Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ferry ridership rebounding

Washington State Ferries ridership has bottomed out and is headed back up.
The agency on Friday released numbers that showed the largest rider jump — 2.7 percent — in at least 14 years. That’s when it lost license tab revenues, and started jacking up ticket prices and trimming service.
The 2.7 percent calculates to 650,000 riders, enough to fill 260 of its largest ferries.
Total 2014 ridership was 23,193,660, nowhere near the 1999 peak of 26.8 million but moving in that direction. Its the second straight gain (1.5 percent last year) after 13 years of declines. Drivers were up 1.3 percent and passengers 3.9 percent.
Bremerton led the way with a whopping 10 percent gain. Passengers were up 12.6 percent and vehicles 3.2 percent.
Bainbridge rose just half a percent, but remained the busiest route at 6.3 million riders. Edmonds-Kingston and Mukilteo-Clinton continued their annual duel for second. Kingston, boosted by a 3.6 percent gain, edged Mukilteo in 2014, 4 million  to 3.9 million. Traffic picked up less than 1 percent at Mukilteo-Clinton.
Mukilteo, however, led the system with 2,151,070 vehicles, followed by Kingston at 2,098,533 and Bainbridge with 1,953,466.
Two-thirds of Bainbridge and Bremerton riders were passengers.
The Fauntleroy-Vashon Island-Southworth route showed little change, at 0.3 percent.

Misconceptions about the possible Seahawks fast ferry trip

Judging from the comments on my Seahawks fast ferry story, some facts are in order.
The low-wake ferry Rich Passage 1 is owned by Kitsap Transit. Washington State Ferries has nothing to do with it.
A half-hour trip to the NFC championship game would largely be promotional, although it could slightly reduce crowds on the car ferries. It can carry just 118 people. The RP1 needs to be operated periodically, anyway, to keep it in good running order. Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent thinks it’d be great to kill two birds with one stone. She’s not shy about fast ferries. Like many others, Lent thinks they’d be great economically for the city and surrounding area. Many also disagree. With a proposition to run fast ferries full time possibly going on the ballot in the next year or two, she wants to showcase them as much as possible.
Nobody would make a killing on the Seahawks trip. Lent and Kitsap Transit are just trying to cover expenses, primarily crew and fuel, as the feds require. The $25 round-trip ticket wouldn’t bring in half of the $7,000 needed. That’s why Lent’s looking for sponsor organizations. I’d think they’d see it as advertising. Neither the city nor Kitsap Transit would be footing any of the bill.
Nobody is being forced to ride the boat. Car ferries will be available for about $8 for the round trip.
If voters did eventually approve the service, tickets of $25 would  be too high to be competitive with the state. Kitsap Transit is thinking more in the $12-13 range. That would cover 25 to 30 percent of operating costs, so a tax increase would be needed.

Which ferry to take to Seahawks game

If you’re headed to Seattle Saturday for the big Seahawks game or any other reason, it might help to know which boat you’re catching. At Bainbridge, it doesn’t really matter. Both the Puyallup and Wenatchee carry 202 cars and 2,500 people. There are different-sized boats running in Bremerton, however — the 124-car, 1,200-passenger Cathlamet and 144-car, 2,000-passenger Kaleetan.

Kaleetan is scheduled to depart Bremerton at 11:10 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Cathlamet is scheduled to depart Bremerton at 12:20 p.m. and 3 p.m. The game starts at 5:15 p.m. Washington State Ferries will add an unscheduled 11:30 p.m. sailing to Bremerton.

Passengers are advised to beat the rush by taking an earlier sailing and purchasing return-trip tickets online in advance.

The fast ferry Rich Passage 1 could also be an option, but they departure times and ticket-buying plan haven’t been determined yet. At last look, there would be one trip to Seattle and one back, each for $2, in the 118-seat Rich Passage 1. It can make the crossing in about a half hour. I should know more later this afternoon.

Mayor Matthes letter regarding fast ferry

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes, in a bit of a coup, lost his seat on the Kitsap Transit board last month to city councilman Rob Putaansuu. Putaansuu had been serving the board as an at-large member. He said the board owes it to the public to ask whether they want cross-Sound ferry service because of all of the time and money invested in building the low-wake Rich Passage 1.

