By Guest Blogger WSP Sgt. Kyle Smith
If you have plans to sail from Kingston to Edmonds on a Washington State Ferry this holiday season, you may cross paths with something that isn't used on any other ferry route in the state. Boarding passes. They may sound benign, but without one, you could find yourself sent to the back of the line and I'll bet no one has that on their gift list. Keep reading and I'll help you avoid an extended wait and make sure it's nothing but smooth sailing.
Due to limited parking at the Kingston terminal and to minimize congestion on local streets, boarding passes debuted in 1996. But even though they've been around since the Macarena was a hit song, they often catch drivers off guard. When the Kingston terminal is completely full, Washington State Patrol troopers hold ferry traffic outside of town at eastbound State Route 104 and Lindvog Rd NE. At this point, troopers will begin to issue boarding passes. This is expected to happen from time to time during this busy holiday season. No money is exchanged and this is not a ticket for travel on the ferry. It simply holds your place in line.
If you're driving eastbound on SR 104 approaching Kingston and you see a queue of vehicles on the shoulder; they are in line for a boarding pass. If you don't stop and get in the queue and instead proceed down to the terminal, you'll be instructed to turn around to go back and acquire a boarding pass. This is the dreaded 'sent to the back of the line' fate I mentioned earlier. Also, if you are coming from Indianola and intend to access the Kingston ferry terminal from West Kingston Way by turning right onto SR 104, you might bypass the line for boarding passes if you don't notice the signage in the area stating, "Boarding passes required."
Ultimately Washington State Ferries and the Washington State Patrol want to ensure you have a safe and convenient trip whether you're a regular commuter, local resident, or first-time visitor.
My advice...sign up for Ferry email Alerts, follow WSF on Twitter and keep your eyes peeled for those signs that Troopers set during heavy traffic. You can also check terminal cameras and more online.
It's important to note that boarding passes only apply to vehicle customers. Walk-on passengers can head straight to the terminal. If you're visiting grandma or Uncle Steve, you may want to consider having them pick you up and drop you off. If walking onboard is an option, you'll save some dough on ferry fares too. However you decide to travel, I wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday.