The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to The Commute

Archive for May, 2012

Shout out to the weeders

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

When you don’t keep up on the weeding, the weeds can quickly take over. It happens in my yard and it had been happening along Charleston Boulevard, the gateway to Bremerton.

An army arrived Tuesday to dig them up. It was led by the Navy — a group from visiting submarine USS Bremerton — volunteers from Kitsap Community Resources and Bremerton Public Works employees. It’s hard place to shut down traffic, so it was nice to have such a big work party, said parks director Wyn Birkenthal. Last Wednesday, a Parks crew got started, but didn’t get very far.

“With all those hands, they made much more progress yesterday,” Birkenthal said.

“It’s hard to get to. It requires a special (traffic) arrangement and the amount of weeding that needs to be done … Both the sides and the middle are over a mile of landscaping.”

It looks much nicer now. Thanks.

 


Few at ferry meeting discuss Seattle waterfront work

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

All must be well among state ferry riders, considering few bothered to attend the latest round of community meetings, including me.
I finally caught up with Washington State Ferries director David Moseley and his roving band last week in Bremerton. Four or five others joined me in the Fountain Room. They more than doubled the Southworth crowd, which was a ferry advisory member and reporter.
Much of the discussion revolved around work along the Seattle waterfront. It’s going to be an ever-changing mess there for the better part of a decade, with the tunnel and seawall and Colman Dock refurbishing.
People are getting used to the Mother’s Day dock detour, said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Linea Laird. It was the first big change getting to the ferries in 20 years. They had to tweak signage and traffic lights, but it seems to be working OK.
“We know it’s a big deal,” Laird said of getting around the construction. “It’s going to be out there for a while, and we have the opportunity to make it better.”
It’s a massive coordination effort, Moseley said. WSF, the city, county, port and DOT meet every other week. They’re still going to miss stuff, and Laird asked for public help when that happens.
“Have some patience and give us some feedback,” she said.
This year they’ll be digging huge pits about two miles apart. Next spring they’ll float in a huge drill rig from Japan and start digging from pit to pit. The tunnel is expected to be opened to traffic the end of 2015. Then the viaduct will be razed.
That’s about when they’ll start renovating Colman Dock. It won’t be shut down. They’ll have to work around the ferry operation. Construction should be completed in 2020. Now they’re going through the environmental process. The estimated cost is $210 million.
A new bicycle lane is ready to go, but it’s being blocked by construction. It’s an automated, card-reading gate that will save WSF money. A bicycle commuter Thursday said it’s too far north and puts bicyclists among crazy drivers. Moseley said give it a chance and see what happens.
“If it’s not working, we’ll make it work,” he said.

Moseley gave an update on ferry construction. Two 144-car boats will replace Evergreen State-class ferries, which can carry 87 cars. That swap will increase capacity without adding to the number of boats.
The first 144-car ferry is under construction. It will be delivered in early 2014 and be operating by spring of that year. The second one will follow about a year later. The cost of the first one is $115 for construction and $145 overall. For the second, it’s $129 million and $109 million, respectively.

The state Legislature and governor this year gave Washington State Ferries 17 performance measures it has to start reporting. They include things like terminal and vessel projects completed on time and on budget, limiting crew and passenger injuries, passenger satisfaction, operating costs per mile, overtime, fuel consumption, vessel out-of-service time, on-time performance and trip reliability.
The ferry system doesn’t view it as government sticking its nose into its business.
“I think it’s great,” Moseley said. “It’s important to me that the public knows there’s a standard we’re held to. I think we’re going to meet or exceed them, and it’ll be a transparent way for us to show to our customers how we’re doing.”

There’s one more local meeting, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Kingston Community Center, 11212 Highway 104. They usually draw a bigger crowd up there.


