2019 saw fewer passengers on Washington State Ferries

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington State Ferries saw ridership fall 3.2% last year, held down by February’s snowstorm and ongoing waterfront construction and alternative ferry service from Kitsap Transit.

The Seattle Times reports that State Ferries tallied 23.9 million passengers in 2019, down about 800,000 from 2018. Despite the decrease, officials said there’s no cause for concern.

“We’ve had a seven-year run of going up and up. It’s not a huge red flag for us,” said Ian Sterling, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries.

Last February saw a 19% decline in ferry ridership during the record-setting snowstorm, and the numbers never caught up throughout the rest of the year. In fact, every month except for January and April had fewer passengers than in 2018.

The Seattle-Bremerton route recorded the largest drop, with ridership down by 15%. That’s a decline of more than 400,000 customers from 2018. Ridership on the state’s busiest route, between Seattle and Bainbridge Island, fell 2.2%.

Construction along the waterfront also weighed on ridership, the agency said.

Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry also may have contributed to the dip. The agency launched its foot-passenger ferry service in 2017, making trips between Bremerton and downtown Seattle in about 28 minutes compared to about an hour on a state ferry.

Ridership on the Bremerton-Seattle fast-ferry grew 7%, to about 300,000, from 2018 to 2019, according to data provided by the county.