Ridership on the Bainbridge Island-Seattle ferry route soared in 2017, with nearly 100,000 more passengers compared to the previous year, officials with Washington State Ferries announced Wednesday.
Overall, the increase in riders on all ferry routes propelled WSF to its highest ridership since 2002.
WSF officials said ridership jumped by more than 250,000 from 2016 to 2017, and the system carried almost 24.5 million people last year.
Officials expect the number of ferry riders to keep going up.
“We expect our ridership to continue to grow as more people move to Western Washington,” said Amy Scarton, head of WSF.
“As part of the state highway network, the ferry system is a critical link between more affordable housing on the west side of the Sound and key employment centers on the east side,” Scarton added. “Not to mention, we’re also a major tourist attraction and an iconic part of the state.”
Last year, state ferries completed 161,072 trips and travelled 901,288 miles – nearly four times the distance to the moon.
The largest growth last year was on the Fauntleroy/Southworth segment of the “Triangle Route,” where ridership rose 8.2 percent (or more than 70,000 customers over 2016 totals).
The Bainbridge Island-Seattle route, however, had the biggest jump in total riders. The number of customers using the Bainbridge ferry went up 1.5 percent, while vehicle traffic rose by 0.1 percent.
The ridership on the Bainbridge ferry in 2017 was 6.5 million, and the route carried 1.9 million vehicles.
Ferry officials also noted the increase in ridership includes a new all-time high on routes serving the San Juan Islands, despite a decrease in total sailings due to vessel breakdowns during the busy summer months.