Five suggestions for adapting to ferry reservations

Lots of people have been asking me about the new reservation system for the San Juan Islands. This blog is intended to help spread information, but I think it’s also appropriate to give some tips to help us all adapt to the new system.

  • The reservation system is not going away. WSF has invested several years and millions of dollars in making this system—they are not in a position to abandon it.
  • Be patient. There WILL be glitches and screwups. Reservations for the San Juan Islands routes are very complicated and it will take time to work out the kinks and bugs.
  • Give constructive feedback. Whining and complaining won’t make anything work better, and will just make everyone grumpy.
  • Chill out. Change is hard, but getting angry won’t make things go any more smoothly.
  • Be nice to the ferry employees! It is going to be a tough summer for them as well as for us.

Bonus Karma tip:

  • Help a friend. If you know someone who could use some help signing up for an account, or making a reservation, lend a hand.

Thank you to everyone who is working hard to make the reservation system a success.

Contacting WSF

Vehicle Reservations Call Center: Statewide: 1-888-808-7977; Out of State: 206-464-6400; Hours: 4:00am until 8:30pm, 7 days a week

Contact info for WSF:

Customer Feedback form:


5 thoughts on “Five suggestions for adapting to ferry reservations

  1. RJones

    You have forgotten that the ferry system is entirely a public agency.

    If the public decides the reservation system is not what they want, and the legislators agree, reservations can definitely go away.

    My office read your email this morning and felt it necessary to let you know that we do not appreciate you defending WSF on this matter. Tips for reservations are fine, and appreciated,
    but all in all, reservations are a negative and poor idea for our marine highway system.

    The public must always have equal access to highway systems, whether land based or marine based.

    1. Adrienne Rice Adams Post author


      We have certainly not “forgotten” that the ferry system is a public agency. The co-founder of this blog, Susan Brooks-Young, was a member of the San Juan Islands Vehicle Reservations Community Partnership Group that worked with WSF for 18 months to craft the system. I attended many of the partnership meetings and I can attest that the residents of the islands felt very strongly that WSF needed to listen to residents and create a system that will work for all of us, as well as to mitigate the issues of congestion and undercapacity.

      You are welcome to read the minutes from these public meetings here: You will see that a significant number of members of the Partnership Group were initially opposed to reservations—and several important changes were made by WSF due expressly to the input from this group of citizens.

      You are entitled to your opinion on reservations. The authors of this blog are free to voice our opinions as well. We are not “defending” WSF: our goal is to present information to the public about ferry matters. The reservation system IS IN PLACE and residents, businesses, and visitors need to have information about how to deal with it. If your office is willing to petition the legislature to end the reservation system you are free to do so; however, due to my knowledge of what has been invested so far by the State in creating this system, you may not have a ready audience for that petition.

  2. danfromsj

    The likelihood of the reservations system going away for the San Juans is frankly remote. The only basis to abandon it would be if it doesn’t solve what WSF perceives as the problem. That includes long wait times, overloaded sailings and under-used saiings. Local members of the committees have indeed worked diligently to make this the best as can be. But ultimately the conflict comes down to the priorities of two distinct users – those who have plans far in advance and those who can’t plan much ahead of time. Trips for a week or more are almost always planned for — even by island residents. Round trips all completed in one day are far less so. The preponderance of single day round trips with a vehicle are island residents. (probably a preponderance of walk on day trips originate in Anacortes.) Reservations clearly make it more difficult for islanders to make an unplanned day trip. The 8am sailing out of Friday Harbor on Saturdays have been unavailable for islanders’ unplanned trips as far as I can determine. (mid-day sailing just don’t work for day trips.)

    Modifying the allocation of reservation release percentages could help this. Instead of 30%-30%-30% release for the popular islander day trips, why not try 0%-45%-45% for those runs. Those who want/need the assurance of a reservation can reserve a mid-day sailing or they can wait and get one on the 8am 2 weeks before. It certainly is worth exploring.

    1. Adrienne Rice Adams Post author

      Very good points. In discussion with the Partnership Group WSF said that the 30%-30%-30% release is what they are starting with, and the numbers might need to be adjusted. Specific feedback and ideas such as yours is crucial to making things work. You can contact the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee at and let them know your concerns and suggestions.

    2. Adrienne Rice Adams Post author


      I forwarded your suggestion here and the one you made on the FCP Group to Brian Churchwell, the Reservations Program Manger. Your idea is very applicable to Lopez: since our round trip is shorter than yours, we are very dependent on the noon-ish return from Anacortes in order to do a quick mainland run. Having this sailing at 0%-45%-45% would really help us out too. Thank you for your time and effort in providing feedback.


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