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Ferry frustrations mount for travelers on Bainbridge, Bremerton routes

A mechanical issue forced one vessel out of service on Sept. 15, causing hours-long delays.

SEATTLE — Washington State Ferry passengers are asked to expect delays as a mechanical issue on Friday afternoon knocked another vessel out of service. As a result, the Seattle to Bainbridge route is only being serviced by one boat

The Walla Walla ferry on the Bremerton route was pulled from service early Friday afternoon when those aboard reported a “large vibration." A Washington State Ferries spokesperson says crews are narrowing in on a propeller that may be damaged. 

Construction worker Robert Pese was waiting on the ferry to Bremerton and brought his travel sized guitar, anticipating some sort of disruption.  

“I mean, I do have options. I could take the fast boat, but my company pays for the big boat … You either come out of pocket or you just wait your turn. That’s why I bring my strings – I don’t mind getting stuck too much,” Pese said. 

Passengers were left waiting on Friday, some drivers for as long as three hours. The popular Seattle to Bainbridge route was reduced to just one boat, down from two. 

For passengers, it's an all too familiar game of hurry up and wait.  

“It’s hard to plan ahead. I’ve been, one time, coming back from college and I was waiting for the ferry and it took me like three hours to get on the ferry,” said Morgan Dierickx of Tacoma.

“You don’t really know until you get to the terminal and it’s kind of like ‘oh you’re delayed 30, 45 minutes and it’s like ‘Well, I’m stuck here waiting 30, 45 minutes,” Ashleigh Halligan of Bainbridge Island added. 

The state’s ferry system is the largest fleet of its kind in the country with 21 ships. Back in April the Walla Walla, the same service pulled from service, went aground near Bainbridge Island after a generator failed on the boat – the vessel is more than 50 years old.

Regular ferry riders will have an venue to voice their complaints on Monday, Sept. 18. Vashon High School Theater will host a work group created by the Vashon Island Chamber as they work to address the ongoing ferry system challenges – several elected officials are scheduled to attend.

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