The Washington State Ferries (WSF) terminal at Fauntleroy has been an integral part of our community for decades. The Triangle Route serves Fauntleroy, Vashon Island, and Southworth in Kitsap county. In 2019, 1.74 million vehicles and over 1.33 million walk-on passengers were loaded and unloaded at the Fauntleroy terminal.
We have learned that WSF is actively considering expanding the over-water portion of the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal.
What We Are For: The Fauntleroy Community Association has taken the lead in voicing greater West Seattle support for the following changes to the facility:
What We Are Against:
Despite consistent opposition from this community and from city, county, and state elected officials, WSF has continually pushed to expand the terminal. In 1979, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) sought legislative funding to expand the dock and add a second loading slip.
Fauntleroy opposed the expansion and the state legislature agreed to conduct a study, which concluded that the dock was acceptable in Fauntleroy as long as the volume of cars did not exceed its present level (1.25 million per year). The study recommended that the state phase out the terminal altogether by 1984. After the report was released in 1980, then-mayor Charles Royer announced his opposition to any expansion.
Shortly thereafter there was an effort beginning in 1983 to convert Fauntleroy Way to a state highway like Aurora or Lake City Way. In 1986, the Seattle Dept of Engineering opposed the proposal as did Mayor Royer. In 1989, the state legislature dropped the proposal.
In 1991, WSDOT again requested legislative funding to expand the terminal to two loading slips and three toll booths. In 1992, then-senator Phil Talmadge declared his opposition to expansion. In 1997, then-county councilmember Greg Nickels followed suit and the Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 29566 stating that (1) there should be no dock expansion and that (2) WSF should reduce ferry traffic through Fauntleroy. In late 2008, WSDOT again asked for legislative funding to expand the terminal, and in early 2009, County Executive Dow Constantine announced his opposition.
In its 2040 long-range plan, WSF quotes 1.65 million vehicles crossing in 2017 and projects that 1.9 million vehicles will use this terminal by 2040, clearly exceeding the 1.25 million maximum identified in 1980 and clearly defying the City Council’s resolution to reduce traffic through Fauntleroy and greater West Seattle. WSF is using the current dock replacement project as a backdoor to again put expanding the terminal’s footprint and over water coverage on the table.
WSF is pointing to two problems impacting “operational efficiencies” of the present terminal as justification for expansion. Each, however, is a problem of the ferry system’s own making. Dock expansion WILL NOT get people back and forth across Puget Sound any faster than Ferries currently manages. “Operational issues”, as described by WSF to justify expansion have nothing to do with dock size, but are due to the antiquated toll booth system that is no longer used on any other transportation network in the State, including bridges and tunnels. The existing toll booths are a choke point for commuters boarding the ferries. Official transportation reviews (including studies commissioned by WSF) have identified automating toll booths and advanced ticketing as solutions for at least a decade. Further, use of the parking lane along Fauntleroy Way will not go away with more over-water parking during rush hours or long weekends. The proposed enlarged over-water holding area (aka parking lot) will be essentially empty for 20 hours a day. The costs associated with extending the dock is a waste of tax payer money since adequate waiting space already exists along the west side of Fauntleroy Way.
1. Lack of Efficient Ticketing
WSF claims that expanding the holding capacity of its trestle from 80 to 186 cars (1.5 times the capacity of 124-car vessels) is necessary because, during rush hour the toll booths can’t process the vehicles fast enough to get drivers through the toll booths before the ferry has to pull out. As a result, WSF cannot meet its target of 95% on-time departures without boats leaving partially empty. Thus, WSF argues that they need a larger dock so more cars can get through the toll booths and be waiting on the dock before the ferry loads. This problem has been entirely resolved by eliminating single destination vessels during rush hour.
