How many times do you drive down Orcas Road wondering what will happen when you make that left turn into the ferry terminal lanes? How many times has your heart plummeted on a Friday afternoon as you see that all six lanes are full? It truly is heartbreaking watching that ferry float off into the distance as you are stuck on the island.
When I first heard about the ferry reservations system starting this January I thought, “Great, no longer will I have to worry if I will make it off-island for a concert, doctor’s appointment or outdoor adventure.” But after looking into the new program I have a little less elation and a bit more doubt that this will be the ticket to easier travel.
A coworker recently used a similar ferry reservation process and showed up at the Anacortes terminal only ten minutes before sailing because of unforeseen freeway traffic. The boat was full and she was told the reservation was not going to be honored.
You have to be in line at least a half hour before the ferry sails. Of course this is logical – how else will ferry workers know if you are actually showing up and adjust the boat numbers? But for the driver it is discouraging. What is the point of the reservation if you have to be there at the same time that everyone else does?
The good news is that when the new plan comes to fruition on Jan. 5, 90 percent of riders will able to use the reservation system and then we will literally all be in the same boat – pun intended. On the other hand, we may not be able to get on the ferry in the spur of the moment.
At the same time, it’s possible that most riders won’t use the reservation system and then nothing has really changed. We at the Sounder want to have open minds when it comes to reservations. We hope it will streamline travel not only for us, but for tourists who bring commerce to the islands.
At this point, we really don’t know how the new system will play out. According to WSF officials, it has worked well in other communities. Only time will tell for us.