Riders growing impatient as ferry problems persist

SEATTLE -- Just weeks after announcing that the ferry system would hire new workers to reduce cancelled runs, more runs were cancelled on the Vashon-to-Fauntleroy route.

The Fauntleroy ferry dock in West Seattle was back to normal on Monday after two sailings were canceled on Sunday.

Once again, a replacement worker could not be found in time to fill in when a worker called in sick. The weekday rush hour of commuters wasn't affected this time, but weekend travelers were.

The ripple effect backed up passengers for several runs.

"I expect boats to be on time and I appreciate it when they are, definitely," said passenger Ben Whitaker.

Ferry system chief David Moseley said a ferry worker called in sick Saturday night at 9 p.m., but because union rules preclude any calls after 7 p.m., ferry officials weren't able to begin looking for a replacement worker until Sunday at 7 a.m.

After making 50 phone calls, Moseley said an available replacement worker was found. But that worker lived an hour away and couldn't get there in time to run the ferry routes.

Moseley couldn't say exactly how much money taxpayers would be out because of the cancellations, but ferry workers do get paid on cancelled runs. Added to that, fewer tickets are sold and sales at concession stands take a hit.

Sunday's cancellations were far from the first this year. Dozens of ferries have been cancelled because of replacement workers not getting to the dock on time. Several weeks ago, Moseley said he'd hire more than 31 new workers in an effort to counter the problem.

Those new workers still have to be hired and trained, but Moseley said the problem should be greatly reduced by the time the busy summer travel season starts.