Not your typical commute

Raytheon employees commute by ferry after mudslides close Highway 101

Ferry Boat

Raytheon employees exit the whale-watching vessel the company hired to ferry them to work. The trip brought the commuters around a long stretch of highway blocked by mudslides.

On a Thursday morning in Ventura, California, 33 passengers boarded a boat usually reserved for whale-watching. They wouldn't be chasing cetaceans on this trip, though. They were commuters, and they were headed to work at Raytheon's Goleta facility.

The vessel was needed to navigate past a 30-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 that was blocked by mud and debris from a massive mudslide in January.The 101 winds along the coast, right through an area devastated by the Thomas wildfire. It is the most direct link between Ventura, where many Raytheon employees live, and the company's facilities in Goleta, home to projects of critical importance to military and civil programs.

The shortest alternate land route was six times as long; thus, the impromptu ferry. Once docked in Santa Barbara Harbor, the employees boarded a bus for the short trip to work. 

“With the highway blocked, we had two choices: either bring our employees to work or take their work to them,” said Christy Doyle, general manager at Raytheon Vision Systems.

While some employees were able to work from home, others work in physical manufacturing or on classified programs that must remain in the building for security reasons. So Raytheon chartered the whale-watching boat until the highway opened up again late in the month.

“This just goes to show Raytheon gives its employees that much more attention,” said systems engineer Gerard Thomas. “I’ve been out of work for a week and was very excited to use a ferry to get back to work and start a new program.”

While it was possible to commute by rail, the trains between the areas became overbooked and delayed in the wake of the mudslides. Larry Sartoris, an emerging-programs engineer, took one standing-room-only train ride that lasted three hours and still arrived 90 minutes late, he said. By contrast, the Raytheon ferry was on time and came with a sunrise view.

“Cable and internet service to my neighborhood in Carpinteria was knocked out, making it impossible to telecommute,” said John Lawton, an IT employee. “A typical day for me averaged five to six hours of train travel, waiting time and uncertainty. The ferry made it possible to focus on customer commitments because I no longer had to worry about how and when I’ll be able to get to work.”

One employee took a different approach to his commute. Horacio Arias booked a hotel and rental car in Goleta so he would not miss meetings on his new project. But when the Raytheon ferry service started, Arias could sleep in his own bed again.

Map of ferry route

Last Updated: 02/14/2018