Ferries often faster, cheaper, always cooler than drivingSeptember 22nd, 2012 by ed friedrich
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 case.
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 examined.
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 ferry?
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 the case.
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 day.
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 crossing.
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 traffic.
“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 http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/B3B58BAB-C98A-4A74-820B-1B659EDC9066/0/Drive_Or_Sail_Folio_091212.pdf.