The Bremerton-Bainbridge Divide

Former Kitsap Sun reporter Chris Kornelis, now at the Seattle Weekly, wrote a story about the chasm between Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. It seems to me he pretty much makes the case that there is more perceived animosity than real discomfort between the two cities.

They’re in the same county, share the same courthouse, and are separated by less than a mile of water. But for many of the roughly 60,000 residents who call Bainbridge and Bremerton home, there’s been a chasm, sometimes real, sometimes purely perceived, between them. Islanders, so the story goes, are the rich elitists who make local calls to Seattle and would rather be part of the King County conversation than that of Kitsap. Then there’s Bremerton, cast as a Navy town with stabbings, ax murders, cheap housing, and a fondness for NASCAR.

You can find the story here. I found it because Chris shamelessly told me about it.

He touches on my favorite issue.

Nothing articulates the perceived class struggle as well as the ferry system. Whereas Islanders get the nice boats, the quick, 35-minute rides, and the frequent trips, Bremerton commuters spend two hours a day on board and have to choose between the 10:30 p.m. and 12:50 a.m. boats during Mariner games.

Kornelis also put together a slide show with conversations with the mayors of both cities.

The people quoted in the story are mostly friendly. The first commenter, naming himself “guillermo,” resorts to all the standard stereotypes, playing the part of “troll.”

When I covered Bainbridge Island, though, someone named William did speak to me of the “Bainbridge tax,” the extra fee contractors charge because they assume you have money. The William I knew would never use the term “Bremelo.”

13 thoughts on “The Bremerton-Bainbridge Divide

  1. Having lived in Bremerton for a while a few decades ago, and having family living on Bainbridge, I feel as though I have a foot in both camps, with a slight “list” toward B-town.
    Bremerton is full of hard-working families who care about their community and their kids. Bainbridge, too, is full of hardworking families who also care about their kids. They have more in common than they may know.

  2. Back in High School Latin Class they taught us the phrase, “All of Gaul is divided into three parts.” Well, all of Kitsap County tends to work as Four Parts: South, Central, North, and Bainbridge Island. And this is more due to geography and transportation than by actual mindset in the people. We may have our differences, but when a Kitsap-wide topic such as increasing the WSF Ferry Fares come up, the parts of Kitsap can come together pretty quick.

    Despite what is the percieved resistance to a bridge by Bainbridge Islanders, I think they get tired at taking an extra hour to get to the Hood Canal or Tacoma when they need to. But I do know a bridge connection would be over $100 million by the time it got budgeted and built. And that kind of money would be near-impossible to get before the Viaduct and the Evergreen Point Bridge are replaced.

    I’m suggesting instead to run a Cable Ferry from Illahee to Bainbridge Island with free Transit connections on either end. A cable ferry is one that runs along a 1″ – 2″ dia. cable between the two docks. The ferry pulls itself back and forth along it, taking out the risk of going adrift when the tides go in and out between Rich and Agate Passes. It would not interfere with boat traffic going to Keyport or Liberty Bay because the cable would lie slack on the bottom after it passes. A good example is the one by Ft. Ticonderoga, NY (though we wouldn’t charge that much).

    http://www.middlebury.net/tiferry/

    The ferry would be very small compared to the WSF boats that we’re used to. Probably about 12-20 cars and a covered area for passengers would be adequate. It can also be designed to run from shore electrical power. Cable ferries also exist in BC and Oregon (according to wiki) and have a very good track record in maintenance.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_ferry

    The good news about it is that it would be much cheaper to make and start service between Illahee and Bainbridge Island than a bridge, probaly in the $10-20 million range, depending on the size of the boat and the facilities on either end. And it can be run by either a new local agency, a private entity, or even Kitsap Transit.

    But I invite you, Ms. O’Hara and the other bloggers to tell me what you think. Would a Cable Ferry work to finally connect these 2 parts of Kitsap?

  3. “Would a Cable Ferry work to finally connect these 2 parts of Kitsap?”

    No. It would be opposed on environmental grounds.

  4. B-town and The Rock.

    Personally I enjoy the stark difference between Bainbridge and Bremerton, and gladly live in B-town. I don’t think there is animosity– just good-humored recognition that the two are cultural opposites. Typical stereotypes alone don’t do justice though. Here are some added notes:

    Bremerton = gritty and real. PBR always on tap, rarely a micro brew. People are tough but friendly, and live in the struggle. B-town gave rise to Blue Scholars’ Geo, boxer Brock Stodden, punk rockers Neutralboy, and Norm Dicks. Bainbridge = privileged and regal. Good luck finding a PBR or Coors Light for that matter. People are smart, haughty and uptight. Bainbridge gave rise to Marcel from Top Chef and is home to Senator Rockefeller.

    Bremerton is the urban to Bainbridge’s ecotopia. B-town is a tight knit grid of bungalows on postage stamps while Bainbridge estates occupy a half acre or more. B-town’s streetlights and speedbumps are to Bainbridge’s dark skies and drainage swales. Forget about subdividing without an appeal on the rock – subdivide in B-town and we’ll ask if you want it multifamily.

    B-town is multi-cultural while Bainbridge wants to be. Storefronts in B-town have grass roots Mexican, East Asian, and African-American fare. A school bus stop in Bremerton looks like united colors of beneton. If you’re black in Bainbridge you come to Bremerton to get your haircut. A school bus stop in Bainbridge is…. well … empty because the kids get rides in Mercedes hatchbacks. Bainbridge’s multi-cultural is a yarn shop selling fair-trade alpaca from Peru.

