Drive or sail?
Washington State Ferries released a report this month comparing the
time, cost and greenhouse gas emissions of commuting on a ferry
versus driving around. Boats, not surprisingly, won in every
Some of the scenarios aren’t realistic, though, like Bainbridge
Island to Seattle and Hansville to Everett. You’d have to be out of
your mind to drive around via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from those
places — and probably even Poulsbo, which was in the report. Yet
the biggest tossup — South Kitsap are to Seattle — isn’t
Most Kitsap folks have performed similar calculations, and they can
fine-tune them to their own sites and gas mileage.
Here’s one I’ve done. Say I want to go to a Mariners game. Should I
drive around from my Gig Harbor home or take the Bremerton
It takes 63 minutes to drive the 45.9 miles to Safeco Field on a
good day, according to Google Maps, but when was the last good day?
It takes 32 minutes to drive to Bremerton and 60 minutes for the
ferry to cross, for a total of 92 minutes. So it’s about a
half-hour faster to drive around, though traffic slowdowns could
eat up a chunk of that.
What about cost? My 1996 Honda Accord, at 25 miles per gallon, can
get to the ballpark on 1.8 gallons. At $4 per gallon, the cost is
$7.20, $14.40 for the round trip. I generally park way south where
it’s free, and walk.
Gas to get the 48.2 miles to and from Bremerton would run $8. Full
fare to walk on to the ferry is $7.70 for the round trip. I’ll park
at my office. Total cost: $15.70.
I’d save $1.30 and a half-hour by driving around, an hour if you
count the return trip.
Easy decision? Not for me. Most times I’ll go against the numbers
and take the ferry.
Driving Interstate 5 is terrorizing; Highway 16 a stroll. And
traveling by ferry is cool. It’s surreal to get on at little
Bremerton and walk into the big city. The No. 1 determining factor
is whether there’ll be a boat when I need it, which isn’t always
Since WSF didn’t do it, let’s take a look at South Kitsap. To make
it easy, say the commuter lives within walking distance of the
Southworth ferry dock and works downtown.
The round-trip drive across the Narrows would be 150 miles, take
nearly three hours, not counting traffic slowdowns, and suck up $24
in gas. Taking the ferry to Fauntleroy and driving downtown would
cost $2.84 for gas and $16.42 for a ticket for a total of $19.26.
It would take about two hours of travel time.
This would be no-brainer, provided there’s room on the boat,
because taking it would save the commuter about $5 and an hour a
Calculations can get complicated, because Southworth ferry riders
can drive or walk, go downtown or down south, catch the
passenger-only ferry on Vashon or the Metro bus in West Seattle, or
use Kitsap Transit’s park-and ride lots and buses.
Mitchell Brown, an Olympic High grad now attending the University
of Washington, occasionally rides the ferry home to visit. He says
it’s faster, cheaper, more convenient, and he can work during the
Mark Moshay of Bremerton catches the ferry in Bremerton and drives
to his job in Tukwila as a contract administrator. When the day is
done, he returns home via the Narrows Bridge, which doesn’t collect
tolls in that direction. It costs him about $12 a day for gas and
$9 for the ferry ticket. The trip to work takes about 90 minutes.
Coming back varies from an hour to two hours, depending on
“I would have to agree that for most folks it’s faster, cheaper and
less polluting,” he said of riding the ferry. “For me it’s not
necessarily faster or cheaper, but I definitely use less gas going
by ferry. But there’s one more really important factor. I challenge
anyone, anywhere to tell me they have a more beautiful morning
commute than I do.”
Washington State Ferries compared six commutes. Those not mentioned
earlier are Bremerton to Seattle, Port Townsend to Seattle and
Langley to the Everett Boeing plant. To see the results, visit