Deposit needed for reservations on Coupeville-to-Port Townsend ferry

David Moseley - --
David Moseley
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People will have to plunk down cash if they want to reserve a spot on the Coupeville-to-Port Townsend ferry route.

Washington State Ferries is implementing a reservation system and riders can start reserving spots immediately for sailings from Keystone Harbor that begin Sunday.

The new system, called “Save a Spot,” requires a deposit that equals the senior/disabled vehicle fare. For the Port Townsend route, riders will have to pay an $11.20 deposit while the driver/vehicle fare is $12.70. The new system offers several different accounts that riders can set up depending on need, ranging from businesses who will be billed for their ferry use to occasional riders.

David Moseley, assistant secretary for the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division, said the reservation system is needed because it will shorten backups near ferry terminals while managing demand and growth.

“We are not going to accommodate more growth by increasing access,” Moseley said Tuesday during a Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce meeting where he outlined the new reservation system to business leaders and several elected representatives. About 17 people attended.

The route across Admiralty Inlet has had a reservation system for several years, but Moseley described it as “rudimentary and comprised of spreadsheets and sticky notes.”

One Whidbey resident, Wayne Lewis, questioned how the ferry system will enforce the new reservation systems considering employees never asked for a name when he came to fill his reservation. He also noted that the no-show rate stood at about 50 percent.

Moseley said that employees will now ask for names to match with a reservation. The financial cost of a deposit should help reduce the no-show rate.

“If you don’t ride, you’re going to be charged your deposit,” Moseley said.

Coupeville resident Mary Alice Sterling asked what would happen if a reservation is made and a sailing is canceled.

Moseley said the ferry system won’t accept reservations for sailings canceled by tidal conditions. If inclement weather happens, then the system will stop taking reservations, people will board on a first-come, first-served basis and, if people can’t redeem their reservation, then it will be refunded.

The new reservation system on the Central Whidbey Island ferry route is one of three phases Washington State Ferries is planning for the system.

For the first phase, officials also implemented a reservation system on the Anacortes-to Sidney, BC route.

The second phase, which begins in 2013, includes the San Juan Islands ferry routes and allowing commercial reservations on all ferry routes. The third phase includes the Seattle and Edmonds ferry routes.

The Mukilteo / Clinton route isn’t included in the reservation system. Moseley said the quick turnaround for commuters or infrequent users on the route isn’t conducive to reservations. Islanders have spoken strongly against reservations on the route in past meetings.

However, commercial users will someday have a chance to make reservations on the Mukilteo route.

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said during the meeting that the commercial reservation system will help drive economic development on Whidbey Island. Some companies have been hesitant to do business on Whidbey because of the lengthy wait times, she said. Ferry officials visited Clinton Tuesday afternoon to address the same issues.


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