The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for May, 2008

Are Commuters the Backbone of the Ferry System?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I really didn’t get into the story about the ferry customer survey enough on Thursday. Lots of commenters couldn’t believe that most of the people riding ferries aren’t commuters. I don’t know about that, either. It was a surprise to the Transportation Commission, too, which seemed to welcome the news.
One finding showed 13 percent of riders take 45 or more one-way trips per month and 22 percent take 25 to 44 trips. That’s 35 percent that ride more than 24 times per month. So not only are the commuters not the majority, they also get discounted prices.
Only 37 percent of trip purposes systemwide were for commute to work or school. Bainbridge was 41 percent, Bremerton 49 percent, Kingston 30 percent and Southworth 48 percent.
Another interesting item was that 44 percent of Bainbridge riders were walk-ons and 62 percent at Bremerton, both of which dump into downtown Seattle. The other routes were way lower.
The state wants to shift riders out of peak times so it can stretch it’s boats and terminals, but only 44 percent of people travel during peak times and only 4 percent say they have the flexibility to move to non-peak.
Somewhat surprisingly, 65 percent of riders say they are at least somewhat satisfied with ferry service. Only 23 percent are somewhat dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied.


How Do Narrows Bridge Tolls Compare With Past Tolls?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I covered a public hearing on increasing tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Tuesday night. They would go up from $1.75 to $2.75 for electronic tolling and from $3 to $4 for cash. I found one of the handouts pretty interesting. They applied an inflation index to past tolls on other bridges to see what they would be today. Here are some of the results:
Agate Pass (1950-51): It was 40 cents, which would be $3.99 now.
Hood Canal Bridge (1961-79): It was $2.60 and would be $16.71 now
Hood Canal Bridge after it blew down and was rebuilt (1982-85): It was $4 and would be $9.95 now
Warren Avenue bridge in Bremerton (1958-72): It was 20 cents and would be $1.33 now
First Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940) It was $1.10 and would be $15.10 now
Second Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1950-65): It was $1 and would be $8.77 now.
I can’t vouch for any of this math, but it makes good conversation. I’m old enough to remember paying (not me, my folks) to go across the Warren Avenue and the second Narrows Bridge. I can’t recall how much they cost, but I remember a big stainless steel cone coming out from the booths at Warren Avenue and you’d pitch your coins in there and the light would turn green. 20 cents back in those days would buy you four really big candy bars.


What Would You Pay for to Help the Ferries?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I sat through a meeting Wednesday at the Transportation Commission in Olympia where a consultant updated them on a ferry financing study they’re doing. They’re not very far along, so I didn’t write anything about it.
I think it’s going to be a lot harder to get the money for capital costs — boats and terminals — than filling the gap in operations. Fares already pay for more than 70 percent of operations. Rising fuel prices, however, just mean that much more money they need to collect. They’re going to be looking at stuff like whether you’d pay extra for a reservation to make sure you can get on a certain boat, or if you’d pay extra to get in a preferred loading lane to just pull up and bypass everybody who didn’t want to pay extra. Would you drive a Smart car if it cost less than, say, a Chevy Suburban because it takes up less space? I know it would cause quite a stir, but how would you feel if you didn’t get a frequent-user discount anymore?
What about ferry communities paying more license tab taxes or sales tax when you buy a vehicle or transit district tax? From all the comments I read, it seems pretty clear that those who don’t ride the ferries don’t want to pay for those who do.


Where Are the Most Dangerous Intersections?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

My Cops and Courts pal Josh Farley and I are contemplating a project about the county’s most dangerous intersections. It’ll take some doin’ because we’ll need to get figures from the state, county and cities. But it seems worthwhile. Maybe we can help get them fixed. You can be involved in the project more later, but for now I’m just curious if you have any top-of-the-head places.
I’m a southern guy and don’t get to the north part of the county that much, but several places on Bond Road come to mind. The Burley-Olalla intersection with Highway 16 seems to be a lot better, but there was a crash there just this morning. It seems like coming over the hill on Sedgwick Road where Long Lake Road crosses gets its share of wrecks. And Highway 3 south of Gorst seems to have a lot of crashes. Maybe you could help us out with your bad spots and what makes them dangerous.


