Guemes Island Ferry service changes due to COVID-19

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FAQ: More info about May 5, 2020 Changes

Update 5.21.2020 Source: Email from Skagit County 3:03 PM

Ferry sailing schedule changes & FAQs

What is the sailing schedule for Memorial Day weekend?

The sailing schedule for Memorial Day weekend will be as follows:

  • Friday, May 22: 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 23: 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 24: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day): NO HOLIDAY SCHEDULE, 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Why is there no holiday sailing schedule on Memorial Day? 

Due to COVID-19, we do not anticipate high ridership on May 25, so we will operate on our regular sailing schedule.

Why is the non-peak sailing schedule staying in effect through summer? 

Monday through Friday, the peak and non-peak sailing schedules are identical.

Typically, we move to a peak season schedule this time of year to add extra weekend trips to accommodate additional visitors and tourists on the island. Due to COVID-19, we are seeing decreased ferry utilization, not only on our ferry but on other ferries in the region. Additionally, given the Health Officer’s recommendation that all large scale summer events be cancelled, we are expecting to see below average weekend ridership throughout the summer. If the Health Officer’s recommendations change, we can re-evaluate.

Why did peak season fares go in to effect on May 20 and the peak season sailing schedule did not? 

The ferry system relies on fares to keep service in effect. We want to continue to provide service during the pandemic, and we realize how important that is for our ridership.

As a reminder, if you use a punch card, you don’t pay more during the peak season. If you are concerned about peak season rates, please consider buying a punch card. They offer a safe and convenient way to pay. You can even validate your own punch card (with your own hole puncher, sharpie or regular pen). The Purser must see you do it and there is no physical contact required. Punch cards are also easy to purchase through the mail using our online order form; again, no physical contact required.

How does Skagit County make decisions about the ferry schedule and fares?

COVID-19 is unprecedented, and we are making decisions based on guidance from Skagit County Public Health and what we think the best path forward is for the ferry community. We have talked with other transit agencies who are facing similar challenges and implementing modified sailing schedules in response.

If you would like to provide comment or feedback on the ferry schedule or fares, please email ferrycomments@co.skagit.wa.us.

Visit the Guemes Ferry page to learn more

Update 5.18.2020 Source: Email from Skagit County 4:27 PM

Ferry to remain on non-peak sailing schedule through the summer

Due to COVID-19, the Guemes Island Ferry will remain on the non-peak sailing schedule through September 30.

This decision comes following the Skagit County Health Officer’s recommendation for the cancellation or postponement of large scale events through summer in line with Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Plan.

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, the ferry will not operate extended hours. The ferry will operate on a regular Monday sailing schedule, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Peak season fares will go in to effect on May 20.

Visit the Guemes Ferry page to learn more

Update 5.04.2020 Source: Email from Skagit County 1:05 PM

Fare Collection resumes May 5

Beginning May 5, the Guemes Island Ferry will resume fare collection. However, a no cash policy is in effect. Only punch cards and credit/debit cards will be allowed for payment.

If you’d like order punch cards online, please use our newly updated form at: skagitcounty.net/Forms/FerryPurchasing/. Your request will be submitted to our accounting office, and you will receive a confirmation email of your order.

Online orders will be fulfilled through the mail; once the form is submitted someone in our office will contact you for payment information. Online payment (for punch cards) will be coming soon.

For more information, please see our newsletter at:  skagitcounty.net/PublicWorksFerry/Documents/newsletter/newsletter0520.pdf

Visit the Guemes Ferry page to learn more about our operation

Update 4.24.2020 Source: Email from Skagit County 3:32 PM

Fare collection resumes May 5 – no cash policy in effect

Fare collection at the ferry terminal resumes May 5 – no cash policy in effect

  • Punch card sales available immediately by mail – expiration date is waived for all punch cards purchased by mail now through May 20
  • Peak fares in effect starting May 20; the start of the peak sailing schedule is delayed due to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19, the Guemes Island Ferry system took early precautions, like temporarily suspending fare collection, to protect our workers and ferry community. We believe this has helped to keep our community and workers safe and allowed us to stay in operation on our full sailing schedule. Beginning May 5, we will begin collecting fares again; however, we’re making a couple of changes to the way we sell tickets.

