Ferry must pass wake tests before service plans can beginMay 2nd, 2012 by ed friedrich
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.