A surge in ferry boardings in 2017 pushed Washington State Ferries to its highest ridership since 2002, the state Department of Transportation said Jan. 17.
The announcement said the nation's largest ferry system carried nearly 24.5 million people during 2017, as ridership grew by more than 250,000 over 2016 and increased for the ninth consecutive year.
Looking ahead, "we expect our ridership to continue to grow as more people move to western Washington," said Amy Scarton, WSDOT assistant secretary for the ferries division.
Scarton added that "as part of the state highway network the ferry system is a critical link between more affordable housing on the west side of the [Puget Sound] and key employment centers on the east side. Not to mention, we're also a major tourist attraction and an iconic part of the state."
The increase in ridership includes an all-time high on routes serving the San Juan Islands, the department said, despite a decrease in total sailings due to vessel breakdowns during the busy summer months.
It said the largest growth rate came on the Fauntleroy/Southworth segment of the "Triangle Route," where ridership was up 8.2 percent, or more than 70,000 customers over 2016 totals.
In sheer numbers, the Seattle/Bainbridge Island route had the biggest jump in total riders with nearly 100,000 more passengers than in 2016.
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