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
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, 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.
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
I don’t know how it would work down here on the commuter
oriented routes. Maybe someday we’ll see.
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
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
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
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
It’ll be interesting to see how Inslee’s plan
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
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
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.
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
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