Edmonds-Kingston ferry gains 111,000 riders over 3 years

Also: Reounding economy continues to put more drivers on state highways
By Brian Soergel | Jan 05, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel

Sorting through the Washington State Department of Transportation’s 16th annual Corridor Capacity Report for 2016, it’s hard to find any good news.

After all, the report’s subtitle includes the word “congestion.”

Freeways are crowded, commuter lots are full, and trips anywhere take longer than just a few years ago.

But dig long enough, and you could find one item of note, this one concerning the ferry trip from Edmonds to Kingston, and vice-versa.

And here it is: the on-time performance for that route was 97.5 percent. That’s a pretty high number, but may point out that that’s a 1.1 percent decrease from 2016’s 98.6 percent.

More good news: There’s still enough leg room on the ferry, as it was filled to capacity 67 percent of the time, up 1 percentage point from 2014. So the day may come that the ferries are always filled to capacity, but right now it averages three-quarters full.

Edmonds-Kingston, as usual, was the state’s second most popular route, packing in 4.114 million riders in 2016 (an increase of 111,000 over three years), behind Seattle-Bainbridge’s 6.43 million. Mukilteo-Clinton was third, at 4.074 million.

Annual ridership on all Washington State ferries increased 4 percent from 2014 to 2016, with about 691,000 more passengers and 320,000 more vehicles traveling by ferry. Annual trip reliability increased slightly over the same period, going from 99.4 percent to 99.5 percent of scheduled sailings completed and continuing to meet the systemwide goal of at least 99 percent reliability.

Between 2014 and 2016, total ferry vessel fuel use increased 6.3 percent, and fuel use per mile increased 6.5 percent. This increase is largely attributable to the addition of new, larger vessels to the fleet. Fuel use per mile is influenced by route characteristics as well as type and size of vessel; total fuel use is also affected by the number of sailings.

Overall, there were more than 162,300 sailings in 2016, an average of 439 sailings every day on WSDOT’s 23 ferries.

Economy fuels congestion

As unemployment in Washington state approaches pre-recession levels, more drivers hit the road in 2016, according to the report, and again followed the lead of the local economy.

Between 2014 and 2016, commuters in urban areas throughout Washington saw increases in congestion and delay, due largely to the effects of drivers traveling more miles on already-crowded urban highways. The number of miles drivers traveled on state highways increased 6.4 percent from 2014 to 2016 (to a new high of 34.227 billion).

In addition, 3.2 percent more passenger vehicles registered in 2016 than in 2014. During the same period, the number of licensed drivers increased by 4.3 percent. All these factors combined to add more drivers to Washington state’s already busy roadways.

The number of people riding transit during daily peak periods increased 8 percent on urban commute corridors, from 88,150 in 2014 to 95,300 in 2016. As an example, transit moved 4.5 general-purpose lanes full of cars – equivalent to 52,887 people – on I-5 between Federal Way and Everett during morning and evening peak periods on average weekdays.

Speaking of Everett, WSDOT determined that a typical 7:15 a.m. 23-mile commute from the city to Seattle took 94 minutes in 2016, an increase of nine minutes. Those are 2016 numbers, remember, so it’s no doubt higher now.

Here are some more highlights from the 2017 report:

Of the five monitored freeway corridors in the central Puget Sound region, three (I-5, I-405, I-90) saw congestion increases of 76 percent, 33 percent and 117 percent, respectively, from 2014 to 2016. Tolling and carpooling reduced congestion on SR 520 by 61 percent, while congestion on SR 167 experienced a 4 percent increase compared to 2007 pre-recession levels.


  • HOV lanes accounted for 42 percent of person miles traveled on central Puget Sound region freeways in 2016 while accounting for 24 percent of the region’s lane miles.
  • WSDOT Incident Response teams responded to 25.4 percent more incidents (58,235 total) in 2016 than in 2014, with average clearance times around 12 minutes for both years. Proactive work by Incident Response teams resulted in $88 million in economic benefit in 2016, an 18.1 percent increase from 2014.
  • Amtrak Cascades annual ridership increased 5 percent from approximately 700,000 in 2014 to 735,000 in 2016.
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