Riders growing impatient as ferry problems persist

Riders growing impatient as ferry problems persist »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Ferry riders got an unwelcome surprise Wednesday afternoon when they showed up to board the Seattle-Bremerton ferry and learned the run had been canceled.

The Department of Transportation tried to get the word out about the cancellations, but not everyone got the message.

Wednesday's cancellations are just the latest in a string of problems with the ferry system caused by service repairs and routine vessel maintenance.

It's not just commuters being inconvenienced by the recent rash of repairs, either. Special needs children who were looking forward to an annual Christmas cruise were also let down.

For the last 26 years, the Seafair Pirates Charity Foundation has brought holiday cheer to the annual Washington State Ferry Christmas Cruise for special needs kids, but this year the cruise was torpedoed.

"This, for the pirates, was a huge, huge thing they did every year," said Mark Jensen of the Seafair Pirates Charity Foundation.

The cancellation was just the latest for the Washington State Ferry System, which Department of Transportation officials admit is in a "financial crisis." Three vessels are currently out of service for repairs, and two others are out for routine maintenance.

Maureen Jann rides the ferry daily and relies on it get from Bremerton to Seattle.

"This is a highway," she said. "There is no getting around that -- this is a highway. They wouldn't treat the highways this way, so why would they treat the ferries this way?"

To compensate for the out-of-service vessels, two sailings -- the 12:20 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. -- have been cancelled all week on the Bremerton to Seattle run. Jann had no idea about the changes and even looked online before arriving at the dock.

While the DOT website does warn of cancellations, it continues to list the 1:30 p.m. sailing.

The Fauntleroy-Vashon run is also down a ferry and has delays. DOT officials say all routes should get better next week, and on Friday the Tacoma Ferry will be back in service.

"It's kind of disappointing that we got here and we're going to be late for our commitments," said Kristin Plyer of Bremerton.

Maintenance isn't the only issue with the ferry system, either. Staffing problems have forced 50 sailings in the past five months alone, and most of those were due to errors or workers now showing up.