The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for October, 2012

Ferry slows down, saves fuel, wins award

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Three Washington State Ferries crew members found a way to save the state of Washington more than $700,000 per year and in doing so picked up the President’s Transportation Award for water transportation.

Staff Chief Mark Nitchman, Captain John Tullis and retired Captain Bill Chappel studied the effect of the 202-car ferry Puyallup’s speed on its fuel consumption. They suggested new throttle settings to maximize fuel efficiency. After a successful pilot project, the settings were adopted as the operating standard for both boats on the Edmonds-Kingston route. They also reduce exhaust emissions.

The changes save 15,000 gallons of fuel per month, or 180,000 per year, said director David Moseley.


West Coasties mostly wear belts; northerners not so much

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Washington state is tops in the United States at 97.5 percent seat belt usage. That’s pretty amazing. What’s more incredible is that 26.8 percent of people in Massachusetts still don’t wear their belts.
What are they thinking? Just clicking those clasps together reduces a person’s risk of dying in a car crash by 61 percent, according to Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Doesn’t seem like that much hassle considering the potential benefit.
Part of the Bay State’s problem might be that not wearing a seat belt isn’t a primary offense, meaning the cops can’t nail you for it unless they pull you over for something else first. There are still 19 states where it’s a secondary offense. That’s not much of an excuse, though, because one of them is Nevada, and its residents strap up 94.1 percent of the time.
Washington is first at 97.5 percent, and has been above 95 percent for seven straight years. The rest of the best are Oregon (96.6%), California (96.6%), Hawaii (96%) and District of Columbia (95.2%). The rest of the worst, besides Massachusetts (73.2%), are South Dakota (73.4%), New Hampshire (75.0%), North Dakota (76.7%) and Montana (76.9%).
You can see some geographic connections here. The Dakotas and Montana have the wide open spaces and not so much traffic. New Hampshire’s motto is “Live Free or Die.” Nobody’s gonna tell them to buckle up. Massachusetts doesn’t make sense.
And the top four states are along or in the Pacific. Must be something in the water.


Think about mixing up the ferry system

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Washington State Ferry staff chief Mark Nitchman and state rep Larry Seaquist batted around the prospect last week of combining car ferries and passenger-only ferries in a cost-cutting move.
The behind-the-scenes brainstorming played out over the Internet, and was shared with members of the Ferry Community Partnership and Inlandboatman’s Union. It likely arose from a proposed WSF operating budget announced last week that would cut service, including a midday and two late-night round trips from the Bremerton route. The topic had been broached earlier as a strategy to continue running the Kitsap Transit wake research ferry Rich Passage 1. The service to Seattle, which is part of the research, will end Nov. 2. Kitsap Transit must then find a way to use the boat (it doesn’t have the money), transfer it to another agency or pay back the federal government for the cost of building it. Now, coincidentally, there could be holes in the state’s Seattle-Bremerton schedule.
Nitchman isn’t necessarily proposing that WSF use passenger-only ferries, and never mentioned Kitsap Transit, just that the state look at whether they can complement car ferries and save the system money.
In the past, and even now with the Rich Passage 1, passenger ferries have competed with car ferries. WSF competed against itself when it ran two 350-seat fast ferries and two car ferries on the Bremerton route. Lost tax revenue and a lost lawsuit put an end to that. As cool as it was for Bremerton riders, it made no sense financially. Four ferries on a long route had to set some kind of operating cost record.
There are two car ferries on the Bremerton route now, generally the Kaleetan (144 cars) and Kitsap (124 cars). It gets a high percentage of foot traffic because it Seattle is at the other end. Outside of possibly the morning and evening commutes, it doesn’t need so many car spaces.
Suppose a passenger ferry replaced a car ferry during midday and possibly after the evening commute. Needed crew could switch to the smaller boat while the others stay and maintain the car ferry. How would that pencil out? Labor would be the same, but there should be a fuel savings.
As Nitchman says, you can buy a passenger ferry for about the cost of painting a car ferry, and probably get the feds to put up 90 percent of it, provided its advertised nationally.
Another scenario could be switching the 144-car Kaleetan with a second 124-car boat. Would the fuel savings cover the addition of a passenger ferry?
With car ferries only getting more expensive, maybe a mixed, complementary system is something to look into.

Everything is contingent, of course, on finding a passenger ferry that works in Rich Passage, which we won’t know for awhile.