Matthes isn’t  enamored with the boat. Not being a board member didn’t prevent him from saying so. During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, he read a critical letter he’d written. He said the list of mechanical problems grows with nearly every sailing and there are safety issues. If the foil or strut had a breakdown at high speed, the ferry could dig into the water and splinter like hydroplane at Seafair.

“Passengers and crew would be thrown around the cabin like rag dolls, causing injuries and  loss of life,” he wrote.

Here’s a line  to the complete letter: 2015-01-06 Citizen Comment- Matthes



Kalakala making final sailing to scrapyard

Time has run out on the Art Deco ferry Kalakala, which wobbled between Bremerton and Seattle for 35 years. Tacoma industrialist Karl Anderson, who wound up with the Silver Slug through foreclosure in 2012 and has been barely keeping the rotting, rusting vessel afloat, plans to scrap it. He’ll have it towed to a nearby graving yard on Jan. 22, according to a story in The News Tribune.
Anderson was just being a nice guy when he let dreamer Steve Rodrigues moor the Kalakala on his company’s property on Hylebos Waterway. It had already been booted from Seattle’s Pier 66, Lake Union and Neah Bay while awaiting restoration.
Rodrigues wasn’t good about paying the cheap moorage or maintaining the boat, so two years ago Anderson foreclosed on it. He didn’t want the Kalakala, but hoped to prevent it from sinking and fouling the bay. He’s spent $500,000 keeping it safe and secure, and will put out at least that much on demolition.
It’s hard to believe what happened to the cool ship. Washington State Ferries sold it in 1967 to an outfit that towed it to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and turned it into a crab processing operation. In 1971, it was sold again and towed to Kodiak for use as a fish cannery. It was abandoned when the operation failed.
It just sat there until a Seattle artist had it towed home to Seattle in 1998. It was in awful shape and nobody ever succeeded in raising the funds to restore it, though there was much talk from several cities, including Bremerton.

I was 12 when the Kalakala stopped ferrying people. I don’t remember riding on it, but my mom and dad and a whole lot of you do.

Make a reservation for the San Juan Islands

Little change occurs down here when the fall ferry schedule flips over to winter. It’s pretty much a San Juans deal. On Sunday, service to Sidney, British Columbia, will be suspended. Weekend service will drop  to three boats but remain at four on weekends. And there are a few other minor tweaks.

One thing West Sounders might want to take note of, however, is the extension of reservations to the San Juans. Many of us try to get up there occasionally. We can now use a reservation system to ensure we’re not sitting for hours waiting to get on a boat. It’s good for  customers because travel is predictable and it helps the ferries system by spreading demand from peak  travel times to less crowded sailings.

Check out the Save A Spot website.

The  reservations  program is growing. It started out with the Canada-Anacortes route, then spread to Port Townsend-Coupeville. After Washington State Ferries lost license tab funding 15 years ago, it figured it couldn’t keep building bigger boats and terminals. It needed to make better use of the ones it has. Reservations help in that regard. If you can look up and find that the next two sailings are full, you won’t sit at the dock waiting. So the dock won’t get so full. You can pop to the terminal a few minutes before your reservation and not waste a lot of time.

I don’t know how it would work  down here on the commuter oriented routes. Maybe someday we’ll see.




