Executive Summary talks about all of these issues.

We replied:

I’ve seen that but it only increases my skepticism. Yes, speeding ticketing and loading passengers simultaneously will definitely help load times, just not enough. There are no ticketing issues on the Guemes side or with unloading on either side and it seems unlikely that the system now halts car traffic for 7-9 minutes to load and unload passengers. Plus, I was asking for a specific plan. I would think Public Works has worked out exactly how to save the necessary time but I have not seen specifics. For example, how do they plan to speed ticketing? The ferry manager has rejected outright many ideas presented over the years - one example: Many of us have seen many times three crew standing idle while one person struggles to sell. Yet Ms. Rowe has insisted that it’s impossible to have two cash boxes open at the same time when virtually every retailer in the country does that every day. Since the majority of traffic are residents, another idea was to have automated systems such as those used on toll roads to scan and charge registered riders as they drive on.

The document suggests "The most critical improvements recommended are the addition of ticketing kiosks, online ticketing sales, and the ability for the ticketing agent to process credit card transactions on a mobile device from anywhere on premises.”  

That stills leaves quite a few cash transactions, commercial vehicles which need to be measured and written up, and the infrequent traveler who has no idea what they are supposed to do. During the summer, a fourth crew person tickets the next load while the ferry’s running. In theory, that removes ticketing considerations from load times but still they struggle to stay on schedule with 21 cars.

All that will help, of course, but I still ask if it will be sufficient? 

He answers:

"All that will help, of course, but I still ask if it will be sufficient?" Great question,  we all need to be confident that it will be sufficient to move forward. Two trips per hour is a design requirement.

Now, we come to our question for you:

Currently, the maximum capacity of the Guemes ferry is 21 cars or 126 cars in 3 hours (one way). If, after months of trying to improve load times on the new ferry (32 car capacity), the ferry manager concludes that given all the fixes the best they can do is load, say, 25 cars in half an hour, do you want:

A. The ferry to run every half-hour, even if it means leaving cars on the dock and space on the deck? This means the ferry will carry a maximum of 150 cars in 3 hours.

B. The ferry adjusts the schedule to run every 45 minute, allowing time to load a full boat. This means the ferry capacity is actually only 128 cars in 3 hours.

C. Worse, the county decides to run only once per hour, carrying only 96 cars in 3 hours.

We've closed the survey.

See the results.

Tags: ferry