Largely smooth sailing for San Juan ferry reservations

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2015 2:02 PM

ANACORTES, Wash. (AP) — Washington State Ferries recently began a reservation system to manage congestion on vessels between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands - a popular tourist destination.

While there have been some complaints, the Skagit Valley Herald reports ( http://bit.ly/1as8udh ) local residents say the three-tier reservation system that was implemented Dec. 2 is better than waiting for hours to get on a boat.

Under the three-tier system, 30 percent of the spots open to reservations are available two months before the scheduled sailing, another 30 percent are released two weeks in advance and 30 percent are available two days in advance. The last 10 percent are available for standby.

Jim Corenman helped develop the new system over a two-year period as the chair for the ferry advisory committee and as a member of the reservation partnership group.

He said he's heard a variety of opinions from the islanders, ranging from those who are concerned about booking a ferry during the summer when tourism peaks to those who are happy with the system.

The committee looked at issues that could arise with a reservation system and wanted to make sure boats didn't book up completely months in advance. That is how it came up with the three tiers.

"This isn't something that we're doing to torture the islanders," he said. "It's something we really want to work."

Susan Harris, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said before the reservation system went into effect she heard stories of people waiting all day to get on a ferry.

"I worked last July in Anacortes and met a gentlemen in Lopez, who arrived about 10:30 a.m., and he had his grandchildren with him," she said. "They were still there, bored to tears, at 5:30 in the afternoon."

Corenman said if Washington State Ferries gets a lot of complaints, there is room to alter the plan.