There were lots of interesting comments about fast ferries at Tuesday’s Kitsap Transit meeting that I couldn’t fit in my story. I’ll add some of them here. One of the agency’s goals for the year, by the way, is to develop an approach to future cross-Sound passenger-ferry operations. That includes developing financial options that won’t hurt bus operations and developing an updated passenger-only ferry business plan. The board was being asked whether transit should use up to $300,000 in federal money from the Rich Passage 1 research to have a consultant develop the business plan.
County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said that’s the only way some of the board’s questions will be answered. A business plan would determine if offering POF service is feasible, and if so, who should do it. It wouldn’t necessarily be Kitsap Transit. “I think we’re losing an opportunity if we don’t do the business plan,” she said. “We had a dilemma in Kitsap County for a number of years with wake damage and we’ve come a long way in addressing that dilemma. We have an obligation to finish that off.” A business plan “makes total sense,” she said. She knows there’s a lot of community support for it and a need to get people timely across the water.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent: We know there’s not a wake problem, that this design works. Now we need to close that by having a business plan, whether Kitsap Transit operates it or not. This cannot be ignored.
Port Orchard City Councilman Rob Putaansuu: I think it’s imperative to develop a business plan before we take the next big step.”
County Commissioner Josh Brown: I think it’s really important that we highlight having improved servcie on the south end of the county. Look at it holistically, at the whole county.” Brown was also quoted in the story, as was Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson and Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes.
Ann Blair, Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman: “This is research project and we’ve only done part of it. I do not hear a foregone conclusion what we will find out. We may not learn it’s a sound decision. This is another piece of the research project.”
John Witte, nonvoting, labor-representing board member: He said his wallet is only so deep and the middle class is feeling a pinch. “Having said that, I also understand this community must diversity or it will die. … We need this. We need to take care of our own, and the only way to do that is to diversity.”
Nine of 10 members of the public spoke for conducting the business plan. Roger Gay of rural South Kitsap was the only one opposed. He often calls the agency “Kitsap Commuter Transit” because it mostly goes to the ferries and shipyard and not in the country where he lives. He asked whether it’s Kitsap commuter transit or Kitsap public transit. It takes 3 to 5 hours to get around the county. A requirement to shift buses to alternative fuels and the agency’s bus replacement plan will cost a lot and that’s where its attention should be. The Port of Bremerton, Bremerton and Port Orchard are paying for Sunday ferry service because the agency doesn’t operate on Sunday. “You’re not serving the public,” he said.
Walt Draper of the Marine Transportation Association of Kitsap, which was set up to support passenger ferries: The next hurdle is to get over how to pay for it. It seems there’s no shortage of possible ways. You’ve got the funding to develop a business plan and it’d be a good expenditure to study it in detail and see which one will work best. Lets see if we can solve the last big problem between us and reliable fast ferry service.”
Developer Mark Goldberg: “This is the greatest opportunity this town has seen. Vote for it.”
Kitsap Economic Development Alliance executive director John Powers: He said Kitsap is part of the Central Puget Sound regional economy. Goods and workers migrate every day. Any way you can enhance that connectivity is a positive to employees and the community. “Sometimes you have to build it before they come,” he said, using South Lake Union trolley cars as an example. “Sometimes you have to prime the pump to get people to see it.”
Dino Davis of Kitsap County Association of Realtors: He said each fast ferry venture turned people away. “Why is this? it’s a quality of life issue. A grater base of transportation options benefits you, me and this community, and I hope you see a big groundswell of support for it.”
Jaime Forsyth: She said its bigger than a transportation issue, it’s an economic development opportunity. A chance to balance the economy, to reduce traffic on Highway 305. A lot of people being pushed out of Seattle would move here, and the key is where they live, not where they work.
Grant Griffin of MKAT: “The most important thing we can do now is have a sound business plan so we can move forward.
Holly James of MKAT and Kitsap Entrepreneurial Center: She said one of her customers has 20 people coming from Seattle to work in Bremerton, and the number could grow to 100. They are bringing money to our community.”
Beverly Kincaid of MKAT: “Economic vitality is what I believe the proposed fast ferry service is all about.” If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Commuters wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit. People would move here, improve their properties and increase the tax base. “Starting with a business plan is imperative.”