Bainbridge ferry rider a real life-saver


Washington State Ferries employees have taken part in several potential life-saving events this year. Last time I checked, it was up to 18 incidents. Last month, a rider got into the act.

Kevin Halverson became the first member of the public to receive WSF’s Life Ring Award for saving another passenger on Oct. 5.

Halverson, who makes the reverse commute from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, was on his way back home that afternoon, sitting in the galley area, when he heard that a person couldn’t breathe or talk.

Halvorsen quickly responded and performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the food blocking the person’s windpipe. The passenger left quickly after the incident and nobody got his name.

As a way to say thank you, the crew hosted Halverson for a vessel tour on Nov. 9 and presented him with the Live Ring Award.

Ferries filling 61 percent of car space

What percentage of ferry vehicle space gets used?

If you travel at commute times or sail away for the weekend, you’d think almost all of it. It’s not uncommon to wait an hour or more to drive aboard during those times.

The answer is 61 percent, which is still pretty impressive considering the boats run practically all day long.

Individual routes ranged from 45 percent full for Seattle-Bremerton to 66 percent for Mukilteo-Clinton. Bremerton is largely a foot route. Seventy-four percent of riders are car passengers or walk-ons.

Riders always complain that they need bigger boats, like on the Bainbridge route, but they really don’t. It’d just be a waste of fuel and labor costs.

Bremerton, however, is bumping up to a new 144-car Chimacum in 2017, whether it needs to or not. It can grow into it.

Bainbridge has similar characteristics to Bremerton because it’s going the same place — to a major city. Sixty-nine percent of its customers are passengers as opposed to drivers.
Only 43 percent of Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth riders are passengers, 48 percent  on the Edmonds-Kingston route and 56 percent for the system overall.

Almost never does a ferry reach passenger capacity, though it might seem so in early morning when the booths become beds. The day of the Seahawks’ parade after winning the Super Bowl was a notable exception.

Though an average of 61 percent of the system’s car decks are filled at any time, just 12 percent of passenger space is being used. It ranges from 7 percent at Point Defiance-Tahlequah to 18 percent for Anacortes-Sidney, British Columbia. It’s hard to put fannies in up to 2,500 seats.

Name those historic bridges

1LzPAfTDo you recognize any of the bridges up above? We could have a contest, except then I would have to know what they all are, which I don’t.

Anyway you can pick up this poster of historic Washington bridges for free through October at the State Archives headquarters in Olympia or at the Secretary of State’s main office at the Capitol in Olympia. They’ll be having an open house down there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.See if you can name them all. I’ll find the answers.


Freeways not what they used to be

How bad has traffic become when drivers take backroads to get around the freeway?

I feel so lucky every morning when I see the traffic report and know I don’t have to go on the other side of Puget Sound. My wife does. I can plan my trips around Kitsap Peninsula down to the minute. She has no idea when she’ll get to work, or back home.

I always felt those estimates of how much productivity we’re losing because we’re stuck in traffic were bogus. I equate productivity with work, and just because it takes you two hours to commute doesn’t mean you can cut two hours off your shift. It’s subtracted from time with the kids, at the gym, sleeping.

Here, we might have an hour of heavy traffic twice a day at a few spots. There, my wife gets off the highway as soon as she crosses the Narrows Bridge and winds her way all the way to King County without getting back on. And it’s faster. It just defeats the whole purpose, defies the definition of a freeway.

How can people commute like that? I guess they don’t have much choice, if they want to get paid. You’d think at some point companies will have so much trouble moving workers and products that they start relocating to the peninsula. I wonder if ferry fares and bridge tolls are holding them back.

Legislators a few months ago passed a $16 billion, 16-year transportation package. Something had to be done. But I have a hard time imagining traffic will be any better in 16 years. Hopefully we can keep keep pace, and I won’t get transferred to the other side.

Can you picture what the roads here will be like in 16 years? Probably still crowded in the usual places. Out of that $16 million, we’ll be getting money to improve Highway 305 between Poulsbo and Winslow, though it’s not sure how. They’ll also be re-striping the Highway 3-Highway 304 interchange near the Bremerton treatment plant. That’ll get better flow coming south on Highway 3 at the expense of backing Highway 304 farther into town. Guess I better start looking for some backroads.

Drones buzzing the ferries

Drones are increasingly in the news these days, but I’d never heard them tied to ferries until Washington State Ferries director Lynne Griffith mentioned an incident in her weekly update.

Recently, she said, the system has had reports of drones being flown over and near the ferries. Earlier this summer, one of the captains reported that a drone was posing a navigational hazard as he landed at the Anacortes dock The captain reported that it flew just feet away and directly in front of the pilothouse during the landing.

Terminal staff found the drone operator and he is now the subject of a Coast Guard investigation.

It is not always illegal to fly a drone near ferry facilities or vessels, but it is against the law to interfere with the navigation and operation of ferries, Griffith said.

Is your Highway 305 commute faster now?

The Department of Transportation says a little change at the Highway 305-Suquamish Way intersection has helped a lot.

