Our ferry system is failing and we need to fix it immediately.

Bob Ferguson understands that our state ferry system is an economic lifeline for families, communities, and businesses, a critical part of our state highway system, vital for accessing specialty medical care, and important to the quality of life for many Washingtonians.

Bob is committed to immediate action to address the challenges facing Washington State Ferries — from staffing needs to reliability of boats and facilities.

Bob will change the culture of state government to better deliver on the needs of people across our state. He speaks about the urgency of this issue in every corner of the state – it’s literally a part of his stump speech. Addressing Washington’s failing ferry system is a prime example of the changes Bob will make as Governor.  

As Governor, Bob will immediately implement a plan to fix Washington’s ferry system. He will:

  • Partner with local elected officials in impacted communities to implement their proposed reforms. For example, Ferguson will implement the reforms proposed by the San Juan County and Town of Friday Harbor Councils, supported by business and political leaders from the San Juan Islands from November 2023.

  • Elevate the head of Washington State Ferries to a cabinet-level position who reports directly to the Governor so Bob can closely oversee reforms. This is a good time to pursue structural reform.

  • Address the crisis by partnering with local governments to increase the use of passenger-only ferries as a short-term, bridge solution until the state can improve the health of its fleet.

  • Immediately issue two new ferry construction request for proposals (RFPs) for two boats to be delivered as soon as possible, including diesel ferries if this is the fastest solution, and a separate RFP for three hybrid-electric boats.

  • Fight for additional federal funding through the Ferry Service for Rural Communities Program so that basic essential ferry service continues to be provided to rural areas. Bob is well-positioned to maximize opportunities for additional federal funding to improve Washington’s ferry service.

  • Address deckhand shortages by maintaining programs that provide financial assistance for obtaining credentials. The $400+ it costs to attain credentials serves as a barrier to recruiting qualified maritime candidates, according to an December 2022 Report on Workforce Planning presented to the Joint Transportation Committee. Staffing continues to be one of the challenges contributing to the average of 500 canceled sailings per year.

  • Ensure that WSF is able to recruit and retain staff by having them do a wage and benefit survey that includes comparisons of all relevant employers, such as commercial shipping operations, that are in competition for the same maritime workers, to keep wages and benefits competitive.

  • Invest resources and prioritize preservation and maintenance of boats currently in the fleet.

  • Visit island communities after the election with his transition team for a series of meetings to hear directly from residents, business owners and local elected officials.

Bob has never been satisfied with the status quo. Just as he will do with the culture of state government, he changed the culture of the Attorney General’s Office from a sleepy law office in Olympia to a powerful force for economic and social justice in Washington and across the country.

As a local elected official and state Attorney General, he has a proven record of taking on the big challenges, solving problems, and getting things done.

Together, we will turn around Washington’s failing ferry system.