When Kitsap County launched its passenger-only fast ferry service between Seattle and Bremerton in 2017, it wasn’t the cities’ first go-round with high-speed commuting. Only a few decades ago, Washington State Ferries ran smaller, car-free fast ferries on this route, plus a few others favored by commuters. When these got nixed due to shrinking budgets, King County stepped in to run water taxi service to West Seattle and Vashon, and after a 10-year hiatus, Kitsap now dispatches foot ferries from Bremerton and Kingston. Crossing takes about half the time of their car-carrying counterparts. A Southworth run will debut next year.
Meanwhile, the next big move for water transportation: hybrid-electric ferries, big ones. WSF aims to electrify its fleet to cut fuel consumption and embark on the journey to zero carbon emissions due to the governor’s executive order 18-01. The five new Olympic Class vessels due by 2028 will be able to serve nearly any route in the system.
Ferries by the Numbers
24.7 million Riders across all 10 routes in 2018.
6.5 million Riders that hopped on the Bainbridge–Seattle route, the system’s busiest, in 2017.
1,800 Number of ferry employees in the system, from tollbooth operators to galley crew to below-deck engineers.
20 Hours ferries are in service daily, which makes for scant maintenance opportunities.
11 out of 20 Terminals are slated for major improvements or preservation; two are currently undergoing renovation in Mukilteo and Seattle.
$15 Average non-peak season fare for a standard car and driver (you’ll pay more if you’re cruising in anything longer than 22 feet).
$8.50 Average round-trip fare for an adult, which varies depending on the season (more costly during peak season, May through September) and route (shorter crossings cost around $5).
50% Seniors and persons with disabilities are eligible for travel at half the regular rate.
13 Vessels that could retire from the 23-ferry fleet by 2037.
1 There’s only a single relief boat to summon when vessels break down.