Big ferries keep commuters going during dock work

"Three weeks into cobbled-together, multiple-destination ferry service from the Clinton dock, the ferries are running on time and people are mostly getting where they are going when they expect to.Since Nov. 27, commuters driving aboard a car ferry leaving Clinton after the 8:30 a.m. run have been getting off at the Edmonds dock instead of the Mukilteo dock.Closed until Feb. 15 for repairs, the Mukilteo dock is only accepting early morning and evening car ferry traffic. For the in-between times (8:55 a.m. until 2 p.m.), anyone who wants to drive a car onto a ferry traveling to or from Clinton has to do it by either starting or finishing in Edmonds. Auto commuter Tiffany Hagood said she is staying on schedule. The Edmonds Community College student is one of hundreds of commuters using the temporary Clinton-Edmonds run. Hagood is one of many students who take one of the early runs bound for Mukilteo and who returns to the island from Edmonds. So far, the system has worked.Actually, they've been really good about being on time, Hagood said.Even though her school is in Edmonds, she said the amount of traveling and waiting time on the Edmonds run is about the same as on the Mukilteo run. Because the Edmonds ferries run an hour apart, Hagood said she winds up waiting in the ferry line the same amount of time it would take to drive to Mukilteo.It's about the same time, she said.The restyled ferry run has changed the demographics of the midday passenger load somewhat. Walk-on passengers are concentrated on just a few of the Edmonds boats because of the less-frequent crossings. Many walk-ons are using the passenger ferry St. Nicholas, which crosses between Clinton and Mukilteo once an hour. Sometimes, the arrival of the St. Nicholas and a car ferry coincide, which has given Island Transit dispatchers a few minor headaches. Island Transit Director Martha Rose said last week that the service has to send two buses to meet some of the runs, but has almost no riders for others.We certainly anticipated it, Rose said. Some of the buses are packed.The biggest problems have occurred when one of the ferries has fallen behind schedule. When that happens, Clinton can suddenly have a pack of bus riders on the dock too late for the previous bus or too early for the next bus. At that point, it's up the dispatchers to get a bus to the dock as fast as possible.We're sending an extra bus there sometimes, she said.Last week, the only major delays came Thursday when fog slowed ferries docking and disembarking. Clinton dock staff said that otherwise, the ferries have stayed close to their schedules.But, as winter comes on, the situation could become more complicated for walk-on passengers. The ferry system has warned that passenger ferry service could be canceled on windy days. If it is, those passengers will have to find their way to the Edmonds dock. "

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