Traffic

Full steam ahead for ferry app

The Steilacoom II ferry leaves Steilacoom. The county rolled out a ticketing system Tuesday that allows riders to purchase tickets via a smartphone app.
The Steilacoom II ferry leaves Steilacoom. The county rolled out a ticketing system Tuesday that allows riders to purchase tickets via a smartphone app. dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Pierce County ferry riders no longer need to get out of their cars to buy tickets.

The county Tuesday rolled out a ticketing system that allows riders traveling between Steilacoom and Anderson or Ketron Islands to purchase tickets via a smartphone app.

Riders can also purchase tickets via the county’s website.

Fear not, traditionalists: Human-staffed ticket booths aren’t going away.

“Everything’s the same, except now you have the option of mobile ticketing,” said Deb Wallace, Pierce County Public Works airport and ferry administrator.

The free app can be downloaded in the app store for Apple users and Google Play for Android users. Search for “Pierce County Ferry Tickets.”

Users will be able to set up an account, buy tickets for one or more trips, and view used and unused tickets.

Wallace was on the ferry at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday to help riders with the new system. She estimated that half of the riders were buying tickets electronically.

“I’m surprised how many people are using it across all ages,” she said.

Smartphone users display their phones to ticket takers, who scan the QR code. Scanners are not new to the ferry system, but until recently they broke easily and didn’t function well in wet weather, Wallace said.

“The scanners now are like a beefy cellphone,” she said.

A single QR code will represent all tickets purchased by a user. So now a busload of kids can be scanned in just seconds.

“In the old system they had to scan 30 tickets, and boy did that back up the system,” Wallace said.

Unused single tickets and Value Passes purchased on the old system have expired. Riders can request an unused ticket refund or an exchange for unused Value Pass rides by Sept. 2 at piercecountywa.org/ferryfeedback.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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