    What Bainbridge and B-town strive to become is as opposite as what they already are. Bremerton hopes to be a slick waterfront city – with tall buildings, a boardwalk and thriving business. Bainbridge longs to protect it’s sleepy, leafy, island heritage. Both have an uphill battle. Both places are great. We can learn from each other and Kitsap County is lucky to host both.

  5. So why would I want to take a drive to a ferry, a bus across an island to take another ferry to Seattle? I have no great desire to do anything in Bainbridge, do B.I.’s have any desire to hang out in Bremerton? Just sounds like an expensive unneeded project. Kitsap Transit’s empire is plenty big enough as is. When they can figure out how to provide decent bus service to the community that does not work at the shipyard or commute on a ferry I’ll consider giving them another task.

  6. I’ll weigh in on this later.today..but, quickly, and excluding BI better clothed ferry, the only animosity between residents of BI and Bremerton is in the imagination of only a few folks…most likely many of the same people who either don’t vote at all or voted against the passenger ferry from Bremerton.

    Many of these folks are so afraid they might ‘help’ a Seattle commuter…they are incapable of looking at the bigger picture of waterway transportation at the least cost, for the most good, for the most people, for the most growth, for the best and least damaging environment…and unthinkingly vote ‘NO’ on passenger ferries from Bremerton.

    By the way… BI was multi-culture and more accepting of diversity YEARS before Bremerton …
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

  7. Mr. Brockus …. You’ve got a great idea!

    The only suggestion I have – use horses, mules or donkeys to pull the cables.

    Ferries have been used as transportation in this country going back 350 years – good evidence it works. The one I mentioned is on the east coast.

    “…”The Rocky Hill – Glastonbury Ferry is a unique element in the Region’s transportation plan….The ferry plays a special role in serving local vehicular traffic between Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, and it plays an important role for bicyclists.
    “350 years of continuous service”
    http://www.wethersfield.net/html/gov/ct/rhill/ferry/ferry-info.html

    The next quote and URL is about an old ferry I rode on some years ago in an area I had the opportunity to visit and explore. A highlight was discovering Harriet Tubman’s place and I can feel again the thrill and awe of the discovery.

    “…
    On November 20, 1683 Talbot County authorized the establishment of a ferry service for “Horses and Men”.

    The Oxford Bellevue Ferry, believed to be the nation’s oldest privately operated ferry service, crosses the Tred Avon River between Oxford, Maryland and Bellevue, Maryland…..”

    http://www.oxfordferry.com/

    The ‘ME’ mentality needs to be replaced by thoughts of the greater good.

    The future is what we need to look at too…and decide how it will help ‘US’..not limit our thinking to pondering how this idea will help “ME”..

    Our country was built on improving and making life better for those who follow… as best we can.

    If our forefathers had limited themselves to the “ME” factor… most of us today would be on Shanks Mare 2008.

    Yes, Mr. Brockus…a Cable Ferry would most certainly be of benefit and connect BI and Bremerton.

    As long as the courthouse is in PO…it wouldn’t hurt to add a foot ferry to PO from the Bremerton end of the Cable Ferry. The bus could meet each run from the PO dock to the courthouse as a faster alternative from driving all the way around from BI to PO.

    Tthanks for asking us!
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

  8. Thank you for your opinions. I guess we’ll have to wait for another time for a connection.

  9. I actually do commute and anyone with true knowledge of using mass transportation knows that when you switch modes it takes much more time. Not really sure how adding a connection to Bainbridge with its overcrowed arterials to the ferry makes any sense. A bridge, where would the cars fit once they made it to the island? A ferry which one would either walk to, drive a personel vehicle to or taking a bus, waiting for ferry to arrive, unload, load, take the trip, unload, and switch modes again only to drive to another ferry!

    I held my nose tight and did vote for the passenger only ferry, my concern was Kitsap Transit running it. They are top heavy with overpaid administrators in expensive offices and only cater to shipyard or ferry commuters.

  10. “Bremerton = gritty and real. PBR always on tap, rarely a micro brew.”

    Aside from the fact that you’re horribly wrong (seriously, I defy you to name a bar in Bremerton that doesn’t carry at least Mac & Jack’s), how are micro brews not “gritty and real”? For the most part, these are individuals that are celebrating America’s history of personal brewing, rather than embracing the industrial breweries of the early to mid-20th Century that were better able to weather Prohibition? PBR is a hipster drink now, my friend. You want to be “gritty and real”, either drink your local brewery or crack open a can of Rainier. Both are every bit as “gritty and real” as PBR.

  11. The best experience I had commuting and using different modes of travel – mass transportation -when the Hood Canal Bridge went down.

    Among many types of crossings from the tugboat/barge configuration to the passenger boat/transit bus …my favorite was parking – passenger boat – bus to Silverdale. The time was about the same as straight driving..but the enjoyable part was meeting people on the ‘Queen’ sharing experiences, opinions, lots of laughs and letting other folks do the driving.

    The transit bus never failed to meet the boat and it is where I became a real fan of driving/parking/passenger boats/bus.

    It is my vision that mass transit, using our God given waterways, passenger ferry, bus… is the wave of our future…
    In my opinion….
    Sharon O’Hara

  12. The best experience I had commuting and using different modes of travel – mass transportation -when the Hood Canal Bridge went down.

    Among many types of crossings from the tugboat/barge configuration to the passenger boat/transit bus …my favorite was parking – passenger boat – bus to Silverdale. The time was about the same as straight driving..but the enjoyable part was meeting people on the ‘Queen’ sharing experiences, opinions, lots of laughs and letting other folks do the driving.

    The transit bus never failed to meet the boat and it is where I became a real fan of driving/parking/passenger boats/bus.

    It is my vision that mass transit, using our God given waterways, passenger ferry, bus… is the wave of our future…
    In my opinion….
    Sharon O’Hara

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