Commuters want ferry fisticuffs stopped

The Seattle to Bremerton Washington State Ferries run has turned into a genuine boxing ring.

Since the passenger-only ferry boats were cut Sept. 20, the packed 5:30 p.m. run from Seattle to Bremerton and the sardine-style 6:20 a.m. run has caused passengers tempers to flare.

At least two fights have been reported, but several more may remain unreported. Passengers complain ferry workers are not doing enough to curb violence.

Bremerton City Councilman Mike Shepherd was assaulted by a passenger about a month ago.

“When I got on the ferry all the seats were full, and some people were already lying down,” Shepherd recalled. “I went up to a man and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sitting up. He said ‘Go find some place else.’ I said there wasn’t any place else. He stood up and hit me in the chest with his elbow.”

Shepherd was shocked, but more upset about ferry workers who told him to find another seat.

WSF spokesperson Susan Harris said it is not WSF employees job to force someone to sit up in a seat on a jammed vessel.

“It is a very confrontive situation,” she said. “We can only suggest, we cannot enforce.”

The ferry system is different than the Kitsap Transit’s bus system, she said, because there is no law that says you cannot lay down on the seat when it is totally packed. It is just a matter of courtesy.

“I think the only advice I can give is that other passengers provide some peer pressure there and get that person to sit up,” Patterson said.

Every one of the 11 employees on the 5:30 p.m. run have watched an eight-part videotape series on how to simmer tempers.

“Do we spend a great deal of time (training) with conflicts, no we don’t have the money,” Harris said. However, the ferry workers spend a great deal of time training for emergency situations.

From Sept. 20 to Nov. 11 of this year, Harris has received 111 complaints about issues on the Seattle/Bremerton run — compares to 34 complaints from the same time last year.

Some have to do with the new schedule, some with the cleanliness of the vessel, and a couple referencing confrontational situations.

Shepherd has passed on 12 complaints over the last two years.

“I have never gotten anything back but a response that is like ‘thank you for your input and we’ll take action,’ ” he said.

He has complained about ferry cleanliness, smokers who light up in the front of the vessel despite warnings.

Passengers have seen ferry workers watch furtive smokers.

“They don’t have to be mean to people, just to tell them not to smoke,” Shepherd said.

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