Politics & Government

Summer ferry reservations hit a snag on opening day

Washington State Ferries’ highly anticipated reservation system for summer sailings crashed soon after it went live Tuesday morning.

The system is expected to be down at least a week, according to the state Department of Transportation.

While the ferries system is still investigating the cause of the system crash, the “initial gut reaction is that it’s volume,” Department of Transportation communications director Lars Erickson said.

The opportunity to skip hours-long lines during the ferry system’s busiest season may have contributed to the rush for reservations. The Save A Spot system reserves space on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands, Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/Sidney, B.C., lines.

The agency’s plan was to make 30 percent of the summer spots on those routes available for booking online and by phone early Tuesday morning.

Thirty-five minutes after reservations opened, the agency announced on Twitter that the system was unavailable. The agency’s Twitter account shows a volley of updates, first acknowledging that the system was down, then assuring users that phone reservations were available. By early afternoon, the agency said that neither online nor telephone reservations would be available for the next week.

Senior customer service manager Susan Harris-Heuther said Wednesday in the aftermath of the system crash, “It was pretty chaotic here.” It was unclear how many spots were filled before the system crashed.

“Whenever we launch a new program for the public I expect it to work, so I am looking into what happened and how we can ensure this does not happen again,” Assistant Secretary for the Washington State Ferries Division Lynne Griffith said in a statement.

The department plans to provide an update about the system Monday. It hopes to open another 30 percent of the summer slots for reservations two weeks before the sailing dates. Another 30 percent of the spots will be available for reservations two days prior to travel.

The department is setting aside the last 10 percent of space for emergency vehicles, customers with medical preference and others without reservations.