Ferry reservations come to Keystone

With only one boat operating out of Keystone during the busy tourist season, the best way to ensure a spot will be to call in advance.

Ferry officials said Thursday that they hope to have a reservation system in place by late June.

Leonard Smith with the ferry system’s operations division said during the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry partnership meeting that the reservation system will help minimize waits and help people plan their trips.

The ferry system is looking at ways of mitigating the impacts of only one vessel serving the route during a time of the year when two boats are needed. Keystone used to be served by the 80-year-old Steel Electric ferries before they were pulled from service in November of 2007 because of safety concerns.

People wishing to make reservations can do so on the day of a trip or up to 30 days in advance. The reservations don’t require deposits, but people are encouraged to purchase a ticket when making reservations.

Should weather-related cancellations occur, motorists with reservations will be given priority on the next available sailing, followed by the same-day reservation holders and then the standby customers.

“It’s going to be a domino effect,” Smith said. But he suggested that standby motorists may want to drive around in those situations.

One person attending the meeting was concerned that the reservation system will cause long backups of cars.

“I have a real strong fear that it will back cars into communities,” said Coupeville resident Sid Iverson.

Smith said there are several details to work out before the new system goes into effect. He hopes to have it ready by June 22, when the ferry system’s summer schedule starts.

In addition to the reservation system, the ferry system is implementing several other changes to help mitigate the loss of a second vessel operating out of Keystone.

The Legislature gave $357,000 to the ferry system to fund additional runs during the tourist season. When those runs will happen remains a question.

There are also plans to bring a concession service to the Keystone ferry terminal to help motorists with the expected long waits they may have to endure.

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