Last year, nearly 25 million people took a ride with Washington State Ferries. That’s a 225,000 passenger bump since 2017, a 10 percent increase since 2013, and the highest level of ridership since 2002, according to the agency.

“Our ridership is up 10 percent from five years ago and its forecast to grow another 30 percent to all-time highs over the next 20 years,” said Washington State Ferries Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton. “In order to support this projected demand with reliable service, our recently released 2040 Long Range Plan calls for 16 new vessels by 2040.”

According to Washington State Ferries, the biggest increase in ridership occurred on the Southworth/Vashon route, where 17,000 more people rode the ferry last year as compared with 2017. That’s an 8.8 percent gain. This is the third year in a row that the largest increase in ridership occurred at a route serving Southworth, a trend the agency said makes sense as more people are moving to South Kitsap County.

The Point Defiance/Tahlequah route saw a 2.9 percent increase in customers and a 3.7 percent increase in vehicles. Since 2008, ridership has increased on the route by more than 250,000 customers.

Other highlights from the Washington State Ferries year-end report:

  • 161,339 trips taken
  • An average of 442 departures per day
  • 901,288 miles traveled
  • 24.7 million customers
  • 10.8 million vehicles
  • 186 new deck, terminal, engine room and maintenance facility employees hired