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Washington ferry system tries new approach to line cutters

The state patrol will hand out $139 fines to ferry line violators.

EDMONDS, Wash. — Washington State Ferries (WSF) says ridership is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels. With more people comes the potential for more line-cutting, something that WSF and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) will continue to crack down on.

There's a notable change, though. Passengers will no longer have the option to call the “hero hotline” to report line violators. That number has been retired after 37 years and the ferry system says it’s moving towards more of an enforcement approach to dealing with people who attempt to cut the line. 

Line-cutting is a common occurrence according to ferry regular George Tandoo of Wenatchee. He says it usually doesn’t go unnoticed by other passengers. 

“If I see that, if I end up on the ferry and I recognize that, I point it out, I say you guys cut right in line,” Tandoo said. 

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Tensions came to a head in August 2019 when someone waiting at the Fauntleroy ferry pulled out a gun in an attempt to break up a fight between two people over line-cutting. That person was arrested. 

WSP Trooper Kevin Fortino said, “We want to also quell the sometimes fights that take place or verbal arguments, none of which are acceptable.” 

The pandemic didn’t help tension levels, either. Staff and vessel shortages led to unpredictable lines, where some drivers waited hours. 

WSP says its troopers will be on the lookout for line-cutters – and they promise that $139 tickets will follow.