Riders growing impatient as ferry problems persist

TACOMA, Wash. -- Ferry passengers are furious that staffing shortages are continuing to plague the ferry system, which was evident this weekend when a 6-hour delay stranded riders on both sides of several runs.

Millions of ferry riders depend on hundreds of ferry workers to show up on time, but as the KOMO Problem Solvers {A href=""}uncovered last year, that's not always happening. Ferries were held at the dock 52 times because not enough staff had shown up for work, and now it's happening again.

Normal delays can take an hour or two, but this weekend's delay stretched to an agonizing 6 hours. Dozens of runs on three routes were canceled due to lack of crew, including the popular Vashon and Port Townsend runs.

Despite making 800 calls, dispatchers ran out of relief and on-call workers were needed to fill in for regular employees on vacation or medical leave.

"I don't understand, because when I don't show up for work it's a problem. I think they need to plan better," said Donna Poucel.

Governor Jay Inslee is aware of the problem. He said he can't predict the flu, but he doesn't know why there was such a concentration of people out at the same time.

"We're going to look to the most recent reports and see if there's a way to focus that and find a solution," Inslee said. "We're going to get to the bottom of it and have the right response."

The Ferry Workers Union has said in the past there's been no organized sick-out in retaliation for staff cuts, but some ferry riders aren't convinced.

"It was so annoying. I don't know, it just seems fishy. I don't know if they were trying to do it on purpose. I don't know if that's the case or not," said rider LeeAnn Brown.

Officials from the ferry system have said the cuts were needed because of a lack of money. State Ferries director David Mosely said the department will soon begin the process of providing more training opportunities so they can add more crew members.