Nevada worst for writing traffic tickets; Washington 15th

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Where do you suppose is the most ticket-happy place in the country?
National Motorists Association, a motorists’ rights group that has been helping drivers fight traffic tickets for 30 years, says it knows.
Stats aren’t readily available. Lots of states and cities either don’t keep them or don’t release them because they don’t want to look unwelcoming, according to the NMA. So the group has a weird way of measuring. It analyzes ticket-related search queries such as “speeding ticket” and “traffic tickets” using Google’s Insights for Search, a public tool that shows search trends across the country. I can’t vouch for the method, but for the sake of discussion, let’s go with it.
After crunching the numbers for the third straight year, Nevada comes out as the likeliest to issue a ticket, followed by Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Louisiana and Texas. There’s a theme here. Most of the states are down south. I drove across a couple times about 30 years ago. Never got a ticket. But that’s the extent of my southern experience. To top it off, the analysis added metro areas this year, and Atlanta came out on top, or bottom, however you want to look at it.
I did live and drive in Nevada, also about 30 years ago, so that ancient history probably has no relevance to today’s traffic ticket research. I suppose if the cops are picking off people, particularly tourists, in Nevada’s few cities, that could tip the scales, because there’s not much else there. I drove from Vegas to Reno many times, way before cell phones, and you better not break down on the highway. There’s not a house, store or anything for hours. Just you, all alone with the dirt, snakes and UFOs. The weird think was, at night you could look across the miles of nothing and see a light here and there. There were no roads to get to them. Just lights all by themselves. Always wondered what was out there, but didn’t want to have to find out.
Anyway, back to the list. Wyoming and Montana are least likely to write a ticket.
Washington is tied for 15th most likely. Here are the lists, courtesy of NMA:
States
1. Nevada 79
2. Georgia 70
3. Alabama 69
4. Florida 67
5. Maryland 65
6. Louisiana 63
7. Texas 62
8. District of Columbia 61
9. California 59
North Carolina 59
Missouri 59
12. New York 56
13. Mississippi 55
14. South Carolina 54
15. Washington 51
Tennessee 51
Indiana 51
18. Illinois 50
19. Arizona 49
Iowa 49
Oklahoma 49
22. Virginia 48
23. New Jersey
24. Ohio 45
Kansas 45

Metro Areas
1. Atlanta 74
2. Los Angeles 72
3. Dallas-Fort Worth 62
4. Miami 59
5. New York 57
6. Chicago 52
7. District of Columbia 50
8. Houston 47
9. Orlando 39
10. San Diego 34


Ferry must pass wake tests before service plans can begin

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

People find it illogical that Kitsap Transit plans to run 35-minute service between Bremerton and Seattle for five months and then shut it down, but that’s the way it is. Transit has been saying it. I’ve been writing it. But Tuesday, even the bright folks from our editorial board had a hard time grasping why they would want to do such a thing.
Well, they probably don’t. It doesn’t make sense to spend millions to buy a boat and prove its wake doesn’t harm Rich Passage beaches, then not use it. Test runs with fare-paying customers is one of the lat parts of the study, all funded with research grants. When that runs out, the party’s over. There’s no money or permission from the transit board to continue.
Rich Passage I will operate from June through October. In November and December, scientists will observe how winter weather affects the shoreline. Analysis will spill into early 2013, wrapping up nearly a decade of work.
Transit executive director John Clauson and Dick Hayes, ferry project director, are avoiding any talk of service plans until the research is in the books. They don’t want beach owners to think they’re getting ahead of themselves.
“Our board has not committed to going beyond the scientific research,” Clauson said Tuesday. “No one should assume this boat is going to be running beyond this wake test. We’re going to get this test done and that’s as far as we’re going to go at this point.”
Kitsap Transit twice asked local voters for sales tax increases to fund passenger-only plans. Both failed. It’ll probably have to fine tune one of them and try again. Even if successful, that would take a long time. The plans had ferries running from Bremerton, Southworth and Kingston to Seattle. The Port of Kingston would love to turn its costly SoundRunner service over to a regional district.
“The main reason our last plan failed is because the people who didn’t like it convinced those who did that we didn’t have a boat that could get through Rich Passage, which was true,” Hayes said.
So, what becomes of the Rich Passage I after the research? Kitsap Transit could run it between Port Orchard and Bremerton, but that would be overkill. It can’t sell the $5.3 million foil-assisted catamaran.
“We could lend it to someone,” Hayes said. “In the (Federal Transit Administration’s) eyes, we’re just the custodians of the boat. If we were to sell it, we’d get our investment out of it, which would be nothing.”
Rich Passage I, which creates less wake at higher speed, will zip through the passage at 37 knots, then slow to 28 knots to conserve fuel. It will make two round trips in the morning and two in the evening. Times will have to fit between Kingston and King County dockings at the passenger-only float. Kitsap Transit wants to keep them close to the car ferry times so people have a backup plan.
So, too, are payment methods. The price will be $7 per round trip, or half of that for approved seniors, kids and the disabled. Staff talked of charging $3.50 at each end, but it would have had to compete against a “free” state car ferry in Bremerton and could get overrun in Seattle where the car ferry costs $7.70. Now they’re thinking about just collecting the $7 round-trip fare in Seattle. They’re also checking into selling monthly passes that guarantee a seat there and back, and a reservation system. There are only 118 seats, and they’re expected to be in demand.
Next year, if Rich Passage I tests fine, Kitsap Transit can dust off the old plans and start trying to figure out how to get it back on the water.