Pokemon Players Interfere With Ferry Operations

The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal in Toronto (courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

By MarEx 2016-08-11 21:29:59

Transportation officials from Washington to Cornwall are trying to figure out how to deal with problems created by Pokemon Go players, some of whom are breaching security or obstructing traffic on passenger ferries and at ferry terminals.

Like other government facilities, some ferry terminals have found themselves home to virtual Pokemon hotspots, or PokeStops. Players follow a map on their mobile phones to these hotspots in order to progress within the game; while this is advantageous for retailers and restaurants, which benefit from extra foot traffic if they are lucky enough to host a PokeStop, it has caused problems with loitering and trespassing elsewhere.

On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard said that it was investigating security problems at the ferry terminal in Edmonds, Washington, where the game's developers have placed a PokeStop at the end of the dock's loading ramp. "We had literally hundreds of people who play the game that keep coming out here onto the terminal area," said Ian Sterling with the Washington State Ferries, speaking with local media. 

Walking to the end of the ramp is unsafe and may constitute a breach of federal law, officials say. The dock manager contacted the State Patrol, which passed the issue to the Coast Guard. USCG spokesperson Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi said that the agency was working with Nintendo, the game's owner, to remove PokeStops and Pokemon characters from federal facilities. 

In Toronto, city staff say that they intend to fence off the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal from an adjacent park where Pokemon players have been congregating by the hundreds. Nearly a dozen Pokemon hotspots are located near the terminal, and the game traffic has interfered with commuting for the terminal's daily flow of 25,000 passengers, officials say.

“There have . . . been incidences of players charging our gates and running through the crowds, presumably in search of something in the game,” said Matthew Cutler, parks department spokesman. 

Nintendo says that it is reviewing requests to remove the terminal’s hotspots – and countless others around the globe – but in the meantime, Toronto's new fencing and signage will "delineate where traffic moves and where people can play."

A city spokesman said that he had downloaded the game himself to make sure that the fencing would go in the right place, and that the city is reaching out to the gaming community to bring them into the process. 

In Cornwall, England, several badly behaved players have been removed from the Torpoint Ferry across the River Tamar. Prominent Pokemon online community member Spyke O'Hanlin issued a request to local gamers not to interfere with passenger operations: "The people working on the ferry are just doing their job. I do not think it's too much to ask for passengers to conduct themselves in a decent manner," he told local media.