Washington State Ferries

2040 Long Range Plan

What will the plan include?

Key themes: 


Plan for growth




Plan elements: 



Ferry fleet

A strategy to maintain and replace ferries


Actions to preserve and upgrade terminals

Demand management strategies

Strategies to spread peak ridership and improve operational efficiency

Route analysis and service scenarios
A profile of the unique needs and characteristics of each route

Workforce assessment

Opportunities to recruit and retain the workforce needed to keep the system running

Capital investments and funding

Recommendations to guide future investments and outline strategies for funding

The final plan will outline strategies to implement service changes and investments to support resilient, efficient and sustainable ferry service through 2040.

Fleet maintenance and replacement

Our ferries operate more than 20 hours each day, 365 days a year. This puts stress on our fleet, which is complicated by other factors, including aging ferries, limited spare ferries, and the number of slips at each terminal. WSF has also been directed to reduce carbon emissions. The Long Range Plan will outline a strategy to maintain and replace vessels, by considering:

  • The state of the current fleet, with an emphasis on maintenance needs
  • Opportunities for electric/hybrid ferries
  • The number, type and size of new vessels

WSF’s current plans assume ferry vessels will last for 60 years. Between now and 2040, 13 vessels will be at or near the end of their planned lifespan.

WSF’s current plans assume ferry vessels will last for 60 years. Between now and 2040, 13 vessels will be at or near the end of their planned lifespan.

Fleet maintenance and replacement key considerations and challenges:

  • New technologies could improve efficiency and reduce the cost of operating ferries.

  • Each route has specific needs, and not all ferries can serve all routes.

  • Local shipyards have limited capacity to build and maintain the number of ferries WSF needs.

  • The current assumption that a ferry will last 60 years needs to be re-evaluated.

WSF is studying converting three Jumbo Mark II ferries to hybrid-electric power, saving as much as 5 million gallons of fuel each year, or 26 percent of the fleet’s total carbon emissions.

Greening the fleet

Executive Order 18-01 directs WSF to begin the transition to a zero-carbon-emission ferry fleet, including the accelerated adoption of both ferry electrification and operational improvements that will conserve energy and cut fuel use. Executive Order 18-02 requires WSF to explore strategies to quiet ferries to protect the struggling orca population.

Alternative propulsion systems

Diesel engine

Lithium ion battery


Spinning Reserve



There are three alternative propulsion systems to diesel – spinning reserve, hybrid, and all-electric that can reduce fossil fuel use by 16%, 20-50% and 100% respectively.

Greening the fleet key considerations and challenges:

  • WSDOT is behind in meeting state-mandated greenhouse gas reductions.

  • WSF must weigh opportunities to build new hybrid ferries and convert existing vessels to hybrid-electric power.

  • The Pacific Northwest has opportunities to leverage plentiful hydroelectric power, which makes it an attractive option for powering ferries.

  • Space and infrastructure at terminals for charging, and utility connections to terminals.


Our system includes unique terminal configurations and aging infrastructure such as creosote-treated timber piling. The plan will:

  • Look at ways to improve access to terminals and integrate with local roads and transit.
  • Consider opportunities to bring terminals up to current seismic standards to continue safe and reliable service.
  • Outline steps to improve resiliency and maintain terminal operations during an emergency event.
  • Assess the impacts of climate change, including severe weather and rising sea levels.

Current and planned terminal projects

Vashon terminal preservation completed in 2016

Bainbridge overhead loading will be replaced in 2020

New Mukilteo ferry terminal under construction; scheduled to open in 2020

Clinton overhead loading scheduled to be built in 2023

New Seattle ferry terminal at Colman Dock under construction; scheduled to be complete in 2023

Fauntleroy terminal scheduled for preservation to replace timber dock and address capacity and operational constraints

Southworth terminal scheduled for timber trestle preservation

Terminal key considerations and challenges:

  • Asset management model and seismic assessment will help determine preservation priorities and needs.

  • Travel patterns, ridership forecasts, and operational constraints will determine where we need to make major improvements to our terminals.

  • Aging timber pilings at many terminals make them vulnerable to earthquakes and other sesimic events.

  • The challenges of building within the shoreline and over water make terminal projects costly and complicated.

Future considerations for terminals

Considerations include customer information and trip planning technology, transit and rideshare drop off space, increased parking, bike amenities, accommodations for vehicle and vessel technology, wayfinding and access improvements, reservations, seismic needs, overhead passenger loading, green features, concessions, services, and amenities.

Ferry service

Potential strategies to accommodate growth and help spread ridership to less busy times


to improve customer information and loading efficiencies

  • Improve data collection and analytics to provide real-time information for operators and customers
  • Use mobile technologies to provide more fare purchase and payment options
  • Expand current self-service options

  • Enhance multi-modal connections

Fare adjustments

  • Simplify fare structure to allow for new technologies
  • Implement incentives or pricing strategies to encourage walk-on, carpool or non-peak period travel


  • Add car sharing facilities at ferry terminals
  • Partner with local transit agencies to improve transit connections

Ferry schedule adjustments

  • Expand summer sailing season and/or transition to two season schedules
  • Adjust schedules to accommodate changing ridership patterns
  • Identify operational and schedule changes to help reduce costs and meet environmental goals


  • Consider expanding reservations program to other routes or user groups

Ferry service key considerations and challenges:

  • Coordination with other agencies is necessary to provide seamless door-to-door trips.

  • Changes to ferry service are constrained by technology, infrastructure and funding.

Measuring performance

The plan will:

  • Evaluate WSF’s current standards for increasing service levels and adding capacity.
  • Consider existing performance metrics to make sure we’re measuring the right things. Current performance metrics include:
    • Percentage of projects completed on time
    • Safety measures such as the number of passenger injuries
    • Operating costs
    • Service reliability
    • Customer satisfaction
    • On-time performance

Measuring performance key considerations and challenges:

  • Balancing day-to-day customer needs and peak season travel.

  • Performance metrics are established by the Legislature.