Three other terminals (Anacortes-San Juan Islands, Seattle-Bremerton, Seattle-Bainbridge) have much larger holding capacities than Fauntleroy (500 cars at Anacortes, for example). In addition, Anacortes has a reservation system and all three sites have overhead foot-passenger loading. WSF’s on-time performance statistics for 2015-2019 document, however, that none of these other terminals consistently meet the system’s 95% on-time departure target. Clearly, holding capacity is not the problem.
WSF’s issue here is an antiquated toll-booth system that uses ticket takers instead of automated technologies now commonly used on bridges and highways. A vehicle scan can be done in 6-10 seconds while a ticket-buying transaction takes 10-15 times longer. Our research points to automation as the main way to improve loading efficiency without increasing over-water coverage.
The state’s rejoinder has been that the same automated system needs to work at all terminals. However, WSF is only now stating the need for uniformity. WSF currently takes reservations at selected terminals only. Additionally, Vashon and Southworth on this triangle route and recently upgraded Colman do not meet WSF’s “standard” for vehicle holding capacity (1.5 times boat car-carrying capacity). Fauntleroy’s existing dock is never fully utilized except during afternoon rush hour and front end of long holiday weekends. If expanded, it would be an incredibly expensive unused parking lot for 21 hours a day.
2. Failure To Reduce SOVs Using the Ferry
West Seattle’s population has increased by 13% over the last six years, and newcomers and long-time residents alike have experienced the public-safety hazards and annoyances of increased traffic. One response by the city has been to reduce Fauntleroy Way SW from four lanes at 40 mph in 1979 down to two lanes at 25 mph. Also, the city has been actively engaged in making public transit more attractive for commuters than reliance on SOVs. The ferry system has yet to partner with the city in this effort.
In its 2040 long-range plan, WSF projects that up to 250,000 more vehicles per year will come over it to reach the Fauntleroy terminal. In 2019, SOVs were 80% of vehicles using this terminal, a percentage that has not changed since 1991. SOVs through other terminals in the system are typically close to 60%. If Fauntleroy were to match other terminals, we would have 320,000 fewer cars per year passing through this and other West Seattle neighborhoods. The projected increase in vehicles will only add to the congestion and pollution in West Seattle and South Park, and be at odds with the City’s efforts to reduce the number of vehicles that enter the City.
At a time when the City of Seattle is spending tens of millions of dollars on mass transit to get people out of their cars to reduce pollution and congestion, a dock expansion at Fauntleroy runs directly counter to those efforts. At a time when the City of Seattle, Washington State and the country are trying to fight climate change, encouraging more automobile traffic, the number one source of carbon emissions, is unfathomable and a two-faced position on counteracting global warming and climate change. Additionally, 70% of carbon pollution comes from metropolitan areas.
Current Support for Our Position:
West Seattle communities affected by the ferry dock traffic have also weighed in to support our position. Admiral, Morgan, Highland Park Action Coalition (Highland Park, Riverview and South Delridge) communities, in addition to Fauntleroy, have all written letters supporting dock replacement but opposing dock expansion. Together these six communities represent over 15,000 West Seattle residents. Further, the Muckleshoot Tribe has also expressed their opposition to any dock expansion.
As previously stated, FCA and greater West Seattle support repairing/replacing unsafe structures and increasing trestle height in line with the projected rise in sea levels. We also support improving ticketing efficiency and discouraging continued growth of traffic (especially SOVs) into and out of West Seattle. What we are against, and have been adamantly opposed to for more than 42 years, is an unnecessary expansion of this terminal beyond its current footprint that benefits no one including the ferry commuters.
Washington State Ferries will hold a Community Advisory Group (CAG) meeting on Wednesday, March 20, 6-8 pm. Members of the public can register to observe here.
Learn more about the project here:https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/major-projects/sr-160-fauntleroy-terminal-trestle-transfer-span-replacement
The FCA has sent a letter to Washington State Ferries regarding concerns about the Terminal Replacement Project. The letter outlines our stance on the project and expresses our support for the project, while maintaining our commitment to the neighborhood.Read More...