Transit Board Listened To the People

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

People like to believe that public opinion can’t change a bureaucracy’s mind, but that’s not always true, as the Kitsap Transit board showed Tuesday. Eleven people testified at the board meeting’s public hearing, most of them pleading not to cut Access service back from five days to three and in turn isolate immobile people off from their jobs and social lives and prevent them from integrating with the community. A bunch more people came and cheered after each person spoke. And transit staff said this was the only complaint that kept coming up at a series of public meetings.
The board chose not to cut the service and whether you like the decision or not, it shows that they are listening.
Steve Bauer, a board member and county commissioner, said increased ridership caused by high gas prices could cover the cost. I haven’t done the math, but if that’s the case, this looks like a good deal for everybody.
Somebody commented on my story that Kitsap Transit has to provide Access service anyway. That’s not totally true. I think they only have to provide it within 3/4 of a mile of routed service, not way out to the boonies.


Bremerton-Port Orchard ferry free on weekends, during events

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

One item that didn’t get reported from Tuesday’s Kitsap Transit board monthly board meeting was a resolution that was passed to provide free passenger-only ferry service this summer and for special events in Bremerton and Port Orchard. It will run through Oct. 12. Because most riders already have passes, this would only affect “new” passengers and cost about $8,500 in lost fares for the whole summer. There would be no extra operating expenses.
They’ve been doing this for several years to make it easier for people to get between the two cities without driving their cars and causing parking problems for SK’s Concerts in the Park and farmers market and Bremerton’s Concerts on the Pier and Blackberry Festival.


Ferry Company Organizes Protest Swim

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Here’s a story that ran Sunday on Radio Netherlands.

The TESO ferry service to the Dutch island of Texel has called on islanders to join a mass protest on Tuesday. The call follows government plans to liberalise ferry services to the Wadden islands off the north coast.

TESO managing director Cees de Waal says passengers will not be better off if commercial services are introduced to the islands. He warned there would be fewer crossings in bad weather, longer waiting times and higher prices.

Under the motto “Swim to the other side?”, he called on islanders to come in bathing costumes to a surf beach on Texel. The demonstration has been organised on the eve of a debate in the Lower House on the future of the ferry services.

Last month the island’s council rejected plans to connect Texel to the mainland by a tunnel. TESO is an island-owned company and has been running since 1907.


Riding on a Hot Rod Ferry

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I’ll be traveling to a forum on passenger-only ferries Thursday in Seattle aboard a brand-new 70-passenger boat that goes 55 mph. It was built at All American Marine in Bellingham for the Tennessee Aquarium. The company will be building a similar but bigger boat for Kitsap Transit pretty soon, and could eventually an 80- to 100-seat one for a Kingston-Seattle route.
The forum sounds like it’ll have some new wrinkles, like pairing passenger-only ferries with Puget Sound cleanup, and trying to come up with a common funding source for a whole network of Puget Sound passenger ferries. Twelve different guys will be speaking, including Bremerton mayor Cary Bozeman and Mike Bookey of the Port of Kingston.
After that they’ll be taking a jaunt on the boat, complete with wine and cheese, but I have to pass it up to grab the big Bremerton boat and come back and write. Look for the story.


Remember The Carnage When We Were Young?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I’m thinking of writing a story based on being an old-timer. Seems like when I was growing up in SK, there were nasty, bloody wrecks all the time, way more than now. Highway 16, if I remember right, was one lane in each direction with no median. People trying to pass when they couldn’t see far enough ahead or didn’t have enough room led to some nasty crashes. And there were lots of cross streets. Nelson’s Corner, which used to intersect Highway 16 between Sedgwick and Mullenix roads, was one of the worse.
Now, with medians and overpasses and those chain things that are supposed to keep you from going into incoming traffic, it seems you have to be really stupid or really drunk to crack up your car on the highway compared with the old days. It’d be neat to compare the accident and death rates from the different eras if I could get them.
How do you remember those days, say 1960s and 1970s? What would you be interested in reading about?