Beginning May 5, only punch cards and credit or debit cards will be accepted methods of payment; the ferry system will not be accepting cash. Here are some things you need to know.

Punch cards

Using a punch card is the fastest and safest way to pay your fare and they offer a significant discount. Effective immediately, punch cards can be purchased through the mail using our online form. We are waiving the expiration date for all punch cards ordered through the mail now through May 20. See skagitcounty.net/Departments/publicworksferry/tickets.htm for phone, email or mail order options. Punch cards will be available for purchase at the ferry terminal again starting May 5; expiration dates will apply for punch cards purchased at the ferry terminal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are allowing riders to self-validate (in front of the Purser) punch cards with your own sharpie, standard pen or hole puncher.

Credit/debit cards

Credit/debit card transactions can be conducted at your vehicle if you are driving on. We accept all major credit cards except American Express. We ask that you only roll down your window just enough to insert/swipe your own card in our machine. We have asked our Pursers not to handle customers’ credit cards. We are temporarily waiving signatures on all credit/debit card transactions, and you can opt out of a receipt. If you are walking on, we ask that you maintain as much physical distance as possible from other riders at all times.

If you are concerned about riding the ferry or purchasing tickets, we recommend consideration of the following:

  • Wear a face mask; and
  • Use disposable gloves and properly dispose of them after your ticket transaction; and
  • Let the ferry crew know you do not want a paper ticket.

Our crew are not required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); however, it has been recommended and PPE has been provided to them.

We are also asking vehicle drivers and passengers to stay in their vehicles with the windows rolled up to the extent possible. You can also help us and your community by only traveling for essential purposes.

Our crews are doing a great job during this pandemic routinely cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces in the terminal and on the vessel. They are also disinfecting ticketing equipment between each run. Every action we are taking prioritizes the health and safety of our workers and the ferry community.

At the time of release of this notice, the ferry continues to operate on its regular non-peak sailing schedule. The peak season sailing schedule will not go in to effect on May 20.


Update 4.13.2020 Source: Email from Skagit County.

No schedule changes yet for Guemes Island Ferry due to COVID-19

The Guemes Island Ferry continues to operate on its regular sailing schedule for essential trips only. At this time, we do not foresee changes to the schedule. Last month’s vehicle ridership was down 23% and passenger ridership was down 27% from March 2018 (the last year the vehicle ferry was in operation in March).

We are continuing to monitor our ridership and crewing levels every day to make sure our service is meeting the public need. We may need to make schedule changes if ridership or crew availability significantly decreases. Passenger limits could also be imposed if social distancing on some sailings becomes too difficult. Our top priority is keeping our passengers and employees safe.

We plan to notify our riders at least one week in advance, if possible, of any additional schedule or service changes.

Visit the Guemes Ferry page to learn more


Guemes Island Ferry service changes due to COVID-19

Due to the increasing spread of COVID-19 in our County and the recommendations made by the Washington State Health Officer, we are implementing the following changes to the Guemes Island Ferry.

Effective immediately:

  • Drivers and passengers traveling in vehicles should stay in their vehicles with the windows rolled up.
  • Walk-on traffic should practice social distancing and reduce interaction with other passengers and the crew.
  • Travel on the ferry for essential trips only.
  • Follow the health officer recommendations.

Effective Monday, March 23:

Fare collection is temporarily suspended effective Monday, March 23, 2020 until further notice. Our ticket office will be completely closed, and no punch cards will be available for purchase.

As early as Friday, March 27:

Schedule changes will go into effect as well as other minor operational changes. A reduction in service hours may become necessary as we evaluate staff availability. We will have to make some difficult decisions in order to continue to operate this essential service. We will share more information on upcoming service impacts early this week.

