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WSF tinkers with Triangle Route

As she rode the downsized Triangle route of the Washington State Ferries Wednesday morning, Washington State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond heard firsthand how the lack of a boat was affecting Southworth commuters.

“Hearing directly from riders really helped fill in the picture,” said Lloyd Brown, a spokesman for the WSDOT, explaining that many of the concerns echoed those that had been expressed in e-mails to state officials.

After Hammond met with the riders, Brown said she then met with WSF officials to “share that information and see what (could be done) to try and balance some of these issues.”

One of the common complaints from Southworth drivers was the difficulty they were experiencing getting home in the evenings after work. Not only are the direct sailings from Fauntleroy to Southworth missing from the two-boat schedule, but there was a long gap between 4:40 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. where no boats headed past Vashon Island.

But now as of yesterday, the 5:55 p.m. departure will continue on to Southworth instead of turning back to Fauntleroy.

“I want our customers to know that we were listening and taking notes this morning,” said Hammond in a press release announcing the changes. “Hopefully these adjustments will help during this temporary service reduction.”

Other changes announced Thursday include:

• the current 6:50 p.m. departure from Fauntleroy will now leave at 7:25 p.m. for Vashon only;

• The passenger-only ferry service between Vashon and Seattle will be adjusted 5-10 minutes. For example, the current 4:45 p.m. departure from Seattle will now depart at 4:40 p.m. to allow Southworth customers on the passenger-only ferry to catch the 5:20 p.m. sailing from Vashon.

• The WSF has “worked to balance the ratio of vehicles loaded at Fauntleroy and Vashon terminals.” (Many Southworth commuters have pointed out that while the Kitsap can hold more cars than the Tillikum, no extra Southworth cars are being loaded.)

Another issue Brown said commuters brought up often was the lack of notice they received about the route changing to two boats.

“The release came out late Friday, affecting the first run Monday morning, which is not a lot of time for people to adjust their schedules for work and childcare,” he said. “We recognize that we can do a better job.”

When asked why Hammond suggested adjusting the schedules and WSF officials did not, Customer Service Manager Susan Harris-Huether said a different perspective can help.

“Sometimes we are too close to things,” Harris-Huether said.

As for customers who cannot make the two-boat schedule work for them, Harris-Huether said they can contact her for refunds on pre-paid multi-use cards.

“If you’ve purchased a multi-ride card and you’re now driving around, you can call or e-mail me and let me know what’s going on,” she said, explaining that she can refund up to 50-percent of the price.

A refund would also apply for users of POF that normally take the 8:15 a.m., since for now there is no 7:55 a.m. departure from Southworth.

Also this week, WSF officials worked out a maintenance schedule with the U.S. Coast Guard that they report will “minimize service disruptions through the spring and summer and that still meets” the necessary requirements.

“Ensuring our vessels are safe to operate is our top priority,” Hammond said. “Now that we have a plan, we will be providing much more notice to ferry passengers in advance of any planned service disruptions.”

The adjusted schedules will be available at the terminals and aboard the vessels starting this week, and e-mail alerts were sent to route subscribers.

For more information visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/ or call (888) 808-7977. For questions about bus service, contact King County Metro at (206) 553-3000, or Kitsap Transit at (360) 337-2877.

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