A group of travelers aboard the MV Suquamish watch from the sun deck as MV Tokitae passes starboard side on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in the waters near Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A group of travelers aboard the MV Suquamish watch from the sun deck as MV Tokitae passes starboard side on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in the waters near Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Edmonds-Kingston ferry route had largest rider increase in 2023

Routes to and from Snohomish County had some of the highest, fastest-growing demand in the nation’s largest ferry system.

EDMONDS — The state ferry system’s 2023 ridership and reliability statistics show Snohomish County is somewhat of a travel hub for ferry commuters.

The Edmonds-Kingston route saw the largest year-over-year increase in passengers last year, climbing 15% from 2022. It was the third-busiest route with 3.5 million riders.

Mukilteo-Clinton was the second-busiest run in the state with 3.7 million riders, following Seattle-Bainbridge Island. Ridership on the Mukilteo route climbed 7% from last year.

Overall, ferry ridership jumped 7.4% from 2022, with 18.7 million total passengers. Ridership is also back to 78% of pre-COVID levels, with vehicles back at 86% of pre-COVID ridership, and walk on rates at 56%.

In 2023, 46% of canceled sailings could be attributed to a lack of crew. Systemwide, Washington State Ferries canceled 3,250 of the system’s 138,373 total sailings, leading to a 97.7% completion rate. This is a slight drop from 98% in 2022 and 2021.

In Edmonds-Kingston, reliability dropped to 96.2%, down from 99.1% in 2022. The Mukilteo-Clinton route was at 98.5% reliability, staying consistent with 2022.

Both Snohomish County ferry routes were bumped down to one-boat service during the pandemic, causing significant delays at ferry terminals. The Mukilteo-Clinton route was restored to two-boat service in 2022, but a vessel shortage meant this was only the case sometimes.

Edmonds-Kingston spent most of 2023 running with one boat, leading to similar delays for vehicle passengers. Two-boat service would come and go when there was a vessel to spare, but it was restored more consistently in December when a boat came out of the shipyard.

The system’s fleet is aging. Ferries spent an average of 12 weeks in the shipyard this year, longer than the system’s goal of eight weeks, due to limited shipyard space, ferry documents report.

Despite service falling slightly in 2023, the ferry system and state lawmakers have made moves to restore reliability.

State legislators approved $12.7 million last year to address crewing issues. The ferry system also rolled out a scholarship system in 2023 to help pay for training.

In December, the federal government also granted Washington $4.8 million to upgrade old vessels as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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