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Washington state ferry. Photo via Christine Majul
Washington state ferry. Photo via Christine Majul

The online ferry reservation system implemented to alleviate traffic to and from the San Juans appears to be working.

That’s the report from King 5, who trekked out to the San Juans to interview some passengers about the Washington Department of Transportation’s new “Save a Spot” online reservation service. They found that “Overall, the majority of a small sample of drivers seemed pleased with making reservations while others faced challenges getting off of Orcas Island and back to the mainland.”

While several people expressed relief at how easy it was — and that they didn’t have to rush to secure a spot in line — others found the new system a bit frustrating as they failed to book space.

Since announcing the new “Save a Spot” ferry registration system, WSDOT also had a glitch in the online registration system we reported on when trying to make our own summer travel plans. WSDOT responded to that inquiry with:

“We got swamped, and then some. Swamped is of course a nautical term. So to continue in that vein, we are bailing (water, not out). Still afloat, and clawing back.

In a nutshell: 30x sustained traffic versus any peak we’ve had since January. A bit more than expected (and within our tolerance), but it seems a software problem may have been concealed until now.”

Remember, the system is based on a “30/30/30” tiered release: 30 percent of reservations are accepted two months prior to each season’s start date; then another 30 percent two weeks out; and the last 30 percent two days prior to go time. They hold 10 percent of each ferry for standby. There is no additional charge for making a reservation.

It’s pretty safe to say that while WSDOT and its ferry customers figure out the new system, everyone should try to reserve early, reserve often and, as with life, expect a few bumps in the road along the way.

Did you try the new ferry reservation system this weekend? How did it go?

Watch the full King 5 video below:

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