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Ridership on Washington ferries plummeted in 2020

Annual State Ferries ridership dropped from about 24 million to 14 million last year. That's a drop of 41% and the lowest yearly ridership since 1975.

Editor's note: The above video previously aired in August 2020.

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- Ridership on vessels in the Washington State Ferries fleet plummeted in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic

But officials are looking ahead to more sailings and riders in 2021, including those between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands. 

State Department of Transportation spokesperson Ian Sterling said officials were surprised at how popular those routes were last summer. 

Annual State Ferries ridership dropped from about 24 million to 14 million last year. That's a drop of 41% and the lowest yearly ridership since 1975.

The ferry system attributed the drop to more people constrained by stay-at-home orders, more employees working remotely and fewer tourists.

But there is hope on the horizon.

Sterling said in recent months, ferry ridership has returned to about 60% of pre-pandemic levels. Total vehicles are near 70% of 2019 numbers, while walk-ons are around 20% of last year.

Ridership is expected to continue rebounding as more sailings are restored and when COVID-19 cases decline.