MUKILTEO — To ferry regulars, cutting in line is next to a felony.
To the Washington State Patrol, it’s a $139 traffic ticket.
And they’re trying to get the word out.
Last week, the state ended its longstanding “HERO” line cutting reporting program.
Signs posted on state roads with 877-764-HERO encouraged the public to report HOV lane violators and ferry line cutters. Educational materials were sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.
A slap on the wrist, not really. No cost incurred. Just a piece of paper in the mail that hopefully would make them think twice the next time.
The only way violators were punished monetarily was to be caught in the act by a trooper. That’s still the case.
Washington State Ferries and the State Patrol teamed up for a new campaign to remind people about the $139 fine for cutting in line.
It’s dangerous and inconsiderate, officials say.
Road rage can result.
“We don’t want what broke out before, which is fistfights and people pulling guns,” ferry spokesperson Dana Warr said. “It has been a couple years.”
The fine is nothing new.
“It has been in effect,” Warr said. “We are just trying to make sure people know that line cutting is illegal and a traffic violation. I know of a lot of better things to spend $139 on instead of a traffic ticket.”
It also is a traffic infraction for a driver to block a residential driveway along the road while in a ferry queue. Roads leading to terminals are marked where drivers should wait.
Ferry employees do not have the authority to issue fines, but they can direct cheaters to their proper place in line.
As with speeding and other infractions, troopers must witness violations to write tickets.
Officers are aware of problem ferry line cutting areas.
“It happens all over our system. We know Mukilteo is a big one,” Warr said.
At times it is necessary for those with medical emergencies to move to the head of the line and allowances are made.
“We want people to be patient,” Warr said.
Patience comes with the territory of being a ferry regular. Boats run late. Much time is spent in the car.
Some jerk who cuts the line can mean having to wait an extra 30 minutes or hours for the next boat.
Crew shortages during the pandemic have led to cancelled sailings all over the ferry system leading to increased wait times. This happened twice over the weekend on the busy Mukilteo-Clinton route, which went to one-boat service on Friday night during peak travel and again on Sunday.
The Washington State Department of Transportation began the HERO Program in 1984 to educate HOV lane violators on the rules. It was expanded in 2010 to include the ferry waiting lanes.
The program costs about $120,000 per biennium to operate. Those funds will be reallocated to traffic operations and safety improvements.
Over the next few months, WSDOT maintenance crews will begin removing the “764-HERO” signs.
The best way to be a hero is to wait your turn.
Andrea Brown: email@example.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.
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