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Washington State Ferries rider approval rating recovering from historic lows

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(The Center Square) – The Washington State Transportation Commission has released its yearly winter survey, and customer satisfaction has reversed from the downward trend during the pandemic years.

The Winter Ferry Performance Study had a target audience of ferry riders between January and March of 2023. The survey was open to any participant who clicked on a link “publicized via WSF communications, which include rider alerts, as well as by website, newsletter, and social media posts.”

Usually conducted annually, the survey did not take place during the winter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news is that overall satisfaction on the survey rose from 39% in 2022 to 58% in 2023.

However, this still hasn’t recovered to the 68% satisfaction level from the winter 2021 survey results.

The survey notes, “analysis shows that having on-time/dependable departures is the key driver of overall satisfaction,” citing a “significant increase” in this metric over the prior year.

While overall satisfaction may be on the rise, there are more than a few routes that fall under the “need significant improvement” category.

The San Juan Inter-Island, Fauntleroy/Vashon, and Anacortes/San Juan Island routes stand out. These routes have dissatisfaction rates of 76%, 62% and 61%, respectively, when it comes to survey responses related to the timeliness of ferry departure.

All three of those marine highway system routes are the only way for residents to get on or off their islands. Service interruptions on those routes can impact people’s livelihoods.

Part of the dissatisfaction may be related to the route schedule reductions due to inadequate staffing, as previously reported by The Center Square.

This means that even with reduced ridership, you have fewer passengers. Vehicles are attempting to fit into a more restrictive schedule.

It is no surprise that around 45% of respondents mentioned route scheduling issues, and around 30% mentioned employee or staffing issues.

For more information on the statistical methods used, you can view the 101-page report on the Washington State Transportation Commission Website.

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