Letter: Bigger ferry is nice, but turnaround about same


Washington State Ferries introduced the second of its newest ferries on the Mukilteo-Clinton run.

The Suquamish seems pretty identical to the Tokitae if you ask me, though I do like the ramps to the upper car decks better … they’re a little smoother.

That said, state Ferries has some serious issues to work out, if these boats are actually going to help move more people and vehicles, starting with schedules.

The older, Issaquah class, ferries carried 124 cars, and ran on a 30-minute schedule. The newer, Olympic Class ferries — Tokitae, and now Suquamish — carry 144 vehicles, but can’t keep to the same schedule.

Let’s look at the math.

An Issaquah boat can transport 248 cars per hour, or 4.133 cars per minute.

If the new boats could hold the same schedule, they would transport 288 cars per hour, or 4.8 cars per minute. So far, they haven’t been able to do that. In fact, I caught the second sailing of the Suquamish yesterday, leaving Mukilteo.

Nice boat, but, within an hour, state Ferries posted this warning, “The M/V Suquamish and M/V Tokitae are running an estimated 15 to 20 minutes behind schedule due to loading/offloading delays caused by heavy vehicle traffic. Updates will be provided as conditions change.”

The reality is, Ferries has not yet been able to maintain a 30-minute schedule with the new boats.

Here’s the challenge — I’ve asked around, and people that I know who work the boats, docks, ticket booths, etc., tell me that, realistically, the new boats can turn around in somewhere between 65 and 75 minutes.

Here’s the rub. At 70 minutes, Olympic boats are moving 4.114 cars per minute. That’s less than the old boats. At 69 minutes, Olympic boats are moving 4.174 cars per minute. That’s just slightly more, 250.4 cars per hour, than the old Issaquah boats, 248 cars per hour.

At that pace, we’re moving 1.2 more cars each direction, each hour.

Not a great improvement.

As a rider/commuter on a regular basis, these new boats need to get to at least a 68-minute round trip, if we’re going to see any improvement at all.

Some suggestions include, first and foremost, load walk-on passengers just once, after the cars load. That will gain at least a minute or two each run.

Second, fill the parking lots. Third, stop all the local, Mukilteo side, traffic while loading cars. Fourth, the dock and deck crews do an overall great job, in an often impossible and thankless job.

That said, better communication in loading vehicles would help.

Too often I see a casual wave (or less) – and the obvious confusion on the driver’s part creates stoppages, redirects and sharp words from drivers. Be clear about where you want drivers to go and provide that information just before they need it, not just after.

Obviously, we could benefit from overhead walk-on bridges, and hopefully the new dock in Mukilteo will also help. But, until the Mukilteo side figures out a smooth way to transition people up hill, things are likely to still snarl up, and the local neighborhoods will probably see even more boat traffic, trying to circumvent the regular route, and lights.

Honestly, if I were able, I’d run a dedicated road down Japanese Gulch from the Boeing freeway and send all the ferry traffic up that way.

No lights, no cross-streets, no interruptions, and a straight shot that takes this all out of a Mukilteo community that has made it very clear they don’t care for islanders in their town.

Mark Helpenstell


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