In response to community requests, state signal technicians monitored how the signal at the intersection was working. They found it was operating as programmed, but noticed that some highway drivers were allowing large gaps to develop between cars as they drove through the green light. At times the gaps were so large that the signal thought no cars were on the highway and prematurely turned red to let Suquamish Way traffic go.

Based on that observation, they made a few changes. They tweaked the signal timing to let more highway cars through on the green cycle, and added another signal display on the highway for drivers leaving Bainbridge Island. It tells them whether the highway light is red or green as they approach the intersection, improving their ability to react to the signal.

Traffic data gathered before and after the small changes showed a decrease in travel times from nearly 30 minutes to 17 minutes.

Please respond here what your experiences have been.

And the ferry photo winners are …

Washington State Ferries announced the winners in its first ferry photo. And guess what?

Three of five submissions were from Kitsap, and we can claim No. 4 also. They were shot by Denise Sharer of Port Orchard, Darrel Austin of Bainbridge Island and Jeff Worrall of Kingston.  Rebecca Nelson contributed another. The Bremerton native lives in Seattle now and is a cousin of venerated Kitsap Sun editor David Nelson. The final winner, determined by Jeanette Mills, Director of Visual Services at the University of Washington School of Art,  Art History and Design, was from Anacortes. They all can be seen here.

The weeklong contest on Twitter ended Monday with more than 200 photographs submitted. The winners will receive a behind-the-scenes tour of a ferry, along with bragging rights.

Pick your ferry photo winners

Washington State Ferries will announce the winners of the ferry photo contest Thursday. Jeanette Mills, Director of Visual Services at the University of Washington School of Art,  Art History and Design, will select her five favorite shots. I have it on good accord some of them might be from around these parts. Winners receive a behind the scenes tour.

Go here and pick your own winners from the 217 entries.


Ferry ridership on a roll

0527_KSLO_TokitaeGot a couple ferry email alerts Thursday. At 11 in the morning, drivers were having to wait an hour on the other side to catch a boat to both Kingston and Bainbridge Island. That’s typical for getaway Fridays, but Thursday? At 11 in the morning? And for the first time ever this summer I’ve seen four-hour Sunday waits at Kingston.
That got me to wondering what the ridership numbers are looking like. Washington State Ferries has them on its webpage, by quarter and year.
First, some background. After WSF lost license tab money in 2000, it started jacking up fares, boats broke, the economy tanked. Ridership plummeted 17.2 percent through 2012. It finally turned around in 2013 with a 1.5 percent gain, followed by 2.7 last year. Through the first half of this year, it has spiked 4.5 percent.
It’s rebounding with the economy and relatively cheap gasoline, says longtime WSF planner and Central Kitsap High alum Ray Deardorf. The mild winter and spring weather also contributed.
The increases have been in discretionary and commercial travel, he said. Commuter trips have been stable or dropping, depending on the route.
This last quarter, April through June, for example, there was an 8 percent jump in full-fare passengers (those without passes), while those with multi-ride cards and transit passes (commuters) declined 5 and 5.8 percent.
Also last quarter, WSF carried 6,254,301 riders, the highest count in that quarter since 2002, Deardorf said.
A couple new 144-car boats, Tokitae and Samish, have bumped 87-car Tillikum and Evergreen State, which didn’t hurt the numbers but probably didn’t add significantly, either. Two more boats will be arriving in the next couple years, which will retire the Klahowya, last of small, old ferries.
During the second quarter, the Bremerton route gained 6.9 percent more riders, Kingston 4.5 percent, Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth 3 percent and Bainbridge 2.2 percent.

WSF looking for really good ferry photos

Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun Lots of big boats, including two ferries and a cruise ship, accent the Seattle scene this weekend under bright skies. Expect more picturesque days this week as forecasts call for sunny skies and highs in the 70s.
Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun
Lots of big boats, including two ferries and a cruise ship, accent the Seattle scene this weekend under bright skies. Expect more picturesque days this week as forecasts call for sunny skies and highs in the 70s.

If you want to look at some incredible ferry pictures, go to #WSFcontest on Twitter. If you want to win some incredible prizes, share one of your own ferry photos there.
Washington State Ferries is having a weeklong photo contest. It ends at noon Monday.
You must follow the rules, the first of which is following WSF on Twitter at @WSFFerries. Submit photos with the hashtag above.
You must have taken the photos yourself, at any time. They can be black and white Polaroids of the Kalakala. They have to have all or part of a state ferry in the frame. Captions won’t influence the judge, no matter how witty. It’s all about the image. Don’t take photos or tweet while driving, or enter restricted areas on a ferry. You can only enter three photos. If you send in more than that, only the first three will count.
Jeanette Mills, director of visual services at the University of Washington School of Art, Art History and Design, will pick five winners. Her decision will be subjective, final and can’t be appealed. Winners get a one-year free pass. Wait, no. They get a behind-the-scenes tour of a ferry, and can bring a friend.
You notice how they rigged it to have five winners but you can only send in three shots? That’s so you guys have a couple chances to win after I get my three. You know what? I’ve toured a ferry so I’m going to bow out and let everyone have a chance.