June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:38 PM
"Passenger ferry experiment usefulWashington State Ferries did the right thing in deciding to provide a passenger-only ferry between Clinton and Mukilteo during those hours when construction will be occurring on the Mukilteo dock.The dock construction project is expected to begin in November or December, pending approval of environmental permits. When the announcement was made early this year, State Ferries said there would be no passenger-only ferry service during construction hours. Instead, the regular car ferries would simply use the Edmonds dock and people would have to make their transportation connections there.Only recently was the plan rejected in favor of the passenger-only ferry to Clinton during construction hours, to operate in conjunction with the Clinton-Edmonds ferry. That's great news, because even during the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. construction hours islanders will be able to reach Mukilteo and catch a ride to their appointments. Without this service, the construction could have caused considerable disruption in the lives of many Whidbey Island residents.As an aside, the passenger-only service will be of great interest to transportation supporters who have always wondered what kind of demand there is for such a ferry from Whidbey Island. Is commuter interest high enough to support such service on a full-time basis?After the state operates its service for an estimated 10 weeks, we should have a good idea what kind of demand there is for passenger ferry service from Clinton. As past efforts have suggested, perhaps Mukilteo isn't the best destination for such a boat. Downtown Seattle or even Everett have been proposed. Users of the temporary Clinton-Mukilteo passenger boat should be given a survey to fill out, asking what they would prefer. Then supporters of improved transportation would have some hard information to use for planning purposes.Transportation to and from Whidbey Island has been the same for decades -- two car ferries going back and forth. At some point we will want something better. The state's passenger-only service will let us know if that time has arrived.Newest ferry slip moves boats alongFerry users are quick to complain when something slows down the trip between Clinton and Mukilteo, so we trust that with the advent of the new south slip in Clinton they're making some positive comments to ferry employees.Last year when dock construction closed the old south slip, there was considerable caterwauling, particularly from commuters, about delays inherent in using the north slip exclusively. Making the big turn to reach the north slip slowed the ferries down by approximately five minutes, which for some commuters seemed to be a lifetime.The new south slip isn't ready for all-day use yet, but it has been pressed into service to handle weekends and the busiest times of the weekdays. And what a difference it makes. The big turn into the north slip is gone, and the ferries seem to almost skim the water when they're moving full speed ahead to try to keep up with the traffic. Even the docking procedure seems quicker at the new slip.As a result, the ferries have shaved precious minutes off the trip and the weekend ferry lines up the hill in Clinton actually seem shorter. And they no doubt are -- taking five minutes off each trip cuts the ferry line by hundreds of cars over the course of a day.We should all appreciate the new south slip. Those who complained about the north slip slowdown should make a particular effort to say something nice about the improved service."