Guemes Island Ferry COVID-19 FAQs

The Guemes Island Ferry is committed to providing ferry service during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, we have made some operational changes. We understand this may be a long notification to read through, but we want to make sure we address any questions and concerns you might have during this unprecedented time.

The situation changes regularly, and we may still need to make some tough calls about our sailing schedule in the future. We had originally anticipated making schedule changes as early as March 27; fortunately, we were able to move crew around to fully staff our regular sailing schedule. As of today, March 24, 2020, we will continue to operate on our current sailing schedule. We’ll announce any future schedule changes at least one week in advance when possible.

Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions:

  • I received a notice saying that the Guemes Island Ferry system is not collecting fares; what does that mean?
    • There is no charge to ride the ferry until further notice; we are not collecting any forms of payment. Eliminating the exchange of cash, credit cards and punch cards allows us to adhere to social distancing recommendations and keep our crew protected so they can continue to work. We realize lost revenue is an issue; however, right now our top priority is the health and safety of our ferry community.
  • Wait; what about punch cards?
    • You cannot use punch cards, and we are not selling them. We realize you might be concerned about the expiration date of unused or partially used punch cards. We will address that soon.
  • Is the sailing schedule going to change, and how much advance notice will we have?
    • Our goal is to maintain the current sailing schedule as long as we can. Schedule changes will be announced at least one week in advance when possible. We fully understand we are transporting essential personnel to important jobs. That is why we are taking extra precautionary measures to protect our workers, so that we can continue to operate.
  • Will you cancel runs? If so, which ones?
    • Again, we need to take this day by day. If we need to reduce service, the last two runs of the week nights and the last three runs on Fridays and Saturdays would be evaluated for elimination first.
    • So far, we have not seen a drop in vehicle ridership; however, we’ll continue to evaluate ridership to decide if we need to reduce frequency of service to one run each hour with doubles in between if needed.
  •  How else is COVID-19 impacting ferry service?
    • We are working to follow distancing orders. We’re asking vehicle drivers and passengers to please stay in vehicles with the windows rolled up and for walk-on passengers to maintain 6 feet of distance from other passengers and the crew.
    • We need crews to run the vessel, so we have to consider possible illness-related reductions in staff. We are following the health officer’s guidelines and doing everything we can to protect our workers. The reality is illness-related reductions in staff could result in service reductions. We have to plan for worst-case scenario which could mean going down to one shift per day instead of two and operating only 10 hours per day. Again, we are not there yet, and we will advise of schedule changes as soon as possible.
    • You can help us by ONLY traveling for essential purposes.
  • What is considered essential travel, and how will you enforce it?
    • On March 23, Governor Inslee placed a stay at home order on all Washingtonians. During his press conference, he called for essential travel only, and defined essential travel as things like getting groceries, visiting the doctor and going to work at an essential place of business. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. For more information, check out https://coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed. We as ferry staff have no way to enforce the Governor’s orders; however, we ask that you consider the health and safety of our ferry community in your travel choices.
  • What precautionary cleaning measures are being taken to protect crew and the public?
    • We are following recommendations from our Public Health Department and the CDC. Our crews are vigilant about routinely cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in crew and public spaces on the vessel and in the terminal.

We understand that you’ll continue to have questions and concerns. We’re committed to sharing information with you, but we may not have all of the answers right now. Every action we are taking prioritizes the health and safety of our workers and the ferry community.

SKAGIT COUNTY, WASHINGTON

County Commissioners: Lisa Janicki, Ken Dahlstedt, Ron Wesen
1800 Continental Place, Suite 100
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

(360) 416-1300  |  commissioners@co.skagit.wa.us

Source Email: Skagit County, WA 03.22.2020  3:01 PM     Guemes Ferry Website Skagit County

Source Email: Skagit County, WA 03.24.2020 9:07 AM add Guemes Island Ferry COVID-19 FAQs