Wolfe named transit vice-chairman

Changes are coming to the Kitsap Transit board next year.
Ed Wolfe, in his first meeting of any type as a Kitsap County commissioner Tuesday, was named vice-chairman of the board. Wolfe, who beat Linda Streissguth in November, took over the position early because Streissguth had been appointed instead of elected. He was the only choice for vice chair because the other two county commissioners, Rob Gelder and Charlotte Garrido, had recently served as chairs.
The chairmanship switches every two years between county and city representatives. Bremerton mayor Patty Lent will move up from vice chair to replace Gelder next month. She’s a huge proponent of cross-sound fast ferries, which will be a major topic in 2015.
Gelder, chairing his final meeting, chose Bainbridge Island councilman Steve Bonkowski as the at-large board member.
Bonkowski replaces Port Orchard councilman Rob Putaansuu, who’s served in the at-large role ever since it was created four years ago. A sharp and nice guy, he did a great job, though his name is hard to spell.  Before that, Bremerton had three people on the board — the mayor and two council members. That’s now down to two. The at-large rep is from one of the three smaller cities.
With Putaansuu, the Port Orchard had four people involved in Kitsap Transit leadership. Councilman John Clauson is the transit executive director, councilman Jeff Cartwright the transit human resources director, and Mayor Tim Matthes and Puttaansuu were on the board.
Beginning in January, board study sessions and meetings will be held on the first Tuesday at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively, instead of the third Tuesday at 9 and 10:15. Subcommittee meetings will be the third Tuesday at 8 for ferries, 9 for planning and 10 for personnel.

Inslee announcing transportation revenue proposal Tuesday

Gov. Jay Inslee will outline a new transportation revenue plan tomorrow for the Legislature to consider during its 2015 session. It will be held in conjunction with an event marking completion of the Highway 520 Eastside transit and HOV project at 10:30 a.m. at the new Evergreen Point road lid. It’ll be televised by TVW.

Inslee’s office, in an announcement today to announce tomorrow’s announcement, said the multi-billion-dollar package would fund safety, maintenance and preservation projects, finish highway improvements that would provide jobs, traffic relief and economic development, and invest in multimodal programs that provide more travel options. The package also includes accountability and reform measures to ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget.

Reforms were given as the major deal-breaker in an attempt to pass a package last session. The House approved a plan. The Senate, which was hung up on the reforms, had one but never brought it to a vote.

It’ll  be interesting to see how Inslee’s plan compares.



Last time the Hood Canal Bridge sank, it was gusting 120 mph

hood-canal-bridgeWith the National Weather Service predicting up to 70 mph gusts over the next day, how fast must the wind be blowing before the state shuts down the Hood Canal Bridge? I vaguely remembered it being 35 mph over a sustained period, not just a gust here and there.

Wrong, said DOT spokeswoman Claudia Bingham-Baker. More likely than not, opening the draw span wouldn’t have anything to do with the bridge itself. What happens, she explained, is when winds reach 30 mph for 15 minutes, an alarm sounds.  Bridge crews are dispatched to watch how  it responds to the waves. It will react differently depending on  the wind’s direction. If it gets too bouncy, they can open the draw span and relieve  pressure.

The world’s third-longest floating bridge withstands winds better since the east side was replaced in 2009, Bingham-Baker said. Wonder if it would withstood a pounding like took place on Feb. 13, 1979.

Winds gusting from the southwest at up to 120 mph aligned exactly with the direction of the canal. I can’t even imagine 120 mph winds or remember where I was. In the natural wind tunnel, the bridge was the only object resisting. Waves 10 to 15 feet high crashed against it for hours, until finally the western floating portion sank.

Today, it’s more likely the span would be opened and traffic stopped because drivers can’t stay in their lanes  and are freaked out by  splashing waves than fear that the storm will damage the bridge, Bingham-Baker said.

Oddly, it took winds of just 40 mph to blow down the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Nov. 7, 1940. It was just four months old. It’s used as an example of a major engineering failure because it  had some vertical plates that  caught the wind and caused it to sway  violently.


Carlisle II expected to finally return next week

The Carlisle II, which has been out since spring when rotted beams were discovered during annual maintenance, is repaired and back in the water in Port Townsend. It’ll undergo a Coast Guard inspection Thursday or Friday and Kitsap Transit hopes  to return it to service between Port Orchard and Bremerton late next week, said Steffani Lillie, planning and capital programs director.

The low-wake Rich Passage 1, which was damaged when a warming blanket that covered its foil caught fire in Port Townsend, has been repaired and  passed its Coast Guard inspection. It’ll be brought down from  Bellingham this week and moored at the new A Float in Bremerton. It could be leased to King County to help with the West Seattle and Vashon routes. It’s too much of a boat to operate across Sinclair Inlet, and Kitsap Transit has no use for  it until/unless it can start operating cross-Sound service.